Woodfield Station, Dungeon Wood, Lockwood
Although most histories of the branch line mention Woodfield Station, they all appear to have been based on information contained in the following article from the Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (18/Jun/1874), titled "Closing of Woodfield Station":
Some months ago the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company decided on adding a station on their Meltham branch. A platform was made, a station-house erected, gas lamps put up, and gas conveyed from the road. The signboard was also duly put up, on which was painted "Dungeon Wood," and every expense was incurred necessary to meet, what we presume was considered, the wants of the neighbourhood. As the work approached completion the signboard underwent a change, "Dungeon Wood" giving place to what was probably thought a more euphonious name — "Woodfield" — and placards duly announced the opening on the first of the current month. All, however, has come to an untimely end. Yesterday the railway company issued a bill announcing that after the 30th of this month the station will be closed! It would be interesting to the shareholders to know how much money has been spent on this little experiment. Surely it was never expected to be a paying station, and if an average of one shilling per day is the financial result, that sum is in excess of what persons outside official railway circles ever expected would be realised.
Public notices appeared in the Saturday Chronicle on 20 and 27 June 1874:
As the closure article notes, the station comprised a staffed booking office at the entrance end of the platform and the office was lit by gas, which would have been routed up from the supply pipe used for the gas lamps on the main road below. The laying of a residential gas main along the main road was not sanctioned until 10 January 1877, when a meeting of a subcommittee of the Huddersfield Corporation Gas Committee resolved that "a gas mains be laid from Hanson Lane along Woodfield Road to Doghall."
Naming of the Station
The decision to name the station "Woodfield" has led some to speculate that it was built to benefit Bentley Shaw of Woodfield House, despite the fact he had been a vocal opponent of the branch line. However, the location of the station had no direct access from Shaw's estate and it seems more likely that the name reflects the fact that access to the station was from Woodfield Road (now known as Meltham Road). Instead, Shaw benefited from a clause in the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (Dewsbury, &c. Branches) Act of 1861 which required the railway company to build a new approach road to his house from the main road.
Reason for Closure
Although it has been generally assumed that the closure was entirely due to poor ticket sales, the actual explanation is hinted at in former railway employee Thomas Normington's 1898 book, The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway: Being a Full Account of the Rise and Progress of This Railway. In 1892, Normington had submitted a plan to open a station at Beaumont Park — apparently unaware that there had indeed already been a station there 18 years previously:
After the opening of the park by His Royal Highness the Duke of Albany, the [Huddersfield] Corporation were wishful to have a station erected near to the park on the Meltham Branch. The Board of Trade regulations prohibited this being done on account of the branch line being on such a steep gradient.
Normington's suggestion was to build a second parallel track on a level gradient, which would terminate at the northern boundary of the park. However, his suggestion was turned down by the company's management.
The recorded gradient through Dungeon Wood is 1 in 60, which was regarded as too steep for a station by the Board of Trade. Both Netherton Station and Meltham Station were situated on levelled sections of track, whilst Healey House Station was reportedly on a gradient of 1 in 120. Quite why the company allowed Woodfield Station to be built on an unsafe gradient remains uncertain, as does the reason for building a new station at such a relatively remote location.
On 16 May 1874, the railway company wrote to the Board of Trade and requested that the new station be inspected:
I beg to give you notice that the new Station at Woodfield, on the Meltham Branch is ready for inspection.
I enclose a diagram showing the place of Signals which are interlocked.
Neither the letter or the enclosed diagram noted the gradient at the station and this appears to have led to the Board of Trade granting preliminary permission for the station to be opened prior to inspection in their reply of 19 May:
I am directed by the Board of trade to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 16th instant giving notice that it is intended to open for public traffic a new station at Woodfield and requesting that an early inspection may be made.
In reply I am to inform you that the Board of Trade have appointed Colonel Hutchinson to make the inspection as soon as he conveniently can.
I am to add that the usual month's notice of the Company's intention to open the work for public traffic is dispensed with in this case, upon condition that should the station in question be brought into use before such inspection has taken place, any requirements which the Inspecting Officer may make shall be complied with, and that the Inspecting Officer shall be at liberty to make a re-inspection of the work at any subsequent time.
According to the Chronicle, Woodfield Station opened to passengers on 1 June.
Colonel Hutchinson carried out his inspection on 3 June and immediately filed a report:
This branch is a single line, the new station has been constructed about 700 yards from the junction of the branch with the main line from Huddersfield to Penistone, and on a gradient of 1 in 60 falling towards the junction [...]
He went on to note that any rolling stock stood at the station without suitable brakes would gain "sufficient velocity to carry it through the junction & thence to Huddersfield" before finishing his report with:
Such a contingency must be guarded against [...] by doubling the line at the station and placing a outer siding below the station on the ascending line, or by flattening the gradient at the station [...] Until these requirements have been complied with I cannot recommend the Board of Trade to sanction the use of Woodfield Station.
The report was then sent to the railway company's offices in Manchester with the following covering note, likely arriving on Monday 8 June:
I am directed by the B of T to transmit to you the enclosed copy of Colonel Hutchinson’s report of his inspection of a new Station at Woodfield on the Meltham Branch of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, and to request that you will inform them when the improvements contained in the report have been complied with. In the mean time the B of T cannot sanction the use of the station in question.
With the Board of Trade's approval to open the station withdrawn, the railway company had no choice but to issue the closure notice until the required remedial work was performed.
