History of the
Marks Tey - Bures - Sudbury
Rail Line (1849 - 1990)

"Stour Valley Railway Through Time"
by Andy T. Wallis
History of the Stour Valley line from Marks Tey to Bury and Cavendish

Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Amberley Publishing (26 July 2011)

ISBN-13: 978-1445604725.

Available through Amazon.

Link to Community Rail Partnership

Bures Railway Station, circa 1900

The present day rail link runs from Marks Tey through Chappel to Bures and finally terminates at Sudbury.

However, today it only exists as a small branch line compared to its original route which ran from Marks Tey all the way to Bury St Edmunds or Haverhill/Cambridge.

The line was opened throughout from Marks Tey to Sudbury for traffic on 2nd July 1849. The original train service consisted of four trains in each direction on weekdays only. Fares were governed by an Act of Parliament, namely 3d per mile first class, 2d per mile second and 1p per mile, third class. Third class remained in force until 1956, when it was renamed second class.
The journey time between Marks Tey and Sudbury, varied between 28 and 45 minutes which was the average for such a branch line.
(Today by modern Sprinter the average journey time is 19 minutes)
It was not until
9th August 1865, that the link to Bury and Haverhill was finally completed.

The Branch Line that never was:- Railways were gradually spreading over the region and it was proposed by a small railway company in 1863 called the Mistley, Thorpe and Walton Railway to run a River Stour Extension line from the main line junction at Manningtree along the south bank of the river through Dedham and Nayland to Bures where it would have joined the existing Stour Valley line which runs from Sudbury to Marks Tey.

sidings
Station Layout circa 1900
Layout of rail station showing sidings.

Today the `Paddocks` housing estate resides on the former goods yard.
Route Map, circa 1900
 

Accident1. (as reported in the 1858 Bury Free Press)
On Tuesday evening of the November 25th 1858, as the goods train was leaving Bures station for Marks Tey, the engine burst with a terrible explosion, scattering portions a considerable distance, some weighing above one cwt were thrown through the air up to 100 yards away.
Both the driver and stoker were uninjured, the explosion shook Bures with doors being blown open.
Theft (December 8th 1857)
William Hicks a railway porter at Bures, was charged with stealing peck of beans from a railway truck the property of Mr H.W.Westrop. William Woods, an officer of the Essex Constabulary, was charged with receiving stolen property.
Wicks two months in prison and Woods six months hard labour.



Suffolk Chronicle January 5th 1867


1873

Essex County Standard Oct 27th 1881


Bury and Norwich Post Oct 8th 1898

Suffolk Free Press Nov 24th 1886

Bury Free Press, February 8th 1880

Accident 2 (July 12th 1887)
There was a fatal accident at Bures railway station late on Thursday night when Edward Smith a married man aged 50 years an engine driver from Bergholt road in Colchester and a native of Sudbury was killed. A pilot or additional engine was attached to a heavy excursion train travelling from Clacton to Mildenhall to assist in the gradients between Sudbury and Colchester. The engine was detached at Sudbury and was making it's way back to Colchester, when approaching Bures level crossing, the gates of which were closed, the engine stopped and the fireman got down to help the gatekeeper to open the gates, when the engine got through the driver got down and the three men were engaged in conversation when for some reason the brakes became released, seeing this Smith ran to the gates to throw them open, he opened one gate but was caught between the buffers and the gate while attempting to open the second gate, he was severely crushed and died instantaneously. Accidental death.

The Newsman March 16th 1901

LNER Bures to Chappel
Child fare, First Class

Date unknown

The return half of a GER single fare return to Sudbury, date not clear but probably around 1910.

(Ticket courtesy of Brian Pask)

< 1925 extract from Timetable

1925 Timetable indicates travelling time from Bures to Marks Tey = 17 minutes

2016 travelling time = 12 minutes

Railway workers at Bures
Precise date unknown, but may well have been circa 1920

Four members of staff, possibly with initials HD, FC, AB and GC
AB would be Arthur Bitten.
HD :- Harry Diggins
FC:- F Cant
GC:- unknown

 

 

Image supplied by Guy & Caroline Wisbey

The Railway Benevolent Fund was set up to assist railway staff who fell on hard times especially during ill health.

