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Coleshill (later Maxstoke) Station

LMS Route: Hampton in Arden to Whitacre

Coleshill station was the only intermediate station on the route between Hampton and Whitacre. It looked distinctive with its very short platform suffice for two or three four wheel coaches, a station house with booking office and waiting rooms as well as a short goods siding. Whilst photographic evidence confirms only one platform which was sited on the up line, in all probability there was once a second platform on the down line which was swept aside when the track was singled. The line was originally built with double track when first opened on 5th August 1839 reflecting its importance to the B&DJR as its gateway to London via the L&BR. The line reverted to single track between August 1842 and March 1843 when its importance as a route to and from the North on MR metals was significantly down graded by the opening on the 1st July 1840 of the Leicester to Rugby route and on the 10th February 1842 the Whitacre to Birmingham line.

The number of passenger services never again reached the anticipated volume and because the line was not now fully utilised the line was singled between August 1842 and March 1843. Even after the line was singled, of the three daily services each way, two carried through coaches to London until February 1845. The daily service of three trains each way was reduced to two in 1859, and from May 1877 the service was reduced to a single coach morning train in each direction. This drastic action was a direct consequence of the 'Long Depression' a worldwide price and economic recession, beginning in 1873 and running either through the spring of 1879, or 1896, depending on the metrics used. This being the minimum level of service required by Parliament. Its recorded thatalthough from 1902 the service often ran without a single passenger the MR could not close the line to passengers'. It was not until 1st January 1917 when war time economy measures enabled the MR to enact legislation that the line closed to passenger traffic. Still in use for occasional goods traffic in 1923 the station was renamed Maxstoke, with Forge Mills on the Whitacre to Lawley Street line being renamed Coleshill. On 12th January 1935 the branch line was cut in half when the timber bridge opver the River Blythe was certified as too weak to support a train. Coleshill (or now Maxstoke) still had a goods service until 30th April 1939 when the line was used to store crippled wagons.

At Coleshill, signal levers were installed adjacent to the now disused 'down' platform, and despite appearing in the record books in a list of 'signal posts' it is possible that there was never a signal box structure. Although two home and two distant signals were erected, it was common practice to pass the home signals at danger. A single siding for the storage of up to ten wagons was installed here in 1883. Access was controlled by a separate ground frame. It was here that the long-established firm of Rollasons' coal merchants started trading, with an office, weighbridge, and a fleet of three private wagens. Started by Harriet Rollason, the firm celebrated their centenary in 1984. and played a major part in the history of the line. With the expansion of trade towards the end of the nineteenth-century, goods sidings were also laid circa 1900 to serve the large estates of Maxstoke and Packington, again being worked by ground frames. The Maxstoke Castle siding was situated just to the north of Coleshill station, and a farm path crosses the bed of both the old running line and siding at this point. The estate siding held perhaps eight wagons, with coal coming in and timber going out. The siding at Packington also tcok coal, and in addition received live (freshly killed) fish from Grimsby. The contents of the fish-wagons were transferred to four salt-water tanks located in the grounds of Packington Mall. The remains of the old step-block at the end of this siding can still be observed. Severe storms on the last day of 1900 caused widespread damage due to flooding. The timber river bridges were badly weakened, and a number had to be strengthened. Between Maxstoke siding and Coleshill station was the large bridge over the River Blythe. A farm accommodation underbridge adjacent to it frequently flooded due to the low level of the surrounding farmland, and silted up to the distress of the cattle that used it. In 1922, after complaints, the Midland Railway raised the level of the roadway beneath this bridge.

Memories and corrections by Ian Pratt

Ian Pratt writes, 'I would like to add some personal details to information you have on Coleshill/Maxstoke Station which was located on the line between Hampton in Arden and Whitacre. In his book The Stonebridge Railway Roger Waring has made several errors regarding the last station master, William Langford Leary, who was my maternal grandfather. Roger did contact my mother, Dorothy Agnes Pratt (nee Leary) for information in the mid/late 1980's but for whatever reason she did not want to talk about the past. He subsequently made contact with me in late 1980 early 1990 asking if I had any information and although expressing an interest in what I knew he never made contact again. Subsequently several significant errors appear in the book regarding William,his wife Emma Jane and their daughter Dorothy. As a matter of recording the facts here are the following corrections:

Page 71, Paragraph 4, line 7

William Leary did not buy the station after his retirement.