In the years leading up to 1874, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company had been paying healthy dividends to shareholders, despite having only built a few extra miles of track. However, the report for the half-year ending 30 June 1874 was disappointing, with a decline in rail freight and only a small increase in passenger traffic.
To comply with the Board of Trade's requirements would likely have proved costly and the levelling of the track would have necessitated the temporary closure of the branch line. Together with the fall in profits, this seems to have led to the company's decision not to carry out the remedial work and to leave the station closed.
Location of the Station
A map prepared in the summer of 1879 to help plan the extent of Beaumont Park implies that the station building or platform was apparently still standing and that public access was via the footpath up from Meltham Road (then known as Woodfield Road).
The map was drawn by the Borough Surveyor, John Henry Abbey, and was likely one of his final works prior to resigning the post on 20 August 1879. Abbey had resided in Lockwood his entire life and would have been consulted in his capacity as the Borough Surveyor when the station was first proposed, so his positioning of Woodfield Station can be assumed to be roughly correct.
It has been assumed by some that a flight of nearly 200 stone steps at the north-eastern boundary of the park marked the location of the station. However, as shown on the 1879 map, these were built during the laying out of the park in the early 1880s. The substantial road layout alterations at Starling End required to build the proposed new road along the top end of the park (now known as Beaumont Park Road) necessitated the closure of the old woodland footpath from Starling End. Under powers granted by the Huddersfield Improvement Act of 1880, Huddersfield Corporation diverted the upper end of the footpath via the new flight of steps.
By the time of the 1892 Ordnance Survey map, the lower entrance to the park had been constructed. It seems likely that a decision was made in the early 1880s (if not earlier) to block off the path to the former station — perhaps to ensure park visitors did not accidentally wander onto the railway line — and the bridge abutments were extended to form a barrier. The path beyond appears to have been infilled with earth, to further restrict access. The approximate location of the station is show on this 1892 map in red:
It seems likely that the opening of Beaumont Park would have placed pressure on the railway company to reopen Woodfield Station, which in turn would have required the company to carry out the costly remedial work. Therefore, it seems probable that the booking office and perhaps also the platform were dismantled in the early 1880s.
The park was formally opened in October 1883 by the Duke of Albany, who noted the advantages of having a station in the park in his speech:
But the slight disadvantages arising from a park being some little distance from the town, as Beaumont Park is for example, can easily be minimised, and in some cases even turned to good account. They can be minimised by the neighbouring railway companies running line to the park and planting stations in its vicinity, and this I sincerely hope will soon be done here with mutual benefit both to the railway companies and to those who will use the railways...
This particular issue was resolved instead by the extending of the tram line from Lockwood along Meltham Road to a terminus at Dungeon Cottages, allowing visitors to enter the park using the path which had previously served Woodfield Station.
Although the Friends of Beaumont Park have cleared the former track bed, the site of the station is overgrown with brambles and vegetation. However, the rear wall which must have run the length of the platform can still be seen, and perhaps remnants of the station might still survive under the vegetation.
The History of Lockwood and North Crosland (1980) by Brian Clarke:
For a very brief spell this [railway branch] line also gave Lockwood a second railway station for on 1st June 1874 a station was opened at Woodfield, complete with a Station House and gas lighting. The site of this station was near the present day entrance to the "Nature Trail" in Beaumont Park. Originally the station was to be named "Dungeon Wood" but was altered before the opening to "Woodfield". However, within a month the station was closed. Various reasons for the building and early closure of this station have been put forward, none very satisfactory. One is that the income amounted to only a shilling a day. As there were only a few cottages on Meltham Road one can believe the income figure but one cannot believe that the railway company expected a higher income from so few local residents. Other sources say the station was built for visitors to Beaumont Park but there was no park then, its opening still being nine years in the future. The steep incline of the line is another reason put forward, the Board of Trade objecting to the station, but surely the railway company would have checked that point prior to spending money on a station. Maybe the station was built for the use of Mr. Bentley Shaw, owner of Lockwood Brewery, owner of large areas of local land, a Magistrate and a wealthy man, whose residence at Woodfield was next door to the "white elephant" station. However, whatever the reasons the station disappeared although the platform was visible up to the closure of the line.
The approximate location is given below:
Notes and References
- "Huddersfield Town Council" in Huddersfield Chronicle (18/Jan/1877).
- Although Normington's suggested was never implemented, a second track was indeed laid down along the proposed route and was used as a long siding for Lockwood Station.
- In 1847, the gradient at Huddersfield Railway Station was found to be 1 in 105, which was deemed unsafe. Around £1,000 was spent raising the viaduct approach to the station in order to lower the platform gradient to 1 in 350.
- See MT 6/116/26 in National Archives.
- This path was previously used for transporting carts loaded with quarried stone from Dungeon Wood, which helps to explain why the railway bridge needed to be so wide.
- The map has been kindly provided by the Friends of Beaumont Park.
- The map is curious in that the extent of Dungeon Wood is accurately surveyed, but the positioning of some of the other items marked is approximated, including the placing of the railway bridge as being halfway along the path to the station (in reality, the bridge was much nearer the station). It seems likely that Abbey drew these items in from memory as their accuracy did not affect the planning of the park.
- That the station had been dismantled by the time the park was laid out would help explain why the Beaumont Park Committee made no reference to it in their meetings.
- "The Royal Visit to Huddersfield" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (15/Oct/1883).