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Micheldever Station History cont'd

Upper valley from Weston Lane

The Station 2011

1 - Taken from Dever & Down: A History of the Villages in and Around the Dever Valley in Hampshire

The railway company decided to build a station here to attract traffic from the thriving market towns of Andover and Salisbury which did not have rail links of their own until 1854 and 1857 respectively.  In fact, the station was initially called ‘Andover Road’.  The company built the Western Road Hotel (now the Dove Inn) next to the station as a coaching inn, and Andover-bound passengers would alight at the station and take a horse-drawn coach for 10 miles along the Galliker turnpike (now the A303 trunk road) to Andover.   The company also built a group of eight railway houses for its employees, a common practice for industrial companies at that time.

Mail traffic was an important part of the railway operation from the outset.  Micheldever Station was a post town in its own right.  The post office sorted the incoming mail and franked outgoing mail.   Mail coaches ran to Whitchurch and Andover.

By 1861 there was a need for a school, and one was built next to the railway bridge which was capable of accommodating 40 children.   The railway company contributed to the running costs of the school and it remained entitled to appoint a governor right up to the time when it closed in 1947.

In 1895 a notable event occurred in the village.   On Friday, 6th July the first motor car journey in England was undertaken from Micheldever Station.  The Hon. Evelyn Ellis imported from Paris a 4 h.p. Panhard-Levassor horseless carriage powered by a Daimler engine.  It was shipped to Southampton and then taken by train to Micheldever Station.  Ellis and his companion, Frederick Simms, then drove the vehicle 56 miles from Micheldever Station to Datchet near Windsor taking 5½ hours for the journey.  Simms recorded that ‘in every place we passed through we were not unnaturally the objects of a great deal of curiosity.   Whole villages turned out to behold, open mouthed, the new marvel of locomotion’.

The community continued to grow around the turn of the century.  Lord Northbrook commissioned Sir Edward Lutyens to design a pair of semi-detached cottages and shop in 1897 and, a year later, a decision was taken to move a tin tabernacle chapel (St Andrews) then located at an isolated spot a mile or so south of the station to a site on Andover Road, near the railway cottages.

At the turn of the century a quarry was opened up north of the station where the railway line entered a tunnel in order to extract chalk for line widening work at Brookwood.  The quarry was to be used again in the early 1930s to provide chalk for extensions to Southampton Docks.   In 1905 the station itself was enlarged with the construction of a subway and new platform on the down side.

At the beginning of the Second World War the Air Ministry built a fuel storage facility in the quarry.  This was one of several away from the coast which would be less vulnerable to bombing by the Luftwaffe.   The facility supplied fuel to nearby aerodromes and the sight of US Army lorries towing bowsers to and from the site was common.  The storage tanks escaped any bombing; they were protected by anti-aircraft guns and searchlights, and fighters based at Worthy Down turned away any German bombers heading in their direction.

In 1942 extra facilities were required for handling airfield construction materials and military supplies.   New sidings and a huge Ordnance Depot were built.  The depot was staffed by upwards of 1,000 soldiers who were billeted in camps nearby.   The depot was affectionately known as ‘Woolworths’ as it supplied everything needed by the Allied armies abroad from a small nut to a complete engine for a tank.   In the days leading up to D-Day, 1,000 railway wagons a day were being handled at Micheldever Station.

After the War, Micheldever Station returned to being a relatively sleepy backwater with a dozen or so passenger trains a day plus a couple of pick-up goods trains.  Local commuters to London caught the 7.51am steam-hauled express which was non-stop from Basingstoke.   This train was nick-named ‘Blaze ‘n Smoke’ as the locomotive often struggled hard to restart the train on the uphill gradient especially when the rails were slippery.  This train conveyed a Pullman car twice a week and breakfast could be enjoyed for 3s 0d (15p)!   Returning in the evening, passengers took the 5.30pm Bournemouth express which arrived at Micheldever at 6.50pm.   On one occasion there was an altercation between the engine driver and a porter at Micheldever as to who should have a pheasant which had become trapped in the smoke deflector of the locomotive.

The closing decades of the 20th century saw a significant decline in railway activity with the closure of the goods facilities, the demolition of the old Ordnance Depot, the de-commissioning of the oil storage facilities and the closure of local businesses (including Canada Stores and Scats’ animal feed mill on Overton Road).  However, the village is now home to other businesses including Micheldever Tyre Services which started life in 1972 and made a big investment in a purpose-built tyre fitting facility on the old goods yard in 1986.  There have also been substantial new housing developments on both sides of the railway line recently and a resurgence of passenger traffic with passenger numbers more than doubling over the last five years.

Threats of Development

Although Micheldever is in a sparsely populated part of the county, it is well positioned for communications with the M3 motorway and the main London to Southampton railway line cutting through the parish.  This has not unnaturally attracted the attention of property developers.

In 1990 Eagle Star (which had acquired thousands of acres of agricultural land in 1975 as part of Lord Rank’s Sutton Scotney estate) announced proposals for a 5,000 home new town at Micheldever Station with a range of social and employment facilities for 12,500 people.   Despite intensive lobbying, Eagle Star failed to persuade the local planning authorities of the need to include a large new settlement at Micheldever in the long-term planning policies for the area.   A further attempt was made in 2007 when Eagle Star submitted a revised proposal to the Government for an ‘eco’ town, but this too was rejected.

Another more recent threat of development has come from the Forestry Commission which owns some fine woodland in the area.   Indeed, William Cobbett noted in 1822 that Micheldever Wood is ‘one of the finest oak woods in England.’   In 2008 a joint venture of the Commission and the Camping and Caravan Club identified Black Wood as a possible location for the development of a log cabin holiday complex.   The original planning application which was for 130 cabins was rejected, but a scaled-back application for 60 cabins was accepted.

2 - 1963 The Queen & Duke of Edinburgh spent a night in Micheldever Station

Photo 17 in the picture gallery below is of the Royal Train in 1963.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were travelling from Waterloo to Winchester. As it was a morning visit they left Waterloo the evening before and spent the night on the train in the down sidings at Micheldever. 

The picture is nearly 50 years old so it's not very clear, but you can see the chalk cliff and the Immaculate loco on the front is 34001 EXETER. 

To provide steam heating overnight a Q1 Class freight engine was sent up from Eastleigh.

1 - The history summary of the Parish, has been taken, with kind permission of Peter Clarke's family,
from Dever & Down: A History of the Villages in and Around the Dever Valley in Hampshire
by Peter Clarke

2 - Stuart Kerslake - Station Master at Micheldever Station until 1966 when the post was abolished!

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