‘Alight here for Trimley St. Mary, Trimley St. Martin and surrounding Villages’
The view into the Booking Office of Trimley Station
It was more than fifty-two years since I had last stepped inside Trimley Station Booking Office to travel up line to Ipswich. Time has changed the substance and appearance of the small Station Offices and myself but I came to be re-united, albeit as a brief encounter. The front door was open, the hour was set and Adrian Reynolds stood to greet me when I arrived at the Station Booking Office. No Station Master was ever more courteous or welcoming but sadly he couldn’t enable the purchase of a ticket, manage my luggage or ensure I safely boarded the train without incident. For now, there is but one access to the Office and no other exit, nor are there sack barrows to convey my luggage or Booking Clerks to issue tickets. And as for Porters to assist passengers with their luggage to the other side of the line, well, disappointment is master here. All such accoutrements and personnel have long since absented themselves from the scene. However, Adrian did find me a chair to sit on and to ensure the protection of my trousers, covered it with a notice concerning a possible future floor plan of the Station. I gingerly planted myself on the seat, all the while looking around the room. As our mothers might say, “It hasn’t felt the touch of a duster for a few years.” Outside, a clean, automated, voice could be heard announcing the arrival of the 10.18 for Felixstowe. Neither of us moved. The train was not for us. We were there to discuss the future of the Station.
Time has not stood still in the Ticket Office; it has worked to remove the bustle of passengers and the excitement of a partial view of the trains through open doors. It has also worked to add the detritus of decay. But Adrian was robustly upbeat in his presentation of the situation and it was difficult not to be enthused by his zest to save the Station.
“You might be asking yourself, ‘What’s a Brummie doing trying to save Trimley Station?’ he said.
And, yes, it is a good question. What’s the answer?
“I came to work in Felixstowe in 1999, just for a year and lived in the Waverley Hotel. But then I re-located my family and myself from Birmingham to Trimley St. Mary because I had always wanted to live in a Village. I’m passionate about Community Life and I love railways…I spend several days a week down here.”
He added ruefully, “Money is the problem for the Save Trimley Station Campaign.”
I could sense Adrian’s pleasure in the building and everything it represents but before we could continue, the soft sound of approaching footsteps preceded the arrival of Peter Wain, Trustee and Director of the Trimley Station Community Trust Ltd.
Prior to my visit, several people have expressed to me their desire to see the building renovated to a safe and presentable standard; there is much tacit affection and support for the building. Peter has been involved in the project since 2010 and he told me how this came to pass and what is happening now. After his retirement he was looking for something in which to be involved and Trimley Station captured his attention. The project to save and renovate the buildings has had varying degrees of success. As with many a project and as stated above, what is lacking is money. Peter began to explain to me the state of the project in March 2019. The Station Buildings are on the East Suffolk Buildings at Risk Register, which includes buildings such as the George Inn at Wickham Market, the Assembly Rooms at Woodbridge and the Radar Receiver Block at Bawdsey Manor. Trimley Station is there because of the actions of Robert Scrimgeour who was and is a Conservation Officer at Suffolk Coastal District Council. He had been a Trustee of the Trust but resigned in November 2018 to ensure no conflict of interest.
The Station Trust is Private company limited by guarantee without share capital and has to send financial returns to both the Charities Commission and Company House. It’s possible to view the returns online. In 2016 the Trust applied to Heritage Lottery Funding for funding of £650,000: it required them to provide match funding and a rolling programme of events. It also required the building to be restored exactly to its original working condition. Unfortunately, the bid was unsuccessful as they were unable to meet the necessary criteria. Both Peter and Adrian are agreed that restoring the buildings to their original condition was and is not possible. The options had to be reconsidered and the end result was they decided on a slightly different course of action: they would focus on restoring the roof. This is the current rolling project. The Trust have made the decision to tackle one part of the building at a time. With a watertight roof, the internal work can then be undertaken gradually. A local builder has supplied a quote of £25,000 but the Trust want and need to raise an additional £10,000 as contingency funding. To date, they have £19,000.
The Trust have been told by the East Suffolk Community Rail Partnership to make an application for funding to the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) and again, they also are looking at match funding. To achieve this, they will have to conform to the conditions ACoRP establish. The conditions include re-doing the Business Plan, establishing a community interest and demonstrating they have raised sufficient money from the Community. A letter has been sent out to all the Friends of Trimley Station and some donations have been received but they have miles to travel before they reach their target.
Both Adrian and Peter united to tell me a little about the history of the building. Most people are aware the Felixstowe Dock and Rail Company developed as the result of Colonel George Tomline’s business interests. The railway line was initially built for the Colonel and opened in 1877. However, in 1887 it became the property of the Great Eastern Railway Company and they were responsible for the erection of Trimley Station buildings in 1891. The building itself is in the ‘New Essex’ style and is something of a rarity; only one other exists outside Essex. G.R.E. built other station buildings, including the demolished Beach Station, Orwell, otherwise known as Nacton and Derby Road. Orwell closed a few years before Trimley and was converted into a private home. For many years the internal layout remained unaltered: a perfect example of a late Victorian station, although an occupied one. Trimley Station closed in 1967 but unlike Orwell, it did not metamorphose into a different existence. It remained isolated and neglected, slowly declining as the Twentieth Century faded away.
And then, Trimley Station Community Trust was founded and registered in 2011 and the work to save the station began. The Trust have a two-year rolling tenancy on the property and the onus is now on them to repair the building. Currently, they have about eighteen months to tackle the building. Money and action are now imperative. The owners, Greater Anglia are threatening to knock the station down; things are taking too long.
