Ringwood, Christchurch and Bournemouth Railway
|Ringwood, Christchurch and Bournemouth Railway|
The Ringwood, Christchurch and Bournemouth Railway was a railway company to link those English towns, and to provide a railway connection for the growing town of Bournemouth to the main lines. It opened in 1862 from Christchurch to Ringwood, and was extended to Bournemouth in 1870, sharing in the growing popularity of the town. However the route was circuitous, and the London and South Western Railway opened a shorter route between Brockenhurst and Christchurch via Sway in 1888, so that the Ringwood to Christchurch section became simply a backwater.
A feature of the line was that a landowner had the right to stop any train at a private station, a fact that became an embarrassment when express trains started to operate.
The section from Ringwood to Christchurch closed in 1935, but the Christchurch to Bournemouth section remains as part of the Bournemouth main line.
The London and South Western Railway (LSWR) reached Southampton in 1840, and independent interests promoted the Southampton and Dorchester Railway to connect Dorchester to London. The line was built, opening in 1847, but its route took it on a northerly alignment from Brockenhurst through Ringwood and Wimborne. The line was leased to, and worked by the LSWR, and later absorbed by it. Bournemouth was not an important settlement at the time, and was left some distance from the line; it had a population in 1851 of only 1,330. There was a branch serving Poole, but that was located on the south side of the Holes Bay inlet.
In the following decade, Bournemouth grew in importance and it became desirable to provide a railway connection. After a failed attempt, local interests promoted the Ringwood, Christchurch and Bournemouth Railway, a 7¾ mile (12½ km) line from the northern margin of Christchurch to the Southampton and Dorchester line near Ringwood. As originally designed, the junction there would have faced west, towards Wimborne. The route followed the valley of the River Avon. The engineer was Captain William Moorsom.
Early LSWR opposition having been withdrawn, the railway obtained its authorising Act of Parliament on 8 August 1859, with capital of £45,000. The contractor was Thomas Brassey and the line was quickly constructed; the west facing junction at Ringwood was changed to face towards Southampton, the new line running alongside the double track of the Southampton and Dorchester line for some distance, joining it at Ringwood station. It was a single line, with sharp curves and difficult gradients.
There was one intermediate station at Herne and a private station at Avon Lodge. The latter was located on the private road to Avon Castle; the site is on Avon Castle Drive near the Junction with Windmill Lane.[note 1]
Extension to Bournemouth
Connecting Christchurch to the main line network was only a first step, and income from the line was very poor. Undaunted by the poor response to calls on shares,[note 2] the Company took powers by Act of 13 July 1863 to raise an additional £30,000 and extend the line 3½ miles to the east side of Holdenhurst Road in Bournemouth; the present-day Bournemouth station is on the west of that road. The location was criticised by a local newspaper as being too far from the town centre.
On 14 March 1870 the line opened throughout, with the LSWR working the entire line for half the gross receipts. There were five trains a day at first, taking about 35 minutes for the journey to and from Ringwood, making intermediate calls at Herne and Christchurch. This immediately brought considerable passenger traffic to the line and revived its financial state; through carriages between Bournemouth and London were arranged from 1 March 1872, detached at Ringwood from Weymouth Trains, and the little company was able to pay dividends.
With its difficult gradients—there was a 1 in 99 (1%) gradient rising from Christchurch to Bournemouth—and curves, and a 25 mph (40 kph) speed restriction, the line was now on the main route from London to Bournemouth.
Avon Lodge station
The private station at Avon Lodge was the result of a clause inserted into the Company's authorising Act; Williams says that the 1859 Act had required the Company to keep a "lodge" where the line crossed the road at the entrance to Avon Cottage, and the owner or occupier had a perpetual right to exhibit a red flag by day and a red lamp by night against any 'ordinary train', which was required to stop. When express trains started operating on the line this became objectionable to the Company, and a lawsuit followed; the judgement allowed the Company to refuse to stop express trains.
Evidently Avon Cottage was a considerable property: the census of 1871 calls Avon Cottage an "estate". The third Earl of Malmesbury owned it at the time of the authorisation of the line, but he sold it in 1863 and it was the purchaser's grandson who pressed the issue.
Sale to the LSWR
On 1 January 1874, the Ringwood, Christchurch and Bournemouth Railway was purchased by the LSWR.
Improvements to the route to Bournemouth
As Bournemouth grew in importance the frustration of the route deviating by way of Ringwood, and the slow progress on the route, became objectionable. Doubling the line was considered, but a new direct line from Brockenhurst to Christchurch, and doubling the line from there to Bournemouth, were obviously a better option. The Bournemouth station would be reconstructed west of Hardendale Road (actually the present location of Bournemouth station) and a new, spacious central station off Branksome Wood Road would be built. A Poole branch from Broadstone, entering from the west, had opened in 1872, and the new line was to connect with it. In fact the new construction was limited to the new line from Lymington Junction, a little west of Brockenhurst, to the Bournemouth station at Hardendale Road, which for the time being was a terminus.