Page71 Paragraph 9 line 2

Mrs Leary did not die in 1960 "a year after reaching her century". My grandmother was born in 1873 and died 21 February aged 93.

Page 71 Paragraph 9 line 8

Mr & Mrs Leary's only child, my mother was born at the station house in 1910, and was not living at the station in 1961. She married my father in 1936 and moved to Coleshill where she lived until her death in 1992. After the death of William, Emma remained living in the station house until being rehoused in 1960/61, spending her last years at 4 Wall Avenue, Coleshill where she died in 1967.

Page 71 Paragraph 9 line 10

A local resident trying to buy the station from British Rail is possible, however, this contradicts Item 1 above. To my knowledge the station house and grounds were always owned by the railway.

Page 88 Paragraph 8 line 6

Who said Bill Leary begged for "coal from a passing engine"?

Page 92 Paragraph 1 Line 1

Mrs Leary was not "presented with five bags of coal to mark her 100th birthday"? She died in her 94th year - see 2 above.

One or two more bits of information:- William moved to take up the role of station master at Maxstoke in 1908 after spending the previous 2/3 years as a porter at Water Orton. I remember playing at the station as a child ( I was born in 1946). William had an orchard, kept a pig and possibly a cow. My mother had a pony and trap which she used around Maxstoke and for shopping in Coleshill. There was an outside brick built privy which backed on to a low covered barn. I remember going into the station office and finding a box of red (I think) detonators which as you know were for placing on the track to warn engine drivers of danger. They were long 'dead' despite my best efforts! The level crossing gates were still there in the early/mid 1950's. In recent times a volunteer has exposed the platform and put up a sign "Maxstoke". William retired on the 27th July 1936 and I still have on the hall wall of my house the framed testimonial presented to William on his retirement by "his friends and colleagues

Coleshill later Maxstoke Station

Looking towards Whitacre with the station  on the right and the goods siding on the left with the level crossing in between
Ref: mrcm169
RS Carepenter
Looking towards Whitacre with the station on the right and the goods siding on the left with the crossing in between
Looking towards Hampton with the short single platform station on the left and the level crossing gates in the foreground
Ref: mrcm177
RS Carpenter
Looking towards Hampton with the short single platform on the left and the level crossing gates in the foreground
View of Coleshill station on the left and the former down line track bed and probable remains of the down platform
Ref: mrcm388
A Cocking
View of Coleshill station on the left and the former down line track bed and probable remains of the down platform
View showing the very short platform and the up signal which was operated by the station staff
Ref: mrcm175
Warwick County Museum
View showing the very short platform and the up signal which was operated by the station staff
Close up showing the stationmaster posed on Coleshill station platform which has been raised to the height of the window sill
Ref: mrcm175a
Warwick County Museum
Close up of the stationmaster on the station platform which has been raised to the height of the window sill

Close up of the booking office and waiting room complete with a post box in the gable wall
Ref: mrcm175b
Warwick County Museum
Close up of the booking office and waiting room complete with a post box in the gable wall
View of the station now renamed Maxstoke and operated only as a goods facility
Ref: mrcm387
Anon
View of the station now renamed Maxstoke and operated only as a goods facility
View of the station now abandoned with the level crossing in the foreground with the down signal still evident
Ref: mrcm170
LGRP
View of the abandoned station with the level crossing in the foreground and the down signal still evident
A 1936 view of Maxstoke station which, despite surface erosion to the platform, was still tidily maintained despite the lack of traffic
Ref: mrcm1204
R Waring
View of Maxstoke station which, despite surface erosion to the platform, was still tidily maintained
A 1951 view of Maxstoke station's building and platform now used as a private residence
Ref: mrcm1205
NRM
A 1951 view of Maxstoke station's building and platform now used as a private residence

