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Leighton Buzzard Station

Railway Station from 1838 to 1859 used as a summer house about 1910
Railway Station from 1838 to 1859 used as a summer house about 1910 [Z1306/74]

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a number of plans and photographs of Leighton Buzzard station, as it is known, despite being well over the boundary in Linslade. The London North Western Railway Company built the railway through Linslade, and thus also Leighton Buzzard station, in 1838. The original station was a small wooden building some three hundred yards north of the current station where a goods yard and offices later stood.

In the past, as now, railways were dangerous places. Railway workers were sometimes killed going about their business. In the 19th century this could result in destitution for the man's widow and family as this letter, written on 6th March 1852 shows:

"Susan Smith the Widow of William Frederick Smith a Railway Porter who was accidentally killed at the Leighton Station upwards of twelve months since is now with her 4 children chargeable to the Parish of Leighton. Her husband was the son of George Smith now an Inmate of Saint George's Workhouse, Hanover Square [London] and it appears that the son never gained a settlement in his own right and that his widow and family are removable to the Parish of Saint George as the place of his father's settlement.

I am directed by the Board of Guardians of this Union to enquire whether you will accept the above Paupers without an Order of Removal or will repay such relief as may be afforded by this Board".

In other words Leighton Buzzard did not wish to continue giving charity to the remaining members of the Smith family but wished to move them to Saint George's, Hanover Square, in London where, presumably they would either have to live with Mrs.Smith's father-in-law or, more likely, enter the workhouse.

 Leighton Buzzard Station about 1920 Z1306-74
Leighton Buzzard station about 1920 [Z1306/74]

A new station was built, on the present site, in 1859. Fred Cockman, in his book The Railway Age in Bedfordshire quotes the Bedfordshire Mercury of 16th October 1865 reporting an attempted burglary at the station: "Very early in the morning of Sunday 8th October 1865 a rough looking fellow was seen loitering about the station. Mr.Maltby, telegraph clerk, heard a crash and taking a light saw that someone had broken the window of the ticket office. He saw two men standing at the corner nearest the bridge crossing the line and called to them. They ran off. He went for assistance but they had decamped in the meantime. At the corner of the bridge were found a cudgel, a muffler, a whistle, a knife and a taper and matches".

Plan of the station area 
Plan of the station area [X410/19] to see a larger image, please click on the image above

A brand new station was built in 1992 on the site of the 1859 buildings. Sadly, during the rebuild, the opportunity was not taken to assist disabled passengers when changing platforms. Thus people in wheelchairs arriving from the south have either to be carried over the bridge or go to Milton Keynes, change lines and then come back to Leighton Buzzard in order to be able to leave the station!

Leighton Buzzard Station May 2008
Leighton Buzzard station May 2008

Directories and census returns give us a partial picture of 19th and early 20th century station masters as follows (none of the dates is necessarily the beginning or end date of the station master's tenure, just the first and last known dates):

1841: James Drumgele, overlooker;
1847: George N.Rich, superintendent;
1851-1854: Robert Miller, station master;
1861: John Vorce Jarrett;
1864-1869: Thomas Bell Dickson;
1876-1883: George Cable Thomas (or George Thomas Cable);
1899-1911: Robert Anthony Dunleavy;
1915: Albert G.Sykes;
1920: Alfred Seabrook.