Hadleigh is a small town in the south of Suffolk near the river Stour.
The Eastern Counties Railway had run out of steam by the time it had reached Colchester in 1843, and in the ensuing pause a number of schemes were promoted for continuing its progress towards its ultimate destination, Norwich. It was mooted that the town of Hadleigh was to be on the mainline to Diss, with Ipswich being relegated to a branch. The traders of Ipswich would have none of this, and floated the Eastern Union Railway’s proposal to link the town to Colchester directly. It was this line that was built and now is part of the Great Eastern mainline.
As built the nearest that the line came to Hadleigh was Bentley station between Manningtree and Ipswich, some seven miles away. The line to Ipswich was opened in 1846; Royal Assent was given to the Bill authorizing construction of the branch to Hadleigh in the same year and work proceeded rapidly. Up to 300 navvies were employed on the project. and the beer consumed during the evenings after work had ceased for the day was phenomenal. This was appreciated by the local publicans if few others. The branch to Hadleigh was opened on Friday August 20th 1847 to great celebrations. A public holiday was declared in the town. The train had left Ipswich at 3.25 and arrived in Hadleigh three quarters of an hour later. A brass band had accompanied the train and at Hadleigh the Town Band led the assembled multitude through the town. Two hundred and fifty invited guests sat down to a meal at five o’clock. Despite the enthusiasm, the line was not opened to the general public for another fortnight to allow the necessary inspection to take place. There were two intermediate stations on the line, at Capel and Raydon, although both stations were located over a mile away from their respective villages.
A disturbing event occurred during the first year of operation. A special train was arranged to run to Ipswich for the regatta on the 16th September 1847. It was a windy day and the construction of a wall at Hadleigh station had only been competed that morning. The mortar was not yet dry, and a gust of wind of near hurricane force blew down the the 14 foot high wall and injured over fifty of the waiting crowd.
Barley for the maltings and malt exported from the town was a major commodity handled by the railway at Hadleigh. Hay and straw for the cattle carried by rail were kept in the good shed, and arrangements to provide water were at first precarious. In the days before piped supplies all water came from wells, including that needed by the steam engines themselves. Wood was taken from Raydon station and cattle from all stations on the line. Goods traffic was important to the railway, but so too were passengers. There were initially five passenger trains daily in each direction, and three on Sunday, though these weekend services were not well used and were soon abandoned. However the number of daily passenger trains increased during the nineteenth century. There were occasional accidents on the line, mostly of a minor nature, but all were reported to the authorities.
The First World War produced a growth in freight as the farms around Hadleigh were required to make up for the food that could no longer be imported from abroad. After the war the decline in passenger traffic was exacerbated by the the growth of motor omnibuses built on the chassis of ex-army trucks. The fact that the journey from Hadleigh went direct to Ipswich by road, whilst the railway journey required a change at Bentley did nothing to encourage passengers to travel by rail. Passenger traffic was ended in 1932. The effect of the Second World War was similar – the building and then the subsequent supply of the USAAF air base at Capel made for extra business for the railway, but this again declined after the war. Ultimately the line closed to freight traffic on the 15th April 1965. The station at Bentley which had been the junction with the Hadleigh branch was closed in November of the following year. A part of the track has been opened as a Wildlife haven.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA
It was time to lift the potato crop on the 4th of the month, a Saturday.
It had been Dad’s 64th birthday on the 21st of September, so next year he will be officially a pensioner! He got a book on American railways from my sister in Canada, his daughter Christine. He was reading it in the evening.
On the 11th of October we were busy making a cold frame for the garden. We had to anchor it down, so I fitted four 2″x 2″ legs to the frame to bury in the earth. The lower part was being treated with Cuprinol by Dad. We had a job finding a place to get the clear plastic sheet to glaze the frame with, but tracked it down eventually. The price locally was so high it was cheaper to order it from the Isle of Wight, and get it sent up here!
Mum, Dad and I had tea at Aunty Olive’s in Bramerton, Fido came too. Aunty has been having high blood pressure again. She said it was brought on by corn-dolly making, though how that was so I do not know. I doesn’t sound a particularly stressful occupation. [This high blood pressure malarkey is a family trait, for which I now have to take daily medication. Aunty Olive didn’t do too badly however, living to the age of ninety.]
Aunty had a huge tomato, grown on a Pixie plant. ‘Pixie’ is a bush tomato, producing a heavy crop of medium-sized fruits – Olive’s wasn’t medium sized though – with a rich traditional flavour. (We had an excellent tomato crop in 2020, and we were still eating plenty of the fruit daily almost to Christmas.)