 

Image supplied by Guy & Caroline Wisbey

Samuel Francis

My Gt Grandfathe SAMUEL FRANCIS. worked as a Goods Porter for G.E.R. at BURES at least between 1905 to 1911 and lived on High Street. Prior to this, he had previously worked as a Goods Porter for G.E.R. at FRAMLINGHAM STATION from at least 1891, living at Railway Terrace. Also, Samuel may have attended to the signals.

There is a family story of him being an avid reader, and while awaiting a train became so engrossed in his book, forgot to attend the signals, which almost lost him his job and the house they lived. which belonged to the G.E.R.
His wife's pleading I believe saved the day.

My grandfather Charles Phillip FRANCIS would have been around the age of 12 at this time.

Courtesy of Sue Walker, Leicestershire.
Oct 2016


bures stn
Bures Station, Front Entrance



Station Layout 1890`s
The passenger platform and station buildings were on the east (village) side of the line. The main station building was of three floors, partly because of the difference in levels at the site.
On top was a belfry which housed the train arrival bell, this could be heard across the village.
This can clearly be seen on the photograph to the left.


Wagon of fruit sent to Clacton, presumably apples.
Fred Eaves had two large apple orchards in the village.

One along side Colne Road and the other behind Friends Field.
Both now vacant land


Ticket dated 2nd December 1932

To attract more rail users special discounted Market Tickets were introduced to Chelmsford during 1937.

Bures Station,
Platform View

There was a large Malthouse on the west side of the line at the Sudbury end with Brickworks beyond this. The signalbox was on the downside opposite the Colchester end of the platform.
Cross & Garrods and Grimston & Co both had sidings at the station, which could handle all classes of traffic except furniture vans, carriages and portable engines.
To facilitate the unloading of wagons, a 1.5 ton crane on site was on-site
.

 

Circa 1960`s
Note:- The arrival bell hidden behind the post

Chappel Viaduct
The greatest obstacle between Marks Tey and Sudbury was crossing the Colne Valley at Chappel and the Mount Bures ridge,
Construction work here began in 1847 at a cost of £32,000. The original plan was to span the valley with a timber arch on brick piers, but this was changed when workmen found brickearth on site. With brick making material at hand, the design was changed in favour of a brick arch.
Building this viaduct proved extremely difficult, to the extent, gunpowder had to be used in places to move soil. The structure was completed in 1849, some two years later.
It is 1066 feet long, with 32 arches of 30 ft span each at a height of 75ft. The workforce consisted of 606 men with a team of 106 horses. Some 7,000,000 bricks were used in its construction.

viaduct

The chief engineer was Mr P Bruff who later addressed the Institute of Civil Engineers.
Listening to this presentation was Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the renowned Great Western Railway engineer.
viaduct

The Viaduct still stands today as a monument to Victorian engineering
July 2010

Photo courtesy of Game 1980


Mount Bures Ridge

The line from Chappel towards Bures traverses over 2 miles of deep cutting. Once the Mount Bures summit is reached it then falls steeply away with a 1:90 gradient towards Mount Bures crossing and finally into Bures itself.
This proved to be major obstacle. There was little comfort or shelter along this stretch of line, and the men desperately needed sustenance whilst excavating the line. It was bleak to say the very least.

After a hard days work the workmen would walk to Bures to have a drink at the local pubs. However, it was not so easy to return having to climb the ridge back to Mount Bures after devouring many pints of strong ale.

Consequently the "Thatchers Arms" Public House was specifically opened for the workmen. This immediately raised moral and provided refreshment on-site with the added benefit of increasing the work rate.
The "Thatchers" still stands to this day and is in regular use.


station
station
Bures Station 1950 - Signal box can clearly be seen.
Outward half of an early BR monthly return to Cambridge, dated 15th October 1951.
(Ticket courtesy of Brian Pask)

The ticket is an ex-London blank card (which could have been issued for any journey from London) issued from agency 903 for a journey from Liverpool Street to Bures and back. This is the return half which would have been used for the journey from Bures to Liverpool Street.

date circa 1954

(info courtesy of Brian Pask)

Bures Goods Traffic

Timber
One villager can recall in the mid 1930`s, timber being hauled from Assington, through the village to the railway sidings. This contract lasted for at least 12 months. Typically, during 1938, 597 tons of timber departed from Bures.

