160th Anniversary of the Opening of Crewkerne Station

The Friends of Crewkerne Station are holding an exhibition in the Town Hall to mark the occasion of the opening of the station and the railway line down to Exeter.

The exhibition will run from Monday 19th October until Friday 23rd October in the Local Information Centre. It is open from 9.30am until 1.00pm and three people at a time can visit.

The Town Hall has put in Covid restrictions limiting the number of people, providing hand sanitiser and there will be NO leaflets or objects to handle. It will be a visual story of historic photos and recent activities of the Friends. There will also be accounts of railway stories from members of the community.

Secretary of the Friends Gail Coleshill said:

“We are hoping that as many people as possible will come to see our very interesting exhibition which is full of photos and information about the station and railway. If anyone has any of their own personal railway stories we would love to hear them and are hoping to get a collection of community railway stories together to keep in our archives.”

Contact Gail Coleshill, Secretary, Friends of Crewkerne Station 07811 657798


The festivities in the town:

Press photography was still a long way in the future; so it was up to the reporters to set the scene on the events they covered by describing everything in minute detail. Nowadays, it would be done with a brief description and a massive photo feature.

The text of the report in the Western Flying Post 24th July 1860, page 6

This was part of a much larger account of the opening of the line from Yeovil to Exeter:


The inhabitants of Crewkerne celebrated the day in a very spirited manner. Always foremost in getting up demonstrations when occasion calls for rejoicing, and clever in carrying them out with effect, they had spared no efforts to make a display worthy of the event which called it forth. On Wednesday everything indicated that the town had made up its mind to have a day’s enjoyment.

The decorations were profuse and tasteful; and the streets, adorned with flags, mottoes, evergreens and devices of all descriptions, floral arches, variegated lamps, &c – thronged too with pleasure seekers – looked exceedingly gay and picturesque. In East Street, fir trees were planted on each side; a triumphal arch was erected, surmounted by a handsome crown. There was also a triumphal arch in West Street erected by Mr H. Perry. Mr Bird erected two arches at the entrance to his factories, on one of which the following verse was inscribed.

“Success to the loom, with its wool, flax and hair, may it always extend with its uses, and the merchant and agriculturalist share, in the blessings industry produces”

To give a description of all the decorations would be impossible. Judging from the display, Crewkerne must be rich in bunting; and the garlands and ornaments of flowers indicated that there had been an extensive levy upon Flora, to meet the demands of the day. Mr Turner, stationer, exhibited the veritable sod, turned by the Countess Paulett on December 4, 1857 [actually in 1856 – this was the first shovelful of earth ceremonially dug in the construction of the line, at Maiden Beech just above the tunnel]; above which was placed a representation of her Ladyship’s coronet. 

The front of Mr Turner’s house bore the mottoes “The extension Railway from Yeovil to Crewkerne, from Crewkerne to Axminster, from Axminster to Honiton”, “The development of commerce the arteries of trade”; and on the closed shutter appeared the words, in letters formed of white and yellow rosettes, “The opening day”. The residence of Captain Mathews was bedecked very beautifully, the windows being decorated with ferns and flowers, interspersed with leaves of the purple beech. 

Mr Sherriff put up a handsome decoration in front of his premises. The initials L.S.W.R., wrought in laurel leaves and roses, had a pretty effect, and there were also illuminated stars, floral arches and flags. Mr Marsh of the George Hotel displayed illuminations which had the novelty of being lighted with oil instead of gas. The letters V.R. and the masonic sign were thus exhibited, the oil being placed in small vessels in front of the devices. 

There were also gas illuminations of a crown and sceptre. Mr Jolliffe, surgeon, exhibited a motto, in letters of red and white roses: “For God, our Queen, and our Country”. The shops of Messrs Strawson and Galpin were gay with variegated lamps. Mr Clark, jeweller, displayed a crown, with the letters V.R. and the motto “Success to the Rail and the Press”. Mr Patridge displayed two small railway trains, from which flags of all nations waved. While so much was done by the residents, the inhabitants of the neighbourhood were anxious to participate in their pleasure. Vehicles of all conceivable kinds came into the town, and pedestrians of every description were to be seen, presenting a motley array of human forms and faces, from the most sprucely got up to those that seem expressly designed to be quizzed.

A procession was formed in the market place, at half past ten o’clock, and marched, in the following order, to the railway station:

  • A detachment of Police
  • Crewkerne Rifle Corps, preceded by its band
  • Fife and Drum band
  • Court Robin Hood, 3170, Ancient Order of Foresters, with their Regalia
  • Members of the White Hart Club, with their flags and banners
  • Members of the “Royal Albert” Club
  • The Beaminster Saxe-horn band
  • The “Old Blues” Club
  • The “Hand-in-Hand” Club
  • Children and teachers of the National School
  • Church Sunday school
  • Wesleyan, Independent, Baptist, and
  • Unitarian Schools, with their flags and banners
  • Members of the Committee
  • Carriages
  • The Yeovil Band
  • Carriage of the Countess Paulett

The Rifle Corps were under the command of their officers, Capt Mathews, Lieut Tidcombe, and Ensign Jolliffe, and were accompanied by their band. The Foresters included many brethren from Yeovil; and Brother Groves ably personated “Bold Robin Hood”. The members of the Crewkerne court had donned their Foresters’ costume for the first time. The school children were estimated to exceed a thousand.

The committee had thoughtfully arranged to afford the aged poor an opportunity of witnessing the spectacle; and not the least interesting part of the procession consisted of two waggons lent by Messrs Budge and Stanfield, and Messrs Jolliffe & Co, which were occupied by some of the old inhabitants, who evidently greatly enjoyed the proceedings. Admission was given to the station by ticket. At the approach of the train the band struck up “See the Conquering Hero comes”, followed by the National Anthem. The train entered the station amidst vociferous cheers, the Rifle Corps presenting arms. [What happened next at the station, who was there, what was said, was written up separately by reporters travelling on the train]

After the return of the procession, a substantial dinner was given to all the poor inhabitants over 60 years of age, numbering 220; and this, we think, should be regarded as one of the best features in the doings of the day. To entertain the poor on this occasion of general joy was a beautiful thought on the part of the committee; and well must they have been repaid by a consciousness of the enjoyment thus imparted. The repast consisted of roast beef and mutton, vegetables, and plum pudding; and beer was also afterwards supplied. Many ladies and gentlemen volunteered their services in waiting.

The members of the Rifle Corps, Foresters, and gentlemen of the committee dined together at the Swan Inn, where a capital repast was served by Mr Blake. About 120 sat down under the presidency of Capt Mathews. One or two formal toasts were given, and the party then rose.

At five o’clock, the school children were treated with tea and cake in a field lent for the purpose by Mr Loveless. A variety of rustic sports was afterwards engaged in; and a display of fireworks fitly closed what may fairly be termed, notwithstanding the weather [very wet], a brilliant day.’

Thanks to John Dirring, (FOCS) for researching this news item.

Phillip Bell