station featured on the village sign. It was opened on 12 December 1849, when
the Great Eastern Railway line from Ipswich to Norwich was constructed. It
closed to freight on 19 April 1965 and to passengers on 7 November 1966 as part
of the Beeching cuts. The next stations were Swainsthorpe to the north and
Forncett to the south. The ticket office was next to the station house -
'Mr Bottomly sold ticket and also worked the signals.'
'Mr Wright and Mr Leach were station porters, I believe'.
Most people just crossed the rails to get to or from the Norwich platform, but there were steps up to the road bridge to get from one platform to the other. There were several tragic accidents reported when people crossed the line.
'The old bridge had a very wide top - you could sit on it! It was rebuilt with bricks when the railway was electrified, and now you can't see over the top.
'Coal, bricks and stone came into the sidings and had to be unloaded. Laden lorries often had a job getting up the hill to the road. Cattle were transported to and from Norwich cattle market by train, and were herded through the village to or from the station. Allan Moore: 'I remember trucks coming to the station with sewage sludge from London, and they'd take away the sugar beet.' During the harvest season, sugar beet from local farms was brought to the station and had to be shovelled into wagons in the sidings to be sent to the processing factory.
Mr Sheldrake worked on the railway as a 'ganger'. He stayed in the village
after he retired and is remembered because he always wore a black bowler hat and
had a buttonhole.
Donald Calton remembered the 4 railwaymen - Fred Goulty, 'Spiker' Summons, Ted Sheldrake and Mr Martin - walking down the road with measured tread, as if stepping sleepers' widths apart, carrying 'frail' baskets (of plaited straw) in which they carried their lunch.
People commuted into Norwich by train for work or school - and used it to visit friends and
family. Ann Fincham, as she then was, remembers travelling on her own from the age of 7 to and from school in Thorpe - someone saw her across the main road, but otherwise she travelled alone until she met up with school friends. She would rush for the bus to catch a train just before 4pm, otherwise it was an hour's wait, sometime spent in the station master's office. Anne nee Cooper also used the train for school, but from the age of 11 and she cycled to the station. People
attended a protest meeting when closure threatened, but felt their voices were
never heard and it was a 'done deal' long before the token consultation.
1948 BR(E) timetable: shows 10 up trains and 7 down (TO Norwich) trains called at Flordon on weekdays at that time. Most were stoppers between Ipswich and Norwich, but one each way ran right through to/from Liverpool Street and two each way ran between Norwich and Beccles via the Waveney Valley line. On Sundays just three down trains and four up trains stopped there. The last up train in the summer months came from Yarmouth.
Then there were the 'Summer Specials'....
Thursday 12th August 1880 - cheap excursion tickets by rail and boat to Ipswich and Harwich - train dep. 7.05am from Flordon. Return 6 shillings First Class; 3 shillings Covered cars.
BUILDING THE RAILWAY
Flordon must have experienced dramatic change even before the line was opened in 1849: contractors and their navvies descended on the village and vast quantities of earth were moved by hand to create the cutting and embankment that divides the parish:
Norfolk Chronicle, 11 Aug 1849
EASTERN UNION RAILWAY - The works on the railway are advanced to within 6½ miles of the station, at Victoria gardens. On Monday the country between Burston and Flordon was enlivened by the first appearance of a locomotive engine in that neighbourhood. Mr Mitchell... and Mr Patrick Ogilvy... brought the engine (Mudlark) to Flordon. On its arrival, a party of gentlemen from Norwich and neighbourhood, and about 100 workmen, were ready to have a trip from Flordon to Diss and back; and the village people and navvies were on the alert to cheer the train on its passage to and fro. Flags and banners were hoisted at Flordon; and Mr. Parry, the contractor for 8 miles of the line, entertained the company, most liberally, at his shanty on Flordon Green. The navvies of the different contractors were regales with beer, and seemed to rejoice in the day's proceedings.
Norfolk Chronicle, 10 November 1849
OPENING OF THE NORWICH EXTENSION RAILWAY, EASTERN UNION LINE
(a 6-column article over pages 2-3, including a Description of the Line:)
PARISH OF FLORDON
7½ miles from Norwich; where a station is building which will be a great accommodation to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. The land in this parish, about 900a., is mostly the property of T. Brightwell, Esq., and the Rev. Sir Wm. R Kemp, Bart. Who is Lord of the Manor. The line passes through his property and that of Hudson Gurney, Esq. About 193 inhabitants reside in this parish.... The line is carried through Flordon upon an embankment, 33 feet high, which is intersected by the stream that divides Flordon from Hapton; over which the railway is carried by a neat bridge. The embankment ends in a cutting through Flordon hill, 24 feet deep; a large brick bridge of three arches thrown over which carried a private road to Hapton Hall, the residence of Mr. Edwards. From this cutting a great deal of ballast for the line was taken....