Farm Produce
Butlers Farm during the second World War used to transport Blackberries and Mushrooms to "Robertons Wholesalers" at Covent Garden. Butlers used to employ local villages to pick these wild on the farm, as they were so prolific.
Butlers in the 1930`s also sent "SheepFleeces" by rail to Otterburn in Northumberland for processing into wool. They were then returned as Skeins which were unrolled into smaller balls of wool for knitting. (Busky Laurie)

Livestock
The main goods traffic was the transportation of cattle. Back as far as 1913 on a Wednesday, an Express cattle train would leave Colchester at 6.40am, destination Bury. This called at Chappel, Bures and Cockfield attaching additional cattle trucks, finally arriving at Bury in time for the morning market.
Cattle would often arrive back in Bures on the return journey, unloaded and then driven through the village to their final destination, the abattoir on Cuckoo Hill.
Various stations on the line had cattle pens, allowing the transportation of livestock to and from the Bury market.
This facility was axed during April 1961

The sidings can clearly be seen in the layout diagram above left. "Cattle pen" is clearly marked at the sidings.
Outward goods traffic in 1938 amounted to 130 tons of meat.

Grain.
Grain destined for the Maltings opposite and to a lesser extent the "Mill", were shipped through the goods yard.
Outward goods traffic in 1938 amounted to
2,308 tons of grain.

Sugar Beet
This was transported by rail to Swaffham railway station then onward to Holme Hale.
Holme Hale was a station on the Swaffham to Thetford Line
The wagon label show the sender to be the "Bures Farming Compay Ltd"

Bures Farming Co is currently being researched, the owners of this company remain a mystery. Records at Companies House show it to be "Dissolved" with no local name or address.

Why Holme Hale, this was on the Theford to Swaffham line.

TO ABBEY:- this may be a further clue, as there was an "Abbey and West Dereham" station to the west of the Thetford line feeding the Wissington Sugar Beet factory
This again is currently be researched

Miscellaneous
Other goods to numerous to mention would have passed through the goods yard, such as newspapers, bricks, coal, milk etc.

excursion ticket

Excursion Sat 20th November 1937:


Rail ticket for a "Cheap evening excursion" from Bury St Edmunds to Liverpool St.

This train arrived at Liverpool St at 7.45pm, no idea what the latest train would have made the return journey

 


Passenger traffic survey carried out during 1955 found that the Stour Valley services clocked up 3270 miles during a single week, with a load factor of 17%, giving a ratio of running costs to revenue of minus 415%.

1955 TRAIN EXCURSION TO OLYMPIA:- This was a new approach by BR to boost passenger travel.
300 people from Bures, Sudbury, Halstead, Lavenham and the Bury area took advantage of excursions to Aladdin on Ice at the Empire Station, Wembley.

This ticket was issued to travel between Birdbrook (Colne valley Line) and Olympia
This ticket is not predated, which suggests that there was a series of trains rather than just one.


(Ticket courtesy of Brian Pask)

Not only were seats assured on a heated train but theatre reservations on behalf of the passengers had been made and the train travelled direct to Wembley Hill station, only two minutes from the theatre. Food was served on the train, programs distributed and railway officials toured the compartments making sure that passengers were conversant with all the arrangements.
A BR official said "We believe that this approach is paying long term dividends"

1957

Photograph courtesy of Brian Pask
see also the publication "Stour Valley through Time" by Andrew Walsh
Steam locomotive transports goods near Bures on August 16th, 1957

1958

Kilverstone Hall Kilverstone Hall approaching Bures, November 1958
Signal Box 1958


(Courtesy of Suffolk Free Press)

On January 1st 1959 diesel multiple-units and diesel rail buses took over from steam. This showed considerable cost benefit, but it did not stem the steady decline of passengers from the line.

This image shows a Derby Ligghtweight Trailer at Bures station presumably sometime during the late 1950`s
Ref:_ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Derby_Lightweight

There is no records of this being used on the line on a regular basis, so I can only conclude this may have been a trial run to see the viability of a replacement DMU.


Brush Type 2 diesels (now Class 31`s) were often to be seen on the Colne Valley section operating Clacton to Leicester excursions.
At that time it was still possible to travel from Marks Tey through to Cambridge or Bury

< Example of Brush Type 2, not taken on this lone


.

With increasing road competition the last freight train travelled on the Stour Valley Line on 18th June 1962.

<<< New Station Master arrives, 1960

3912 is a BTC child single to Sudbury, dated 8th April 1961.