We halted the conversation and an examination of the building commenced. The tour started in the Ladies Waiting Room just off the Booking Hall. Half the floor was missing and we could see the dark earth compacted below. In the corner of the room was the opening to the Ladies Toilet, where the necessary porcelain equipment leant exhaustedly against the wall. This was not the place to straighten one’s hat or powder one’s nose. In another corner of the room a cold grate offered chill, cheerless comfort, the last ash still spilled on the floor below.
The Cheerless Grate
Moving across the Booking Hall and into the Booking Office, Adrian smiled through the shadowy hatch from the former centre of clerical power. On one side of the opening a poster announced the arrival of the automatic level crossing barriers at Thorpe Lane on 4th May 1966, a year before the station closed. My inner eye retrieved images of the old wooden gates at Thorpe Lane and the Gatekeeper crossing the line to bolt them into the closed position. Tucked back into the smaller corners of my mind were memories of a train or two crashing through them when the Gatekeeper overslept. Some fifty plus years later, a new automatic set of full barriers await installation in late May 2019.
Notice concerning the introduction of automatic barriers at Thorpe Lane, Trimley
Abandoning my reverie, we moved into the Booking Office itself. The doors had been removed from the built-in cupboards which I suspect dated back to 1891. Only piles of plaster dust and other less recognisable residue rested inside. On one of the counters, rusted door locks awaited re-unification with their keyholes, whilst on the wall a late 1950s map showed fractured images of the British Railways network, with an earlier copy underneath. Much of the mainland map had been scrapped away but Ferry lines departing from Newcastle could still be seen valiantly heading towards Norway, a reminder of long gone routes. Adrian and Peter pointed out the now inaccessible door to the platform. With the installation of new signalling equipment on the platform, it is now impossible to use the platform entrance to get in or out of the building.
The Booking Office Work Station
Scraps of a 1950’s map of the British Railways Network
Locks awaiting their keys and doors
We moved to the platform using the main door and current pedestrian access with Adrian pointing out other specific parts of the building. The Break Goods Store stands to the right of the entrance, a large double store shed with three doors on the side. Stepping onto the Platform, to the right of us a neat and tidy border of flowers brightened the eye in sharp contrast to the other platform where large sacks containing possible rubbish from the rail works, stood awaiting removal. The canopy from the up platform went some time ago and all that remains of the original station on this side is a brick wall. Meanwhile, we stood on the down platform next to the former men’s toilets, which are currently out of bounds. Adrian pointed out the ridge tiles and chimney pots, which are original features.
Strolling down the platform took us to steps of the iron footbridge which also dates back to 1891. The view from the top embraces the whole railway landscape. To the East the shining rails bear right towards the dock, whilst straight on they head for Felixstowe.
“It looks almost tropical”…
Adrian mused as he viewed his station domain and platform, graced by a mature Yucca plant leaning over the delicate flower borders. It’s Tom Hatrick who maintains the plants and borders on the platform and at the side of the station; at this time of year his work enhances the traveller’s welcome. The up line view took in the former Gate Keeper’s house and the gleaming rails heading towards St. Martin’s and Keeper’s Lane crossing. Orange high vis jackets dotted the sides of the line where men stood waiting to work on the rails. The distant view hinted at something tantalising just over the horizon; it’s the promise made by nearly every railway line you have ever seen.
The view up line from the Iron Bridge
Heading back to the front of the Station, we halted at the Break Goods Sort while Adrian unlocked the door. Inside a hug space opened up, which is matched on the other side by three sheds of equivalent space. All the interior needs clearing out, they are essentially structurally sound.
“We could do various things with this space“ said Peter, “even open one up as a disabled toilet.”
Adrian continued towards the Station entrance and we stopped to look at the Victorian lamp-post, flanked by original gate posts. How many people have noticed this small reminder of 19th or early 20th century lighting? But there it sits there in enforced retirement, camouflaged by the surrounding greenery and restored by Trimley St. Mary Parish Council, or so Adrian and Peter believed.
The Victorian Lamp Post
Adrian believes the building is important not only for historic reasons but also for the many memories it holds for all those who have ever caught or dismounted from the train. It is an iconic station for many villagers. As we looked at external building, incidental thoughts flashed through my mind. Who bought the first ticket? Where was the imperative clock which had urged travellers onto their trains? How many Soldiers coming home from leave in the two World Wars had dismounted the train with pleasure and departed with foreboding? What about people coming here for their holidays at the start of the Twentieth century. Did they have a pony and trap waiting for them or did they in later years use Rodwell’s Taxis? How many people have used the caught the train to travel to work? Thousands and thousands of people and their luggage have rested in the Station Building, which is now denuded of everything it needs to make it live. But Adrian is certain it can wake from its long sleep with help from the community.
This is his ‘Wish List’ and that of the Trustees. They wish for:
Funding: Funding, great and small. Corporate Funding. Grants. Money.
People: to help as Friends, to help Fund Raise. I.T. management, a Project Manager, an Administrator. A Publicist and Promoter.
The organisation has two events coming up which will help to raise funds and awareness. Firstly, there will be a Quiz Night on 9th April 2019 at The Mariners at 7.00 o’clock, with a Raffle. £10 for a team of four. The second event will be ‘The Big Event’ at a yet to be determined venue one Saturday in June. Local Businesses will be invited to attend and more details will be announced. It is hoped the Station will be open at the same time, when you may have the opportunity to view this iconic building. If you, like Adrian love community life, railways, or our Victorian Heritage then Adrian and Peter welcome your support. You may contact him at: email@example.com
My tour of the Station came to an end and as Adrian and Peter closed and locked the doors to the Station, this Lady vanished.
Adrian Reynolds and Peter Wain, outside Trimley Station.
“Each a glimpse and gone for ever” R. L. Stevenson
If you have any comments or would like to be part of the Trimley St. Martin project, please contact me at: