A Brief History of Dullingham

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Dullingham Railway Station  

Can you help? If so, please Peter . . .

Dullingham Railway Station, with manned signal box and level crossing in the foreground
(click on the picture above to enlarge)

Dullingham has a delightful small Victorian railway station, a manned signal box and level crossing. The station is on a branch line from Cambridge via Bury St Edmunds to Ipswich.

Dullingham Station’s claim to fame was in 1895, when a two-year old racehorse, ‘Persimmon’ owned by Queen Victoria’s son, the Prince of Wales almost missed attending the Derby on 3rd June 1986.

Persimmon’s trainer, Richard Marsh, had arranged for the horse to travel to Epsom by train on Derby Day. It was intended that a stable lad would walk the horse through the country lanes to Dullingham Station, a country halt some five miles on the London side of Newmarket. (The walking of horses to races was not an uncommon occurrence in those days).

For some unknown reason Persimmon took an instant dislike to the box cars that came alongside the railway platform at the station and he absolutely refused to enter his box. Again and again the lad patiently walked him in a circle and attempted another approach but again Persimmon stopped short of the train, braced himself and threatened to rear up.

Richard Marsh, dressed for Derby Day in bowler hat and smart tweed suit, became increasingly agitated. Two racehorse special trains from Newmarket pulled into the station and were loaded and pulled out again – without Persimmon. The third and last horse-special of the day drew up. Still Persimmon refused. In desperation, Richard Marsh doffed his bowler and enlisted the help of a muscular porter. The two men tried to join hands behind Persimmon and push while the stable lad pulled from the front. The burly porter narrowly escaped being trampled and withdrew in fright. A large crowd of on-lookers had gathered and Richard Marsh shouted “This horse has got to go to Epsom today. Any man who helps get him into box will get a sovereign”. Ten men stepped forward and bodily lifted Persimmon through the doorway of his box, much to the horse’s surprise.

Persimmon arrived safely in Epsom and went on to win The Derby by a neck.

Dullingham Station as it was around 1930
(Photo courtesy Joe Moore Archive)

Photo 43 is of Dullingham Station believed to be c.1930. The large building was the goods shed. Through the arch of this shed, the windows of the Maltings House can just be seen. Dullingham was a busy station and also served the surrounding villages. The station was closed for goods in 1964. It was at Dullingham that the first turf was dug to commence the building of the Newmarket and Great Chesterford Railway in 1846. Dullingham was in the old L.N.E.R. Region until it was taken over by British Railways.

Dullingham Station Maltings
(Photo courtesy Joe Moore Archive)

Photo 44 was probably taken from the Farm Bridge which was destroyed by a German bomb in the Second World War. Competition between stations on the line was always fierce as to which one had the best kept station and gardens. Dullingham Station was always immaculate, with very colourful flower borders. The small building on the platform in front of the goods shed was the lamp house. The station was lit with brass paraffin lamps inside and out and refilled and repolished every day.

Photo 45A is a view of the 19c Station Maltings, sadly destroyed by fire in the 1970s. At the time it was being used as a grain store, having stood empty for many years. The photograph was taken just before the building was gutted

Photo 45B. Another view of the fine Victorian Maltings looking eastward.

The Railway in Dullingham

(Extract from Dullingham Yesterdays by Peter Jeffery)

The initial prospectus of the ‘Newmarket and Chesterford Railway with a branch to Cambridge’ appeared in Herepath’s Journal on 4th and 11th October 1845. By 31st October the project had received the support of the Duke of Rutland’s family who owned Cheveley Park Estate, and Lord George Manners, son of the fifth duke, was appointed as chairman of the management committee. Favoured by local landowners and under the patronage of The Jockey Club, the Company’s Bill was unopposed in Parliament and received the Royal Assent on 16th July 1846.

The authorised share capital was £350,000 and 14,000 shares of £25 each with powers to borrow £116,000. The Company’s Act contained some unusual clauses, such as giving the officers of Cambridge University the right to access to the stations to search for any member of the University, forbidding the Company to carry any member of the University under the rank of M.A., Bachelor of Civil Law or Medicine whom the Authorities might prohibit, and compelling the Company to employ Special Constables who were subject to University control to superintend any workmen engaged in railway works within three miles of Cambridge. It was also unlawful for the Company to take up or set down passengers at Cambridge Station or within three miles thereof between 10am and 3pm on Sundays, under pain of a penalty of £5 per person, payable to Addenbrookes Hospital or other charity nominated by the University.