THE OPENING EXCURSION
Fourteen carriages were provided...at least 550 [people]... About 20 m inutes after 11 o'clock, the signal was given, and the train started, the band playing the old tune "Off she goe"...The train proceeded at a rapid and most easy pace....At Flordon, a band of music welcomed the arrival of the railway locomotives. Here a triumphal arch was erected, and a number of guns were discharged amidst the cheers of the people. The country here, as seen from the railway, is extremely beautiful. It resembles a large garden, being so highly cultivates; and the appearance of the farm-houses and cottages is picturesque and pleasing....
The first accident was reported a few days later, on 15 Dec 1849, when a train from Norwich to London hit some contractor's ballast truck on 300 yards past Flordon station, on the Hapton side. The engine derailed, but stayed upright, with 'a slight shaking of the passengers and a detention of 2 hours in their journey' helped by the station staff, the curate and residents....
Below: postcard sent in 1914 by someone expecting to travel from Flordon to Norwich Victoria station (near where Queens Road Sainsbury's now is). They obviously expected both trains and post to be on time!!
AND A DEMOLITION JOB!
Monday 26th August 1912 saw a deep depression centred over eastern England with gales and torrential rain. Norwich recorded 6 inches of rain in 24 hours. The deluge flooded large areas of Norwich and the rest of Norfolk, and swollen rivers brought down bridges. One such bridge was over the River Tas, just downstream of Tharston Mill, which carried the main line from London to Norwich. This was a 'viaduct' of three spans, some 33 feet (10 metres) above normal river level - but that day the River Tas rose 9 feet (2.7 metres) above normal. Fortunately all rail traffic had been suspended from around 10am due to slips in cuttings along the route, including ballast washed from the embankment just south of Flordon station. A little further south, 'Flordon Bridge' as it was known (not within the parish but on the approach to Flordon Station) collapsed soon after 5pm.The foundations of the middle pier had been undermined by the river's power.
Next day a train arrived from Stratford at 1.30pm with a steam crane, large quantities of timber and a gang of men. They met a scene of devastation: the bridge demolished, the rails still suspended in mid-air, and water rushing through the full width of the land under the bridge. It was going to be a long job! Accommodation was found in nearby homes and a farmer's barn - these men were working 6am to 7pm for 7 days a week. A mess hut with kitchen was built in a riverside pasture rented from the tenant farmer, Mr Philippo and the Manager of the GER Hotels & Refreshment Rooms sent a cook to supply 3 hearty meals a day. Gradually the river was cleared of debris, a coffer dam built and the water channelled in a watertight trough. Two pumps kept the foundations dry so that new piers could be built on a foundation of flint concrete and topped with Portland Stone.
Whilst work was going on a shuttle service was laid on
between Norwich Thorpe and Flordon stations. To get the line running as soon as
possible, 12 timber trusses were built at Stratford, and the first span put in
place on Sunday 22nd September. The other spans, the decking and a
handrail followed and by 1st October the new bridge was ready to be
tested by two locomotives joined funnel to funnel which crossed at various
speeds and stopped in various places. The railway was ready for use again on
Wednesday 2nd October - only 5 weeks and 2 days after this long
bridge was destroyed! The final photo (above) shows a passenger train crossing. [Note, the 2 postcards by Norwich photographer Tom Nokes state 'Tharston Bridge', but from a train driver's point of view it was the last bridge before Flordon Station and rattling over that was no doubt the signal to slow down!]
(Information & photos from 'New Bridge between Forncett and Flordon' by H. Wilmer M Inst CE, in the Great Eastern Railway Magazine, November 1912. Copy kindly supplied by the GER Society.) Additional material from newspaper reports plus postcards of men at work and the first train across supplied by R.S. & N.P.
Today, people can still remember Mr Wright who lived in the station house.
Earlier residents include:
Edward Stiggles, who came to a sad end in 1863:
4 Dec 1874 - case of assault by stationmaster Albert A Chilvers on Mr Henry Smith, coal merchant of Flordon - for which the stationmaster was fined £5 or 2 months in prison.
6 Dec 1884 - report of presentation to Mr A C Sainty, moving to Swaffham after 4 years at Flordon. He is Austin Christopher Sainty, listed at Stationmaster in White's Directory of 1883.
Thetford & Watton Times, 23 May
FLORDON: PRESENTATION - The late station-master, Mr John William Stone, who has recently been transferred to Foulsham, has discharged his duties here for the last nine years with such marked efficiency and courtesy as to gain the respect of all classes in the neighbourhood.... [He was given a clock, 2 vases and a tea & coffee set.] The timepiece bears the following inscription:- "Presented to Mr. John William Stone (Station-master), by the parishioners of Flordon and neighbourhood, as a mark of their respect and esteem, May, 1896". [Presented at Flordon Rector by Rev. I. Easton]
8 Oct 1904 - 'Mr Hoggar, who for the past 8 ½ years has been the station master here, and who is just retiring from the service, was the recipient of a purse of gold subscribed by those using Flordon Sation.