The new Bournemouth station opened on 20 July 1885, and on 30 May 1886 the Christchurch to Bournemouth section was doubled, and a new station at Christchurch was opened, in preparation for the new route: the original station there was immediately east of Bargate and inconveniently aligned for the new route. On 1 July 1886 a Boscombe station was opened. A series of difficulties with the construction process meant that it was not until 5 March 1888 that the new line from Lymington Junction—usually referred to as the Sway line—opened, concurrently with the connecting line from the Bournemouth ("East") station to the West station.
From 1888 until 1935
From 1888 the London to Bournemouth route passed over the new Sway line to Christchurch and thence over the Ringwood, Christchurch and Bournemouth line to the site of the original Bournemouth station; from there the trains ran to the West station, which was a terminus. Weymouth and Bournemouth trains divided at Brockenhurst, the Weymouth portion continuing over the original Southampton and Dorchester route, and the Bournemouth portion over the new line. Trains from Bournemouth West towards Dorchester required to reverse direction at Poole Junction, later called Broadstone. It was not until 1893 that a direct route across Holes Bay was constructed. Meanwhile the original section between Ringwood and Christchurch became a minor rural branch.
Chronology of stations
- Ringwood station was on the Southampton and Dorchester line; it was provided with a covered bay platform for the Christchurch line.
- Avon Lodge has been referred to above, and was open throughout the life of the Ringwood to Christchurch section. A private siding was provided. 
- Christchurch; the original station was relocated a little to the west to conform to the alignment of the new Sway line; this change took effect on 30 May 1886, although the Sway line did not open until later.
- Boscombe station opened on 1 July 1886. It was renamed Pokesdown (Boscombe) in 1891, and renamed again simply Pokesdown from 1 June 1897. In 1930 it was relocated a little to the west of the original, which then closed. The new station was provided with quadruple tracks, with platforms on the outer tracks only.
- Boscombe (second) station opened on 1 June 1897. It closed to passengers on 4 October 1967.
- Bournemouth station opened on 14th March 1870. This first Bournemouth station was a simple affair, with a single platform and run-round, and a goods shed and a second siding.
When the Bournemouth West station opened on 15 June 1974, the RC&BR station was renamed Bournemouth East.
- Bournemouth East (second station). Opened by the LSWR on 20 July 1885, when the original RC&BR station was reduced to goods station status.
The Disused Stations website has photographs and further descriptive material for closed stations; see
Closure north of Christchurch
The line between Ringwood and Christchurch declined in usage, and it was closed in 1935.
The Christchurch to Bournemouth section remains open, and is now part of the important main line between London and Weymouth. It was electrified on 10 July 1967, using the third rail system.
- Butt gives the opening of Avon Lodge as 3 November 1862, but this must be a mistake for 13 November.
- Subscribers to shares in new railway companies usually only paid a small proportion of the face value as a deposit, and subsequently there were "calls" for incremental payments as construction work proceeded. If a company was offered for subscription in optimistic times and money later became scarce, many subscribers were unwilling, or unable, to respond to the calls.
- Butt says that the station opened, with the line, as Herne Bridge, and was renamed Herne in 1888. Some writers spell this Hearne.
- H P White, A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain—Volume 2—Southern England, Phoenix House, London, 1961, pp 159-160
- R A Williams, The London and South Western Railway, Volume 2: Growth and Consolidation, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1973, ISBN 0 7153 5940 1
- Christopher Awdry, Encyclopaedia of British Railway Companies, Patrick Stephens Limited, Wellingborough, 1990, ISBN 1 85260 049 7
- Col M H Cobb, The Railways of Great Britain—A Historical Atlas, Ian Allan Publishing Limited, Shepperton, 2003, ISBN 07110 3003 0
- E F Carter, An Historical Geography of the Railways of the British Isles, Cassell, London, 1959
- Poole and South Western Herald, 17 March 1870, quoted in Williams
- H P White, pp 160-161
- Gradients of the British Main-Line Railways, The Railway Publishing Co, London, 1947
- Census of England and Wales: South Eastern Counties, 1871, page 78
- Colin G Maggs, Branch Lines of Hampshire, Sutton Publishing Ltd, Stroud, 1997, ISBN 0-7509-1297-9
- Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith, Branch Lines Around Wimborne, Middleton Press, Midhurst, 1992, ISBN 0 906520 97 5
- Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith, South Coast Railways—Southampton to Bournemouth, Middleton Press, Midhurst, 1987, ISBN 0 906520 42 8
- Butt, R.V.J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-508-1.
- Jowett, A. (2000). Jowett's Nationalised Railway Atlas. Atlantic Publishing. ISBN 0-906899-99-0.
- Lucking, J H (1968). Railways of Dorset. Railway Correspondence and Travel Society.