On the 13th we bought some lengths of 2″x 1″ wood to make the top of the cold frame, the bit which will hold the glazing. This was quite a complicated job as we used halving joints; they are stronger made that way. We made up one of these two glazing frames. In fact I think it would have been simpler (and just as strong) to use halved mitre joints instead. On the way back from the post office I got some eggs and orange juice.
When we got home after six p.m. there was a message from my other sister Tig, who had been unable to talk to us this afternoon as we got back so late. She is worried about her future on Guernsey where she lived because she has to leave her cottage; it transpired that she had to leave her dog Suki too. She stayed with us in England, as her mistress was unable to find a house on Guernsey that would take a dog.
On the morrow we made up the second glazed part of the cold frame, using halving mitre joints. We glued up the frames by lunchtime. We were doing this in the workshop in Norwich. We drove home for lunch by way of the Feathers pub in Framingham Pigot. In the afternoon we were busy making up more magnifiers to replace those going to the Ministry of Defence, and came home for tea which included courgettes from Aunty Olive’s garden.
On the 16th I put a couple of coats of white paint on the glazing frames for the cold frame; it is nearly ready to take home for installation. At the pub (the King George at Harford Bridges) I had a pint of draught Guinness. For tea we had fried cod and chips.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
This railway ran for six miles from Wickham Market station on the East Suffolk line. The name Wickham Market is misleading, because it is in fact in the village Campsey Ashe. It retains this name, in spite of periodic attempts to change it which began almost immediately the line was built, and have continued ever since.These have all been unsucessful because it would be too expensive to alter all references to the name. The reason for its name of Wickham Market appears to come from the fact that Wickham Market was the more substantial place at the time. The Framlingham branch line opened in 1859, the great fanfare was cancelled as will explain. Numbers declined in the 1930s, and closure to passengers came on November 1st 1952; freight traffic continued for another dozen years before its ultimate demise.
After weeks of delay the Framlingham Branch opened on the 1st of June, (along with rest of the East Suffolk Line from Halesworth to Woodbridge). The operation of the railway was new and unfamiliar, and an unfortunate accident befell Edward Plantain, a porter newly recruited to the railway. One of his jobs was to uncouple the engine from the train at the terminus in Framlingham. In his anxiety to accomplish this task he did not wait until the train was stationery before jumping down onto the track and was knocked down by the locomotive. He was the leader of the string section of the Town Band, and the concert laid on to celebrate the coming of the railway had to be cancelled. He was not killed by the accident, but he later died of his injuries. To illustrate the kind of thing people had to get used to, another example occurred when a few months later a horse was frightened by an approaching train. The owner was thrown from his gig, suffering cuts and bruises, and the bolted animal was only caught by the keeper of the level crossing. Nor was this the only time such an occurence happened.
The goods yard was a busy place from the start. It soon became apparent that more staff were required to unload (and particularly load) the trucks and vans that were carried on the two or three goods trains that served the facility daily. Heavy traffic caused ruts to appear and these made the yard increasingly difficult to use. It needed urgent repairs. Parcels and timber were among the goods sent from Framlingham, while coal was the staple import. Agricultural machinery was sent to Framlingham and needed the installation of a crane at Wickham Market station to load the items onto wagons bound for the town. A seed company along the line also need an additional siding to be constructed. The building of the boarding school Framlingham College had also required a siding to bring in the materials to the site.
Traffic continued to grow for half a century, and the coming of the Great War led to an increased demand for agricultural produce to replace that which was no longer available from Europe. The strain on resources lead the Government (who were controlling the nation’s railways) to reduce the frequency of services. This was compensated to a certain extent on the Framlingham Branch by the introduction of mixed traffic trains. The ending of hostilities led to the dawn of the motor transport age and the decline of rail.
I am sorry that I never saw the branch; indeed I may never been to Framlingham at all, although in a long life it is possible that I have. Certainly my father and mother-in law attended a concert in the castle in their retirement.
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It was early April, and snow showers had greeted me on Good Friday morning. There was just about enough snow to make snowballs. [Nine years later I was married on April 5th, and it snowed then too, though not enough to make snowballs on that occasion.] After breakfast of hot cross buns my sister and I took our dogs for a walk in the snow. I saw the blackbird on her nest, looking beady eyed as she tried to keep her eggs warm.