(Ticket courtesy of Brian Pask)

Bures Station 1962

This reduction in rail freight traffic is rather ironic as the arrival of the trains had earlier caused the demise of barge traffic on the river, carrying goods. Rail was now faster and more reliable.
The coming of road vehicles was now having the same effect and the carriage of freight by rail, was ultimately doomed.

However, a single freight train was retained and ran between Sudbury to Bures and back when required, but this ceased on December 28th 1964. The signal box at Bures was no longer required and was demolished in 1965.

TIMETABLE OF CLOSURE
Long Melford to Bury passenger service ceased 10th April 1961, Lavenham, Cockfield and Welnetham continued to handle parcels and goods for a couple of more years.
Passenger service on the Colne Valley line ceased 1st Jan 1962
Long Melford to Lavenham track lifted 1962
Sturmer closed to freight on 25th June 1962
Welnetham closed to freight on 13th July 1964
Bures, Cavendish, Bartlow, White and Earls Colne and Gt Yeldham closed to freight on 28th Dec 1964
Sible and Castle Hedingham closed to freight on 13th July 1964

In April 1965, the then British Railways Board applied for permission to withdraw passenger service from the whole of the line between Marks Tey and Cambridge. After a bitter struggle, local opposition managed to get the section between Sudbury and Marks Tey retained on account of its potential growth in commuter traffic and the expansion of Sudbury. However approval was granted for the section between Sudbury and Cambridge to be closed,

Bury to Lavenham freight withdrawn 19th April 1965
Gt Yeldam to Haverhill ceased 19th April 1965
Halstead, White Colne, Earls Colne, Hedingham, Pamisford, Haverhill South, Stoke, Lavenham and Cockfield all closed 19th April 1965
Clare, Linton, Glemsford and Long Melford closed on 12th Sept 1965
Haverhill North and all freight on the Stour & Colne Valley lines withdrawn 31st October 1966

All passenger services to the north of Sudbury to Cambridge ceased on 6th March 1967
Chappel signal box and all points removed 20th August 1967
Marks Tey - Chappel - Bures - Sudbury was now the only original 1849 section of the two branch lines remaining,

The Sudbury branch line veers to the right at the
Marks Tey junction
1962
Mount Bures Crossing with Mr Yates the Keeper
1962
Track Inspection at Bures with Robert Burch, 1962 - double track
DMU along the Mount Bures cut, dated 1962 -
This date must be incorrect, as it still still dual track in that year
<<<<<<
Disused Signal Box 1962 as it was no longer required for the Freight Sidings
Demolished 6th Sept 1965

Aerial Photo taken 1965
The signal box still survives but the track sidings have been removed. Today it is the site of "The Paddocks" housing estate

 


 


The main rolling stock during the 1960s-80s were Diesel Railbuses, Class 105 'Cravens' and Class 108 DMUs.

 

Double track still in existance during 1965 >>>>>>>>>>>>>

dmu

Picture Right >>>>
Taken 17th February 1973
DMU E56380 and E50378 arriving at 11.07am on the Sudbury to Colchester service

Note, the Canopy was removed in the early 1970`s

Compare with the image above.

Also now single track - one track was removed between 1965 and 1967

dmu 1973

Mount Bures Crossing 1974, author unknown

Mount Bures Crossing 1974, author unknown


Shown here in April 1978, Bures station with a Cravens/Gloucester hybrid DMU about to depart for Sudbury.

Courtesy of Mark Dufton

DMU Class 105 on route to Sudbury dated 1979

 

During the 1980`s and 90`s, Class 101 DMU`s were a common sight.
A press cutting from 1983 " Passenger levels on all but the morning and evening peak services are extremely low; the survival of this branch beyond the 1980`s must be in the balance"

This photograph shows the demolition of the station buildings.


Taken by Olwen Titchmarsh, August 1983

Class 105 DMU

Sudbury Station Winter 1986

Photo courtesy of David Lacy

picture@11k
new station@19k

Railway Station circa 1920
Three storey booking hall to the left.

Station House:- Left was used by the Station Master.
The right side was the Police Station

Railway Station 2002.
Little has changed.

 

The latter part of the 1990`s saw the arrival of modern rolling stock, in the shape of Class 153 Sprinters

updated 26/08/2014
Demolition of the station house
Technical data taken from Branches & Byways of East Anglia by John Brodribb
updat with newspaper cutting 22/02/2017