View of Coleshill station in 1921 after its closure to passengers and prior to being renamed 'Maxstoke'
Ref: mrcm1286
RS Carpenter
View of Coleshill station in 1921 after its closure to passengers and prior to being renamed 'Maxstoke'
A 1962 view of Maxstoke station, now fenced off, shortly to be abandoned by British Railways
Ref: mrcm1203
C Brookes
A 1962 view of Maxstoke station, now fenced off, shortly to be abandoned by British Railways

Miscellaneous

View of Harriet Rollason & Sons office, Weighbridge and one of the company's three Private Owner wagons
Ref: mrcm1201
P Rollason
View of Harriet Rollason & Sons office, Weighbridge and one of the company's three Private Owner wagons
Close up of Rollason & Sons' seven plank mineral wagon which would handle loads of up to eight tons
Ref: mrcm1201a
P Rollason
Close up of Rollason & Sons' seven plank mineral wagon which would handle loads of up to eight tons
A Midland Railway Third Class Hampton to Coleshill Day Ticket showing a fare of 4 old pence
Ref: mrcm1206
Anon
A Midland Railway Third Class Hampton to Coleshill Day Ticket showing a fare of 4½ old pence
MR 2F 0-6-0 Class 1873 No 3678 is seen at the head of the 8.10am Whitacre to Hampton train as it departs Coleshill station
Ref: mrcm389
A Cocking
MR 2F 0-6-0 No 3678 is seen at the head of the 8.10am Whitacre to Hampton train as it departs Coleshill station
View of one the line's level crossings and gate keeper's house after the removal of the track
Ref: mrcm1207
Anon
View of one the line's level crossings and gate keeper's house after the removal of the track

View of Coleshill's later Maxstoke station's abandoned siding looking towards Hampton
Ref: mrcm174
JM Ryan
View of Coleshill's later Maxstoke station's abandoned siding looking towards Hampton
Close up showing  a Victorian four-wheeled coach probably once used for storage and mess purposes
Ref: mrcm174a
JM Ryan
Close up showing a Victorian four-wheeled coach probably once used for storage and mess purposes
Ordnance Survey map showing Coleshill station on the right and Rollason & Sons private siding on the left
Ref: mrcm1202
Ornance Survey
Ordnance Survey map showing Coleshill station on the right and Rollason & Sons private siding on the left

A TRIP TO MAXSTOKE BY TRAIN

by Peter Lee of the Nuneaton Local History Group

Most people will have heard of Maxstoke, not least for its well-known castle and its posh golf club. Many will not know that in the good old days it once had a station. It also used to have a stationmaster whose occupation must have been, depending which way you looked at it, the cushiest or the most boring job on the railway. He had so very little to do. He was gloriously undisturbed by trains that’s for sure. I can imagine that you would think - I did not know there was a railway line through Maxstoke! Where did it come from and where did it go, and just where did it run? There is no doubt you would have to go to a lot of trouble today to find its course, so thoroughly has it become swathed in brambles and undergrowth. Those parts that have not been have been turned into boscage and nettle beds; have been converted into farm track ways and in some cases its course has been gobbled up by new roads and the boundary of the NEC.

A journey to Maxstoke in the early years of the last century bring to mind those lovely whimsical little trains in the charge of old fashioned long funnelled steamers that ventured out occasionally along grass grown tracks. Bedecked with brightly polished chimney caps, bulbous domes and glistening fluted safety valve covers. The old engine and its coach and freight wagons brushing aside the convolvulus and the overhanging branches of trees, going about their impecunious business remote from the attention, or for that matter the involvement, of the travelling public.

Here is another conundrum. When Maxstoke station was open to passengers it was called Coleshill. It was not until six years after it closed to passenger traffic that the railway company went to all the trouble of re-naming it Maxstoke, and the expense of affixing to its frontage a brand new sign proclaiming to all the world “Maxstoke”, which would have been fine if there was any traffic. As if the crew of the local pick up goods train would need reminding in view of the conspicuous lack of business emanating from its abandoned platform.