Tiggie (my sister) was baking bread on Good Friday. She made the dough in the morning while I went in the front room to clean it – I polished the furniture, swept the floor and cleaned the windows. Mum used the vacuum cleaner on the carpet. We took the dogs out again after lunch, and the younger one (my dog Fido) enjoyed jumping to catch snowballs.
The coalman called and we got the bunker filled up with coal. Dad polished his wardrobe (we were all doing the place up for Easter apparently). Tig’s bread was done so we had a fresh loaf with our tea, which was kippers. She also made two currant loaves and baked a cake. In the evening we played cribbage, watched Are You Being Served? on the TV and then went to the Dove for a drink.
On Easter Saturday we had no snow, just sleet. At 8.45 p.m. we got a phone call from my other sister (Cornie), who lives in Canada. She told us she will be in England for 10 days in August. We had toast and marmalade for breakfast on Saturday. We went up to Norwich and Tig and I had coffee at Backs. I bought a new pair of shoes. They are K’s, and cost me £14.95 at Rutlands. Tig picked primroses on the way back home. While I planted the potatoes Tig weeded the cold frame and spread some of the compost heap on the vegetable garden. Dad was busy too, weeding the vegetable patch. Mum was making a curry for tea.
Easter Sunday (the 10th of April) was milder. Porridge, followed sausages and mushroom for breakfast. Aunt Olive called on the way back from the Cathedral Close. Her son Andrew (who lives there) had just left home to go to his father-in-law with his children. (This was Aubrey Aitken, the Bishop of Lynn, whose home was in Elsing.)
Easter Monday was rather chilly. We drove to Banham Zoo, which was Tiggy’s treat. We walked the dogs round the car park, and then had sandwiches in the Café for lunch. We saw among other animals the monkeys, dingos and sea lions. Then we looked round the Motor Museum, which was also part of the Banham experience; next it was about ten miles to Bressingham, where we saw Britannia steam locomotive Oliver Cromwell in steam. Also there (but not in steam) were the Royal Scot and the Duchess of Sutherland.
We came home for tea of soup and cake. In the evening we listened to Iolanthe on the gramophone.
MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIA
ORDNANCE SURVEY SHEET 126, 1920
A hundred years ago there was no Norwich Airport; even RAF St Faiths which preceded was a couple of decades in the future. A lot of things were different then. I am basing my examination of Norfolk a century ago on the 1920 1” to the mile map of the Norwich area, but many other facts will intrude themselves on my notice. This map covers the place where I was born in Poringland; eight years before my parents’ bungalow was built (i.e. 1920) the area was covered in woodland. Now the area all around is covered in modern housing; not in bungalows but multi-storeyed properties. They are built on tiny plots of land with, some even in terraces.
In 1920 the railway were still in the many companies of the pre-Grouping era, including the Great Eastern and the M&GN. The latter still ran into the elegant terminus building at City Station. From Cromer the trains ran to Golf Links Halt, through Overstrand and Sidestrand to Trimingham, There the wood that has now been washed away by the ever encroaching sea was well inland, and fields were cultivated to the seaward side of it,.
Almost all villages had a Post Office, which also functioned as the local the grocery shop. There was also at least one pub in the village. Now only the largest communities have shops or pubs. I anticipate that this trend will have been greatly accelerated by the Covid lockdown.. Across the country phone boxes were going up in the twenties. Electricity poles were appearing in the countryside, although the National Grid pylons had yet to make their presence felt. Water mains did not exist outside the towns, and main drains were fifty years or so in the future. Gas was supplied to most towns however. Transport was changing; all the railways still operated, but motor busses were beginning to venture beyond the city centre. Motor cars were only available to the very wealthy in 1920, but things were changing fast. The roads were being surfaced in readiness for the coming century.
Laundry took up much of a woman’s time; not just on Monday, which was the traditional day for doing the washing in the copper, but the clothes and sheets then had to be aired and ironed this took days. All was an accepted part of a woman’s world, like cooking and of course looking after the children. As all the neighbouring women would be employed in the same way, a sense of community was engendered. Farming still relied on horses in 1920; traction engines still did heavy haulage, but the motor tractor had scarcely made an impact on ploughing. Horses were not present only on farms, but were a factor in road transport in general. Shipping was already largely steam driven, but fishing by sail was still hanging on.
Wireless was not part of British life in 1920. 2LO began broadcasting for a hour a day in 1922. Newspapers were the only national medium for news. The whole infrastructure than grew up around the broadcast media was yet to come. The health of the nation was the job of the doctors, who would treat those who could not afford the cost of medicine for free, but charged the rest who were deemed well-off enough to pay. The nurses were almost volunteers; they certainly did not expect high salaries a hundred years ago.
