Wednesday 12 September 2012

My Other Passion

When I am not chasing wherries or canoeing down abandoned canals I spend a lot of my time filming steam locomotives.   One of my favourite locations for this is the platform at Weybourne station which has a timeless quality about it.  When I am on Weybourne Station I wonder just how many people have walked  these same platforms before me, and what prompted their journey.  It is not difficult to imagine elegant Victorian ladies with parasols, groups of pallid factory workers from the midlands, tearful farewells between soldiers and their sweethearts and children arriving from London with labels pinned to their coats and gas masks hung  around their necks.

A few days ago while waiting for "Tornado" to make another pass through Weybourne my imagination began to follow this familiar path.  It was this most recent visit that once again aroused my curiosity and led me to research some facts relating to the station at Weybourne. In doing so I hoped to gain a clearer picture of those who had walked these old platforms over the years.

( To see a clip of Tornado at attached link)

The station is a mile from the village of Weybourne which has always seemed a bit odd to me until I discovered the station was built in 1901 to serve the "Weybourne Springs Hotel" and not the local community.

Weybourne Station

This up-market hotel was financed by a Mr Crundle who owned nearby gravel pits. 
Mr Crundle's business venture was seen by the M&GN as offering an opportunity to increase revenue on the line, so  they went ahead and employed local craftsmen to build the station.

It was partly due to the "Springs" that a varied assortment of people arrived and departed via Weybourne during the early years of the twentieth century .

In 1910 the "Springs" hotel was the chosen venue for a Theosophical summer school.  An international group of like-minded souls searching for divine wisdom in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of the universe.   It sounds like a barrel of laughs to me.
The summer school ran from July 4th to the 18th,  guests were charged 35s per week for those sharing rooms with an extra premium of 5s per week for those who were fortunate enough occupy a room on their own.   Up to four people occupied some of the rooms, however there is no record to state if the occupants were of mixed gender or not.    The overflow of attendees were accommodated in tents pitched in the grounds of the hotel or in lodgings at Holt and Sheringham.   Some of the folks who attended the summer school travelled from Europe - one can only imagine the curiosity they must have aroused as they arrived at the station.  All this activity must have provoked a great deal of interest among the locals who themselves had,  in all probability, never set foot outside Norfolk.

A few years later, during the first world war, two companies the 2/25th County of London cyclist brigade were stationed in Weybourne at the "Springs" hotel. 
The deep water off  Weybourne and gently sloping beaches was recognised by the military as being an ideal location for a German landing.
Deep Water and Gently Sloping Beaches
 To counter this threat  look-out stations, manned by the Cyclist brigade, extended from Sheringham to Hun­stanton with two companies billeted in the "Springs" hotel.   With the hotel still relatively new the sound of army boots tramping through the corridors must have been perplexing for the owners even if there was a war on.   There were other army training camps around Weybourne and High Kelling which  increased military traffic and personnel through Weybourne station.

On Whit Monday 1915 - the "Springs" hotel was used to hold the cycle battalion's sports day.  Soldiers from as far away as Hunstanton, Brancaster, Wells and Snettisham were transported in, and assembled under canvas  in the fields around the station.
Weybourne Station

After a relatively short and unhappy life the "Weybourne Springs Hotel" was demolished in 1940.  Subsidence due to the light sandy soil was offered as one reason for its demise, another claimed it was an outstanding landmark for the Luftwaffe.  Whatever the true reason  the "Springs" was reduced to rubble at the beginning of the second world war.

Just as in the "Great" war, the coast around Weybourne was defended against enemy invasion. As early as 1935 an anti aircraft training camp had been set up.   Throughout the 1939-45 war Weybourne camp was responsible for generating a great deal of rail traffic.   Troop and munition trains arriving at Weybourne station created enough work to require six full time station staff.    Trains brought  ENSA concert parties to the camp, while soldiers and ATC girls used the trains to travel to and from Sheringham to visit the shops or spend an evening at the pictures.  The platforms at Weybourne provided the stage for hundreds of  forgotten little dramas played out against the backdrop of wartime Britain.
Wartime Britain - re-nactment.

Being stationed at Weybourne camp would have been considered a good war time posting but it had its down-side.  In the severe winter of 1941 it was so cold that the sea off  Weybourne froze.  In the Weybourne camp only one flush toilet for the entire camp remained in use, all the others were frozen solid.
The Royal Norfolk's were stationed there at the time, twelve months later they were sent from Weybourne to the Far East and soon after were captured at the fall of Singapore.  Many of them never came home.

A Mr and Mrs Dodds lived in the mill at Weybourne during the war.    Some nights flashing lights were seen from the top of the mill.  Later Mrs Dodds left her bicycle outside a tennis court, the bicycle fell over and a radio transmitter fell out of a leather shopping bag.   A few days later Mr and Mrs Dodds were taken away.
Weybourne Mill

After the war, before the advent of the family car, Weybourne station saw increasing amounts of holiday traffic as people from the midlands flocked to the Norfolk coast for their annual holidays.  In 1959 the "Beeching" axe fell on the former M&GN line and with it Weybourne station.  Fortunately the M&GN Joint Railway Society was able to preserve five miles of the old line between Sheringham and Holt.  Sitting proudly in between is the station at Weybourne.


  1. People never 'flocked' to Weybourne for their holidays in the fifties. I spent every long summer holiday there from 1945 to 1961, travelling there by train from Norwich, as my grandparents lived there. We sometimes also used the station during our holidays to go to Sheringham. Weybourne village and its distant station were always very quiet - we were often the only passengers waiting or alighting there. The bus, which you could catch from the centre of the village was much more convenient than the train which meant a long walk, being a mile from the village. People from the Midlands, mainly from Leicester, certainly came to Sheringham and Cromer for their summer holidays, but we saw nothing of them in Weybourne. It was only with universal car ownership that Weybourne became popular and better known.

    1. Dear anonymous
      If you read the article properly you will notice it says there was an increase in holiday traffic as people from the midlands flocked to the Norfolk coast for their annual holidays. It does not state people flocked to Weybourne.
      The traffic refers to train movements not people. Thank you for your interest.

    2. You also talk of imagining 'groups of pallid factory workers from the Midlands' on the station at Weybourne. So the impression given by your article is that after the war Weybourne was a busy holiday destination. As someone who knew the village and station well, I just wanted to put the record straight, that's all.

    3. Dear Anonymous,
      Thank you again for your comments which I respect and welcome. As you quite rightly state I have made reference to "groups of pallid workers from the Midlands" this is poetic licence based on my imagination as I stated in the article. There is no evidence to support this anymore than "tearful farewells" or "kids with gas masks around their necks" on the station platform. This is simply to add some light and shade to the piece and qualified only as imagination..
      However, you are quite correct, and we both agree. Weybourne was not a major holiday destination and I did not set out to give this impression. I believe the majority of holiday-makers carried on the M&GN line went to Great Yarmouth for their holidays.
      Clearly you found the article mis-leading based on your local knowledge and I thank you for pointing this out. I will leave the points you have made at the foot of the article for the benefit of future visitors to the site.
      Thank you for contacting me.
      My best regards