Little Waldingfield History Society was delighted to welcome Peter to the Parish Room last night, though not just as a member but also to talk to us about the history of the development of the railway in the local area, and of Sudbury in particular.
As we had fully anticipated, he enthralled our forty plus audience with his passionate and remarkably detailed account of how the railway developed - most present had no idea just how significant this was to Sudbury, nor how far the tracks extended into the centre of town. The talk was accompanied and graphically illustrated by some superb old photographs and even older railway maps, and was quite enlightening.
Sadly, and nothing to do with Peter and despite a successful dress rehearsal, technological gremlins struck the projector at the beginning of his presentation, causing significant flickering. Peter carried manfully on, and had clearly memorised all of the numerous salient parts of the many images being shown, patiently waiting whilst the screen caught up with his splendid narrative. A quite brilliant demonstration of the presenter's art at the very highest.
Thankfully the errant projector settled down and the audience could then enjoy the presentation as it was intended, to discover that:
- The present station in Sudbury is the third, the first being built in 1849 but replaced in 1865 when the line was extended to Cambridge, to form the Stour Valley Railway.
- The station then became a terminus after the Beeching cuts of 1967 and following closure of the line to Cambridge.
- The station was re-sited once again in 1991, to make way for the construction of the Kingfisher Leisure Centre.
- A standard gauge light railway (purely agricultural and for the benefit of the local population) was proposed in March 1900 along a route between Long Melford and Hadleigh, to pass between 12 parishes (the famous Colonel Stephens was heavily involved in the promotion of the scheme).
- There was a public enquiry and the route was even surveyed, with seven parishes voting in favour (though three did nothing).
- Stations / halts were proposed for Acton, Great Waldingfield, Monks Eleigh, Chelsworth, Bildeston, Nedging, Semer Bridge, Whatfield, Kersey and Hadleigh.
- Had the line gone ahead, there would now be the remains of a small station or halt at the bottom of Church Road in Little Waldingfield, at which point there were collective “oohs and arhs” from the audience.
Everyone had a most entertaining evening, learning much from an easy narrator who really knew his stuff and could put it across in such a passionate and absorbing manner.
In addition to Peter's talk, members were both thrilled and delighted to see a display of some brilliant railway art pictures by Little Waldingfield resident Peter Jones, which were by common consent quite stunning.
At our next talk, Geoffrey Kay will royally entertain us with his presentation on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (a group of English painters, poets and critics founded in 1848) entitled “Death, Sex and Drugs” - who could possibly resist such a title!
We look forward to welcoming guests new and old to the Parish Room on Wednesday 15th October for what is sure to be a fascinating evenings entertainment.
Andy Sheppard 18th September 2014
Some photos from the event