In so many ways life was utterly different, but in many ways it was the same. The sun still rose in the east, and the seasons followed each other. Summer holidays were an annual event to be eagerly looked forward to. Football was the national sport, and dominated the Saturday afternoons of the working class..
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
I am sorry, but my page on the Eye branch got uploaded before it was finished. This page is to come, probably in May. In the meantime I will be uploading a page on Norfolk a hundred years ago, based on the Ordnance Survey map SHEET 126, of 1920.
FRYING TONIGHT! The original Take Away? It must be.
We are told that battered fried fish was introduced to this country by Jewish immigrants in the early nineteenth century. Fried potatoes – frites – were a French discovery, but the two were brought together in Lancashire (or possibly London) around a hundred and fifty years ago. A fried fish establishment is mentioned by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist, first published in 1837. By the mid-nineteenth century fish was being served with fried potato chips to the poor of the East End of London. The fat was lard or dripping in those days, the use of vegetable oil is a relatively recent development. In a fish and chip shop the fish are filleted before frying. This is now perfected; I can remember the occasional bone getting into my supper when I first stated enjoying fish and chips. It was a nourish meal that has remained popular, although now, with the increasing price of fish, the less expensive option of a sausage to accompany the chips means it is a less healthy meal nowadays. There is nothing wrong with good quality sausages, but the cheap ones they sell in chippies are not those.
Plaice is a bottom feeder; they hide in the sand during the day and emerge to feed at night. A trawl net, which is dragged across the seabed, can catch such flatfish by day or night. Cod is technically described as a demersal fish, and they too feed near the bottom. In this they are unlike herring and mackerel, which feed nearer the surface. Pollock and whiting also feed at a middle level. The shark family), skate and dogfish (rock salmon ) were a cheap and plentiful alternative in the fish and chip repertoire, but are not now so popular. My local fish and chip shop does not sell them.
This feeding habit of the whitefish favoured by the fish frier means that the areas where they may be caught is quite restricted. The deep ocean does not attract them; the North Sea, being on the continental shelf, is suitable, but the shallower parts of it are best. The Dogger Bank in particular was a prime source of fish, and was exploited by the Dutch. (Dogger is Dutch word for a typical bluff bowed fishing boat.) The Dogger Bank was badly overfished by steam trawlers in the 20th century. Now, with the post-Brexit arrangement of the North Sea, we may be able to do something to remedy this, as the largest part of the Bank lies in the British sector. Other banks are found off the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland, and a particularly rich one is found off Rockall. These have all been fished for hundreds of years. The “Cod Wars” of the 1970s happened when Iceland unilaterally extended her fishing limits to protect her cod fishery.
The vanished port of Dunwich is said to have sent fishing boats to Iceland as long ago as the 13th century, and Bishops Lynn (as Kings Lynn was then called) fitted out 20 ships for an expedition there in 1412. Until the Reformation fish were a necessary part of the English diet, being eaten instead of meat every saint’s day and weekly on Fridays, but the trade in fish that resulted from this requirement fell away under the Puritans. Nevertheless English vessels continued to fish these distant waters. We have a list of the necessary stores for such a trip from Southwold in 1545. The vessel was the Jayms. One item was 44 butts of beer (a butt held 126 gallons); this cost 13 shillings and 4 pence a butt. This was the most expensive commodity on the list, but it still works out at less than 10p a pint in today’s value. With a crew of six, half a dozen pewter tankards cost 10d and ten wooden platters a shilling.
In those days cod were caught on hooks, baited with whelks or herrings. Where the fish could be unloaded at Iceland they could be dried on stakes and returned to England as ‘stockfish’, otherwise they were salted on board. Wells – tanks that would hold water – were a Dutch improvement that allowed fresh fish to be sold back home. For sale
In those days cod were caught on hooks, baited with whelks or herrings. Where the fish could be unloaded at Iceland they could be dried on stakes and returned to England as ‘stockfish’, otherwise they were salted on board. Wells – tanks that would hold water – were a Dutch improvement that allowed fresh fish to be sold back home. For sale at Billingsgate these fish were carried to the the river Thames by fast boats with wells that were first built at Harwich in the 18th century. The fish and chip shops were dependent on number of development; the bringing of fresh fish land, the railway infrastructure to distributed them and the spread of trawl fishing. The oily fish caught by drifters did not feature in the fish and chip shop menu. It was the trawler fleet that provided the catch, and trawlers took over from the earlier luggers that fished with longlines from the middle years of the nineteenth century.