1909 - Mr A A E Stannard given a cheque for £8. 10s 'in recognition of the conscientious way in which he has discharged his duties at Fordon Station during his four years' service.' The occasion may be marked in the photo below - if the Stationmaster is the man standing on the right holding a scroll or similar. His assistants were probably the men in the 1911 census: Walter Smith, signalman and porter, and his son Frank a young porter. Is that Frank sitting on the seat with the dog? Sadly, Frank died at Gallipoli in 1915 and is remembered on the WW1 memorial. Note the local policeman keeping an eye on things!
By 1911 the Stationmaster was Frank Pratt. The porter and signalman was Walter Smith, and his 18-year-old son Frank was also a porter.
Flordon Railway Station is perhaps an unlikely location for an haunting, but there are at least two stories connected with this now demolished site. The earlier concerns the Norwich to London train. Apparently on several occasions as the train slows down to stop at Flordon Station (pre-DoctorBeeching!), a man gets up from his seat and makes for the carriage door, saying as he does so "This is my stop - I died here". Evidence suggests that a man - an insurance salesman - did actually die by jumping under a train at Flordon Station.
THE STATION GHOSTS
The second of the stories concerns the early 1970's and the Station House after the station itself had been closed. The young family of a railway worker occupied the house and one night having put her two young children to bed, the mother went downstairs to the sitting room. No sooner had she sat down than she heard a young child crying, so she hurried upstairs again only to find that both children were sound asleep. Down she came again, thinking she had either mis-heard or that one of the children had cried out in their sleep. But soon after she had settled down once more the cry was heard again - so up she went only to find everything as before, with both children sleeping peacefully. As her husband was working at night, she retired to bed, but before she went to sleep she felt a small hand gently brush her cheek -much as a little child would do!
Walter Moore was the Lengthman for
Flordon and surrounding parishes for many years. He survived in the Dardenelles
in WW1. He lived near the church until
his wife died, when he moved to Tasburgh - but he was always on time for work
in all weathers.
He had a shed for his tools next to the Black Horse which was his starting point. In winter he would be behind the snowplough (pulled by a tractor) when needed and push his handcart with sand to grit the roads.
Norfolk Chronicle, 25 Oct 1783
On Saturday night last as a farmer's cart was returning from this city, loaded with half a chaldron of coals, and with its three men (father and two sons) the young men got up to ride, and on going down a hill near Flordon, the cart ran up a bank, and was overturned, by which accident the two young men were killed on the spot.
The Evening Chronicle, 28 Dec 1838
On the night of Saturday last, about half-past eight o'clock, as Mr. William Wilson, of Flordon mills, was returning in a gig from Norwich Market, when about seven miles from Norwich, between Newton Common and the Lodge, he was caught by a rope put across the road. Having fast hold of the reins he held them, and stopped the horse. Some person immediately seized him behind, a second held the animal, and a third jumped into the gig and picked his pockets. Fortunately Mr. Wilson had no money with him, except some coppers, which, with a gold watch, were taken from him, and the robbers immediately de-camped towards the Mulbarton road. No further violence was offered to Mr. Wilson, and he has no knowledge of the men....Mr. Wilson has offered 5L. reward for the discovery of the offenders. Such is the present distress amongst the labouring poor, that we fear that crime is very considerably on the increase in this city and county. - Bury Post.
Thetford & Watton Times, 28
An alarming accident happened near Flordon Station early in the morning of the 19th inst. to a son and daughter of Sir Kenneth Kemp. The young gentleman was being driven to the station accompanied by his sister. When turning a sharp corner the conveyance swayed over and was smashed. The occupants were thrown out and suffered a severe shock, but escaped any serious bodily harm, Assistance was quickly at hand and brother and sister were rescued. The horse escaped serious injury.
Diss Express, 17 Sep 1937
Aubrey Cousins of Birds Farm, Flordon, was fined 12s, inclusive of costs, for riding a pedal cycle furiously at Flordon on the 1st August. [He did knock down 2 ladies who stepped out onto the road having come from the evening church service; both were badly bruised.] Mr J C Taylor, a gardener, of Hall Cottages, said he saw defendant and his brother riding down the road on their cycles, one on each side of the road... They were riding at a fast pace and had got their heads down.
There were never any buses through the village - catching a bus meant walking to Bracon Ash or Newton Flotman. They did try a bus service for a time, but it wasn't used enough. Now the Simmonds bus comes to the edge of Flordon about 3 times a day each way between Diss and Norwich.