The work of construction was entrusted to a local contractor named Jackson and on 30th September 1846 the ceremony of turning the first sod was performed in Dullingham Parish by Master Christopher Jeaffreson, the eldest son of W. Pigott, Esq. This boy of 10 years was the heir of the late General Jeaffreson and had assumed that name under the terms of his grandfather’s will. Subsequently he again changed his name to Robinson, in order to inherit under the will of Mr W. Robinson of Denston.

The Cambridge Chronicle recorded “About 11 o’clock the Directors and a large party of ladies and gentlemen left Dullingham Hall in procession, preceded by a band of music from Newmarket, a collection of handsome silk banners, and a body of Navvies who were apparently well-conducted men and presented quite a respectable appearance in their clean white smock frocks.

Master Jeaffreson divested himself of his coat and stood spade in hand ready for his task and having been suitably addressed by Lord George Manners, Chairman of the Company, partially filled his barrow, wheeled it along and tilted its contents amidst the cheers of the spectators.

Christopher later married Mary, daughter of John Dunn Gardner of Chatteris Manor. He died in 1889 but his widow survived until 30th June 1930 when she died at 91. She is well remembered as Mrs Robinson by many of the older Dullingham residents of today.

The silver spade with which the ceremony was performed is still preserved and bears the following inscription:

Omnia vincit Labor
Presented by the Directors to
Christopher William Jeaffreson of Dullingham House
Aged 10 years
Upon the occasion of his commencing the work
On the Newmarket and Chesterford Railway
September 30th 1846


The solid silver spade used by Master Christopher Jeaffreson,
son of the Lord of the Manor of Dullingham is still in the
possession of a descendant of the Jeaffreson family.

After the ceremony was performed the assembled guests retired to luncheon and speeches. Mr Shelley, representative of the Jockey Club, said “The Jockey Club felt that a railway to Newmarket would not only be a great convenience to parties anxious to participate in the truly British sport of racing, but would enable Members of Parliament to superintend a race and run back to London in time for the night’s debate”.

The Railway re-named ‘The Newmarket Railway’ opened the section from Chesterford to Newmarket for goods traffic on 3rd January 1848 and for passengers on 4th April 1848. Through services to London from Newmarket ranged from 140 to 170 minutes. In 1847 an Act was obtained to extend to Bury St Edmunds but both this and the branch to Cambridge were to be long delayed owing to financial difficulties and much opposition from the Eastern Counties Railway. In fact the situation so deteriorated that the line from Newmarket to Chesterford was closed to all traffic on 30th June 1850. The Cambridge branch was still unfinished and with no money available for completion the situation seemed hopeless. However, Mr Cecil Fane, a Commissioner in Bankruptcy, came on the scene and took control. Under his vigorous and imaginative leadership things improved, the line was re-opened and the Cambridge branch completed in spite of many obstacles, all of which were overcome by the invincible Mr Fane.

The successful completion of the Cambridge Branch was largely due to his idea of converting the double track to Chesterford to single track and using the rails this released for the Cambridge section. It was realised that the line from Chesterford would never be profitable so as soon as the Cambridge line was opened, the section from Chesterford to its link at Six Mile Bottom was closed, thus becoming what was probably the earliest instance of a closed railway in Britain.

Immediately the Cambridge line was opened the fortunes of the Company were revised and actually declared a dividend in 1852 of 1s 6d per £25 share. This improved in the next half year to 5s per share – a considerable achievement in view of the recent hopelessness and bankruptcy.

In December 1855 the Cambridge Chronicle reported” that a new goods shed had been built at Dullingham Station and the following year reported the station completed, “Some little time back a large and substantial waiting room was added and telegraph laid on here and a new platform for the down line with every convenience for loading and unloading carriages, horses, bullocks, sheep, timber etc”.

The Railway, now a paying proposition, was later absorbed by the much larger Eastern Counties Railway which in turn, along with most of the other East Anglian lines became the Great Eastern Railway in 1862.

The line in common with most railways enjoyed a comparative prosperity until the First World War, imposed its heavy strain in that all the railways were in a very run down condition and struggling, so a scheme of grouping was introduced on 1st January 1923, and they were all organised into four large groups. The Newmarket Railway thus became part of the London and North Eastern Railway. However, problems continued unabated and with ever growing competition from road transport, Nationalisation was achieved in 1948 and British Railways was born. The name was later abbreviated to British Rail and Dr Beeching was invited to make a study and suggest economies. Among the many changes and closures, both Newmarket and Dullingham have remained open but un-staffed as from 2nd January 1967. The goods shed and sidings were demolished a little before this and the attractive station building was demolished in 1971.

It is good to know that trains do still stop and pick up or set down passengers at Dullingham’s historic railway station, but those passengers see a rather bleak picture compared with what used to be a picturesque and flower bedecked establishment, awarded numerous certificates of merit for station and gardens

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