Nor should we forget the growing popularity of the humble potato. The tubers were first imported into Europe in the second half of the 16th century, though at first the potato was grown for it flowers. Its spread was sporadic, and did not become eaten by the poor until the late eighteenth century. Even in the 1869 Directory the turnip was given as the root vegetable grown in the country, not the potato. The turnip was long in ceding its position as the peasant’s staple food.
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Hadleigh is a town that has suffered a long decline from the middle ages, when it was a substantial town. It is according to the Annals of St Neots (an early 11th century document)that it was the place where King Guthrum died in the late ninth century and was buried in the town. He was the Viking chieftain who took over East Anglia in about 878. There is no proof that this is true, and the Annals were written long after the event, but lacking any alternative story placing his death elsewhere there is no reason to doubt this. At any rate the name Hadleigh is thought to come from the Norse word for heath. The same e Annals of St Neots recounts king Edmund’s stay at Bures in Essex as a young man. However the Bure story may be of doubtful provenance; before Edmund’s death at the hands of the Danes he was not a famous monarch and details of his life would very likely not have survived.
While on the subject of St Edmund there is a curious bench end of carved oak in the parish church of St Mary’s in Hadleigh. This shows a mythical beast, perhaps a griffon, holding a severed head. This seems to represent St Edmund, but the animal should be a wolf according to the legend. This has a marked similarity to carvings at Gimmingham and Neatishead in Norfolk, although those beasts are more clearly griffons, in that they have wings, which the animal at Hadleigh lacks. It does however have most un-wolflike cloven feet, and a most un-lupine mouth. It has been suggested that this saint represents not St Edmund but John the Baptist, but no known tradition links him with a griffon. The fact that all three carvings are in East Anglia makes St Edmund the obvious choice, but the legend which has transformed the wolf into a mythical beast has been lost. Even more extraordinary in the case of the Hadleigh beast it is its wearing of a priest’s garment, a dog collar (not for a dog) and fourteenth century shoes on its front feet. It is saying something to us, but exactly what is lost deep in the symbolism of the medieval mind.
There is still a wealth of medieval buildings in the place, which have preserved by its economic descent. Had it been a thriving and prosperous place they would have been torn down centuries ago. Like nearly everywhere in East Anglia that was affluent in the middle ages, its wealth was built on wool.
The arrival the railway was in 1847, only a few years after Norwich was reached. It had its first trains before they reached Norwich by the shortest route from Ipswich. It ran from the mainline near Manningtree with two intermediate stops and only took just over 20 minutes to reach its terminus. Before grouping the Great Eastern had a fair service of four trains each way every weekday, but the short branch never paid its way, and was closed to passenger trains as early as 1932. Goods trains survived until 1965.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA
THE LINE TO HARWICH in ESSEX
The railway line to Harwich leaves the Great Eastern mainline at Manningtree. Manningtree is a small town but it is a a major interchange on the railway. It is a stop for almost all trains on the line to Norwich and on many other routes as well. Mistley is the first station along the Mayflower Line, and there is a suggestion that it should merge with Manningtree, which has a population of around a thousand. Mistley, though only a village, has a population of over two and a half times larger.
The line to Harwich now has just five stations along its length; besides Mistley there are Wrabness, Harwich International (the stop for the Port of Harwich), Dovercourt and Harwich Town.
Mistley began to be an important place for transshipment of goods in the eighteenth century, when the river Stour Navigation was established with locks that enabled barges to go upstream as far as Sudbury. Mistley was the most upstream port on the Stour that allowed sea going ships to dock there. It retains its status as a port; it is on the Stour estuary and is owned and operated by T W Logistics Ltd. Of course the major port on the river Stour (and on the railway line) is the ferry port at Harwich. Even this is reduced in international importance since the regular passenger sailings to Esbjerg in Denmark were ended in 2014.
Harwich Town is the terminus of the line.
Mistley is a two platform station, as are the other stations on the line apart from the last one at Harwich town. Wrabness has the lowest passenger figures at 30,000 in normal year (which this year has been anything but). Harwich Town and Harwich International both get over a hundred thousand passengers per annum, while Dovercourt gets the most at .175 million. Two other stations used to be on the line; the most interesting was Priory Halt. From 1912 until 1963 this Halt served the Naval Mine Depot at Wrabness and the station was restricted to use by Admiralty personnel. This halt was closed in the mid sixties and now the surrounding area is a nature reserve; from a Parliamentary question in 1969 the following is an extract, describing the site;
The depot has extensive buildings covering over 250,000 sq. ft. It is seven and a half miles west of Harwich, bounded on the north by the River Stour and on the south by the British Railways main line from London to Harwich. It is approximately 70 acres in size and has a 1,000 ft. frontage to the River Stour.