Modern travellers by train today will journey along the Nuneaton-Birmingham railway line and spot coming in from the right as you head towards Birmingham some tracks from the direction of Derby. These lines are still used and are part of the thriving modern railway network. Yet this point is known as Whitacre junction and there used to be a station here by that name. Many years ago a set of tracks diverged off and headed towards Maxstoke and the Packington estate before ending at a junction with the London to Birmingham main line at Hampton in Arden. This was the little branch, which served our peculiar little station at Maxstoke. When the line came into being and opened on Monday 5th August 1839 Maxstoke (or Coleshill as it was known then) was on the main line of the Birmingham and Derby junction railway, but its glory days were very short lived. There was rapid development in railways approaching Birmingham and the Birmingham and Derby junction line was taken over by the Midland Railway who sought a shorter route to the capital of the Midlands. In 1842 a cut-off route took the B&D Jct. directly into Birmingham and from that date the section between Whitacre Junction and Hampton in Arden became a withered arm. Passenger traffic declined from five trains a day in 1840 to three by 1857. Even so a further reduction was made in 1859 down to two each way and this prevailed until 1877 when the Midland Railway ran just one train each direction per day. It was a parliamentary service, which the M.R. was obliged to maintain to avoid the cost of a parliamentary act needed then to close the line, until the rigours of World War One relieved them of their responsibility, and they were able to close the line for passengers from 1st January 1917.

Up until that time the service had been maintained by one engine and a single coach, which left Whitacre Junction at 8.10am, stopped at Coleshill (Maxstoke) a few minutes later and after departing Hampton in Arden was back tucked up in the platform again at Whitacre at 8.45pm. For twenty-three and three quarter hours each day the Coleshill (Maxstoke) station master William Leary (1872-1941) had no passenger traffic responsibility. On New Year’s Day 1917 he had none. From that day onwards all he had to do was open the level crossing gates for the occasional pick up goods train depositing a few coal wagons or vans of cattle feed etc. in the short sidings adjacent to his station, or the estate sidings at Maxstoke and Packington, and collecting the empties. Maybe he had to read the odd bit of bumf sent to him by his employer, the railway company. Almost all of which would have had no impact on his daily duties far from the prying eyes of the bowler hats in Derby or Euston. And he might have a few wagon receipts to account for. On the odd occasion his after luncheon snooze might have been disturbed by a light engine or main line freight using the route as a diversion whilst track and engineering work was taking place on the lines around.

Some of his station receipts have been preserved and reveal sums of money taken at the station not near enough to cover his modest wages. In 1872 passenger receipts stood at £14 per annum, but by 1912 these were a princely £5. Only 209 passengers were carried all year – less than one per day. By contrast the station expenses in 1907 stood at £69 per year which probably incorporated Mr. Leary’s stipend.

Notwithstanding all this the railway company despatched and at some expense, had affixed a large new sign on the platform. On 9th July 1923, the name was changed and the former name board “Coleshill” was taken down and a distinctive board with raised block letters screwed to the wall in its place – it proclaimed “Maxstoke”. Not to the travelling public, of course, but to the thrushes and the sparrows, the rabbits and field mice, and all the other wild life that could not read the sign, but would participate from time to time in Mr. Leary’s and his family’s lonely existence. The sign was of the raised letter type favoured by railway companies in those days which had replaced the painstakingly sign written variety. Painted sign written boards needed a skilled artist to re-paint them. All it needed in this case was Mr. Leary on a stepladder and a pot of white paint to keep the lettering in good order. There is no doubt he kept the little station with its short platform swept and tidy. On 24th April 1930 goods train ran no more across the entire length of the line. Mr. Leary bought the station house and retired in 1936 never having issued a ticket from his renamed station. Here is another bizarre twist. In April 1930 the Australian newspaper “The Melbourne Argus” reported on Mr. Leary’s plight having spent the last fourteen years never seeing a passenger train stop at his remote station and his donning his railway uniform with peaked cap every morning to cast his eyes over his lonely empire “just in case”.

In 1941 Mr. Leary died, but his wife and daughter continued to live in the station house for another 20 years when his widow died aged 101 in 1960, and their daughter, Dorothy was finally re-housed in 1961. In January 1962 a local resident offered to buy the station house but in February 1962 the property’s fate was sealed when vandals set fire to it. By May that year the building had been levelled. When I visited the site about 20 years later there was little to see but a scattering of broken bricks and the crumbling platform – so ended the lonely story of Maxstoke station.