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Shefford

Shefford Station

sign for Old Station Way February 2008
Sign for Old Station Way February 2008

There are relatively few indications today to a casual visitor that Shefford ever had a station but for 105 years it was a stop on the Midland line from Wigston, nearly four miles south of Leicester, through Bedford to Hitchin. This line had seven stations in Bedfordshire (north-south): Sharnbrook; Oakley; Bedford; Cardington; Southill; Henlow; Shefford.

In 1853 the Midland Railway Company obtained approval from parliament for its new line to follow a route mapped out the previous winter by its engineer Charles Liddell, who estimated that construction would cost £304,000 from Hitchin to Bedford and another £596,000 from Bedford to Leicester - a cost of £19,000 per mile. Construction began that autumn by Thomas Brassey, though the 880 yard Old Warden Tunnel between Southill and Cardington was constructed by a local builder, John Knowles of Shefford.

The Crimean War meant shortages of manpower and materials but work progressed. Shefford station was commenced in February 1856 but a shortage of bricks slowed work. Shefford station's buildings were never as good as those of other Bedfordshire stations on the line.

the railway bridge in 1976 just before demolition
The railway bridge in 1976 just before demolition [Z50/101/19]

The railway opened formally on 8th May 1857, having been used by goods trains for the preceding month. The first passenger train took 42 minutes to travel from Hitchin to the terminus, just off Ampthill Road in Bedford. Just over eleven years later the line was downgraded from a main line to a branch line when the Bedford to Saint Pancras line opened on 13th July 1868. In an article for The Bedfordshire Magazine in 1988 Jonathen Squire commented: "In the 1940s children of the primary school in Shefford congregated on the station platform in the early mornings to watch the trains. One sunny morning a mischievous fireman playfully pointed a hose in their direction and teachers were horrified when several saturated children presented themselves at school". Such an action today would, no doubt, result in disciplinary action under Health and Safety legislation.

 The Bridge pub sign february 2008
The Bridge pub sign February 2008

Falling use meant that the railway closed on 1st January 1962. The railway station buildings were demolished to make way for housing. The railway bridges in the parish were demolished in the late 1970s, including the one in the centre of Shefford next to the Bridge public house| in November 1976.