The principal buildings have good road and rail access. It has a railway marshalling yard composed of three parallel lines 500 ft. long immediately inside the depot. There are 12 semidetached houses, each with two reception rooms and three bedrooms, with two semi-detailed bungalows containing similar accommodation.
The other station (at Bradfield) was closed in 1956. It served the village of the same name, but apparently it had few users. With modern transport it is relatively easy for any inhabitants of Bradfield to go to Wrabness or Harwich International to catch the train. The station of Orwell on the Felixstowe branch was closed at the same period, to cut out a little used stop and speed up the trains; no doubt the same considerations sealed the fate of Bradfield. The fifties were a time of retrenchment across the railway system, and had Bradfield survived there would be no thought of shutting the station (however minor) today. The positioning of the settlements of Harwich, Parkston and Dovercourt is complicated; the designation of Parkston Quay as Harwich International station does not help to disentangle these places.
The normal service is one train per hour in each direction, which terminates at Manningtree; however, to connect with the Stena ferry that travels to the Hook of Holland there are two evening trains and two morning trains from London Liverpool Street. These trains are essentially boat trains (although not described as such) and do not continue on to Harwich Town. A similar service connects trains direct from Bury St Edmunds to Harwich International. These trains from the north do not go through Manningtree by taking the avoiding single track line (part of a triangle) and thus do not go through that station.
The Mayflower Line is so called because the famed Mayflower ship that sailed to America with the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620 was built in the town.
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The station was described by Pevsner as “an elaborate piece of Elizabethan architecture”. The architect was Frederick Barnes (1814-1898) who also built Needham Market station (an even finer building) in a similar style. He also produced the stations at Bury St Edmunds and at Stoke Hill in Ipswich, although that one has since been demolished. Born in London he established a thriving practice at Ipswich, where he died. The station at Stowmarket is now a stop on the line from Ipswich to Ely and that to Norwich; when it was built the line to Norwich was not yet completed, and the Cambridge route only went as far as Bury St Edmunds. All diesel powered passenger trains now go on from Stowmarket via Bury to Cambridge or Ely, but only the slower trains on the electrified Norwich service stop at Stowmarket.
It is where the Direct Rail Services freight locomotives that serve Felixstowe Harbour have their base. There is a crew office for drivers on this route on Platform 1. The freight trains to the Midlands pass through Stowmarket before leaving the Norwich line at Haughley Junction. The railways in East Anglia were amalgamated to form the Great Eastern in 1862, and this line became the principal route into Norwich, replacing the original way into Norwich via Cambridge and Thetford.
To reach Stowmarket (which the railway did in 1846) the Ipswich and Bury Railway had first to build the tunnel in Ipswich, and at Stowmarket they had to divert the River Gipping away from the railway. There was an 80 feet deep marsh that had to be stabilised before the railway could be built. The gauge of the Eastern Counties Railway to Colchester was originally 5 ft, but this reduced to 4ft 8.5 ins (standard gauge) in 1844. The line that was extended to Stowmarket was always standard gauge. The company was effectively the Eastern Union Railway (although nominally it was the Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds Railway), the opening taking place on Christmas Eve in 1846. The Eastern Counties Railway took over the running of Stowmarket Station in 1854, the year in which the line was finally extended to Newmarket and thence to Cambridge.
The goods sidings at Stowmarket were extensive to serve the various factories in the town. These included one making explosives and this led to an expansion of the siding capacity during World War I. What I remember about Stowmarket is the racks of paint samples left out to see how they reacted to weathering. These were plainly visible from by the trains and were part of the ICI paint factory at Stowmarket. This facility has now been removed, although there are still some retired members of the workforce who must remember it. The area once devoted to sidings has now largely been taken over by car parking.
With nearly a million rail journeys commencing or terminating at Stowmarket every year (under normal circumstances) this is the second most used station in Suffolk, after Ipswich. This is in spite of Bury St Edmunds having twice the population of Stowmarket, which only has a population of 20,000 (although future growth is planned). This is probably because it has a fast and direct service to Liverpool Street. This makes the town a popular choice with commuters to both London and Ipswich. The line to Norwich was electrified in the 1980s.