Railway at Faringdon

In 1841 the Great Western Railway opened a line from London to Bristol and a little later a branch line from Swindon to Gloucester. The importance of Faringdon as a major cross-roads in the south of England just disappeared and the town went into a decline from which it never really recovered. A local horse-drawn shuttle service started up for passengers and freight to and from Challow Station, 5.5 miles away towards Wantage, but people and trade no longer needed to pass through Faringdon like before. (Reference – The Faringdon Branch and Uffington Station by Adrian Vaughan, Amberley Publishing Limited.)

Faringdon Station 1919On 1 June 1864, Faringdon found itself with a railway station (photo 1919) at the end of a branch line off the main London to Bristol route of the Great Western Railway (GWR). To be more accurate it was actually a group of prominent local men and their supporters who, acting on their own initiative, built their own 3½ mile railway extension. Passengers were required to change trains at Uffington Station but it is said that the GWR staggered the arrival of their mainline trains to make that as difficult as possible. The Faringdon Railway Company as it was called was forced to sell to the GWR in 1881 at a price of £9,250.

Faringdon may have lost its importance as a major cross-roads but it did remain an important market town for local farm produce. Within 5 years of it opening, between 150 and 180 churns of milk a week left the station to join the main line at Uffington. From the time of the closure of the Faringdon spur to passenger traffic in 1951 until the final closure of all traffic in 1963, Faringdon was used as a central distribution point for goods for the area – Wantage, Lambourne, Lechlade, Cirencester, Fairford, etc. The goods were brought to Faringdon Station by train and then distributed by horse-drawn cart and later by lorry. The station was surrounded by cattle pens, which were filled up on market day, the first Thursday every month, to await collection by cattle trucks. Other large regular items were the delivery of coal for the gas works in Canada Lane and tarmac and stone for the roads around the district. Liddiards, wholesale grocers in the Market Place, were a familiar sight collecting merchandise from the Goods Shed in a horse-drawn cart, and taking them to their warehouse in Swan Lane. The hotel porter from the Bell Hotel used to come and meet the trains and take the luggage of the hotel patrons to the Bell on a trolley, and of course, the postmen used to collect and deliver the mail.

Faringdon Station Staff 1930s1930s. Some of the staff who worked at the Faringdon Railway Station were: Station Masters: Edward Durbin; Ivor Norton; Jack Hale, who was the last one. Engine Drivers: Fred Carter; Harry Rawlings. Firemen: Fred Cope; Wally West. Engine Cleaner: Bryn Thomas. Booking Clerk: W. E. Major. Chief Porter: Jack Bowerman. Ivan Norton is on a chair second from right.

Faringdon Station 19911991. The waiting room recently restored. It first became occupied by Russel Spinage (builders & decorators), then in the 1990s as part of Scats farmers’ wholesale store and now it is The Old Station Nursery for pre-school children.

Faringdon Goods Train 1950s
1950s. The Faringdon Goods Train at Knighton running on the ‘up’ line to Uffington. It had two coal trucks, one box van with general goods, two petrol tanks and a guard’s van
Knighton Crossing 1952
1952. Knighton Crossing. The Cheltenham Flyer passing a goods train being held up in the loop.
Knighton Crossing Signal Box 1952
1952. Nelson Edwards in the Knighton Crossing signal box.
Faringdon Railway 1953
1953. A goods train passing Folly Hill on its way from Faringdon Station to the junction at Uffington.
Folly Hill From Railway 1953
1953.View of Folly Hill from the railway line somewhere near Cole’s Pits towards Fernham.

References:
1. The Changing Faces of Faringdon and Surrounding Villages – Book 1 p91 By Rosemary Church, Jim Brown, Millie Bryan and Beryl Newman. Robert Boyd Publications.
2. Faringdon & The Vale Venture, Issue 20, November 18th 1972

Researched by Ian Lee, December 2019.