Wolferton railway station
Station buildings in January 2010
|Area||King's Lynn and West Norfolk, Norfolk|
|Pre-grouping||Lynn & Hunstanton Railway
Great Eastern Railway
|Post-grouping||London and North Eastern Railway
Eastern Region of British Railways
|3 October 1862||Opened (Wolverton)|
|15 July 1863||Renamed (Wolferton)|
|5 May 1969||Closed|
|Disused railway stations in the United Kingdom|
|Closed railway stations in Britain
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|UK Railways portal|
Wolferton was a railway station on the King's Lynn to Hunstanton line which opened in 1862 to serve the village of Wolferton in Norfolk, England. The station was also well known as the nearest station to Sandringham House, and royal trains brought the royal family to and from their estate until its closure in 1969. After spending some time as a museum, the station is now preserved in private hands. The signal box and part of the station are listed buildings, Grade II*.
In February 1862, a large estate at Sandringham was purchased in Sandringham as a private residence for the young Prince of Wales. The eventual residence, Sandringham House, was only 2¼ miles from the site of the Lynn & Hunstanton Railway's projected Wolferton railway station, and the directors much welcomed this unexpected development.:25–26 The royal patronage of the station prompted its reconstruction in 1898 when extensive Tudor-style platform buildings were constructed at a cost of £8,132, including the royal waiting rooms on the Down platform which were fitted out with oak-panelling, couches and easy-chairs. The Up platform's buildings are similarly impressive, even including a small clocktower. Both platforms are equipped with standard Great Eastern platform canopies, and the ornate platform lamps are topped with miniature crowns.:90
A 40-lever brick and sandstone signal box was situated to the south of the platforms, controlling the northern extremity of the doubled section between Wolferton and King's Lynn, while the single-line section north was controlled by electric train tablet.:90 The goods yard was on the Down side and was served by three sidings; four more sidings were to be found on the Up side. The station's facilities also included a spacious carriage dock, an ornate goods and coal storage building and a small gas works which provided sufficient gas to light the entire station.:90
Traffic mainly consisted of produce from the royal estate which included farms producing corn, vegetables and flax. Coal for Sandringham House and the outlying villages was also a regular source of traffic. Royal traffic to one side, Wolferton served a relatively rural area (population 234 in 1901) and was never a busy station except during Sandringham House parties. Prior to announcing the closure of the line in 1969, British Rail had enquired as to whether the Queen would be interested in purchasing the royal waiting rooms, which may have become expensive to maintain. She declined, but agreed that King's Lynn would be Sandringham House's nearest railhead, thereby opening the way to the line's closure.:116
|Preceding station||Disused railways||Following station|
Line and station closed
King's Lynn to Hunstanton branch
Line and station closed
The station was to play host to numerous royal trains: no fewer than 645 called there between 1884 and 1911. Public attention was focused on Wolferton on 10 March 1863 when it was used for the wedding special of the Prince of Wales who was to make the station's royal waiting room a focal point for the Sandringham Estate. The station played host to luncheon parties during shoots, and the drive from Sandringham House to Wolferton led directly to the line.:46 The twenty-first birthday of Prince George on 3 June 1886 saw a special royal train bring the Sayer's Circus to Wolferton; after the performance, one of the elephants could not be reloaded back on to the train, and was tied to a lamppost which it promptly uprooted, before demolishing the station gates and then calmly boarding its truck.:46
Royal trains bound for Wolferton departed from St. Pancras station (the City being traditionally barred to Royalty except on special occasions) and was routed via Tottenham to the Great Eastern Railway's Cambridge line. Typically, a royal train departed St Pancras at 12.20pm, arriving at King's Lynn at 2.32pm, before leaving three minutes later for the ten-minute journey to Wolferton.:47 The Edwardian period saw Wolferton at its zenith as European royal families and heads of state were regular visitors. The station also saw at least three royal funeral processions: Queen Alexandra in 1925, King George V in 1936 and King George VI in 1952. On 11 February 1952 the body of King George VI, who had died at Sandringham on 6 February, was taken to King's Cross and thousands lined the Cambridge main line to pay their respects.:111-112 The last royal train to call at the station was in 1966; it had latterly been associated with the traditional Christmas and New Year holidays at Sandringham.
Shortly after its closure, Wolferton was sold by British Rail to railwayman Eric Walker. He reopened the royal waiting room in 1970 as a museum to display his 6,000 item collection of royal and historical memorabilia. Walker died in 1985 and his son, Roger Hedly-Walker, wanted to sell the station, ostensibly because he was unable to obtain permission from the royal estate to erect a larger sign advertising the museum and that the 18,000 annual visitors per year, Hedly-Walker said, was insufficient to meet running costs.
The station and contents went unsold, although the vendor did manage to dispose of a stash of 450 original London and North Eastern Railway posters which had been collected by his father during the 1920s and 1930s and stored beneath a trap door in the royal waiting room. These were also offered for sale and reached £98,000 at auction.
The signal box at Wolferton is now Grade II listed, was itself offered for auction on 14 May 1989; the signalling mechanism would be sold separately. In 1990, citing ill-health and the need to pay death duties, Hedly-Walker auctioned the station's contents for around £100,000 and asking £250,000 for the station building. The station was purchased by Richard Brown in 2001 and has since carried out a substantial refurbishment of the Down side station buildings, crossing gates and signal box.
The signal box has been restored and still houses its original lever frame and gate wheel. The levers and interlocking mechanism were extensively refurbished and refitted with assistance from the local North Norfolk Railway signal engineering department.
- Butt, R.V.J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations, Patrick Stephens Ltd, Sparkford, ISBN 1-85260-508-1, p. 253.
- Historic England. "Wolferton Station downside (1077593)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 December 2014. (And three other database entries: 1077592, 1168875 and 1342433)
- S. C. Jenkins (1987). The Lynn & Hunstanton Railway and the West Norfolk Branch. Headington, Oxford: Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-330-3.
- Leslie Oppitz (1999). Lost Railways of East Anglia (Lost Railways). Newbury, Berkshire: Countryside Books. p. 15. ISBN 1-85306-595-1.
- R. S. Joby (1985). Forgotten Railways: Vol. 7 East Anglia. Newton Abbott, Devon: David & Charles. ISBN 0-946537-25-9.
- Royal Insight, January 2005.
- The Times, "Royal railway station and relics to be sold;Former Wolferton station", 17 August 1988.
- The Times, "Rail posters may fetch 100,000 pounds", 30 May 1988.
- The Times, "Pounds 1m private ring collection for sale;The Harari collection", 6 June 1988.
- The Times, "Royalty's signalbox; Residential Property", 12 April 1989.
- The Times, "Royal rail tickets at first-class price; Saleroom", 28 May 1990.
- Evening Standard, "Crowning glory of royal rail station set to fetch £½m", 22 May 2001.