Shoscombe and Single Hill Halt
Twenty-six miles of single-track standard gauge line between Bath and Evercreech, both in Somerset, were formally opened to public traffic by the Somerset & Dorset Railway on 20th July 1874. This formed part of a through route between Bath and Bournemouth, and linked the standard gauge networks of Midland and London & South Western Railways. These two companies jointly leased the line from 1876 and, southwards from Midford (4½-route-miles from Bath), doubling of the line was completed through to Wincanton in 1894. Doubling between the latter and Templecombe had been completed in 1887.
Shoscombe and Single Hill Halt was, however, a much later opening, formally being brought into use with ceremony on Saturday, 21st September 1929, by the then First Commissioner of Works, George Lansbury M.P.:
MR LANSBURY TO OPEN IMPROVEMENT.
Mr George Lansbury, M.P., First Commissioner of Works, will open the new L.M.S. Railway halt at Single Hill, Bath, on Saturday afternoon [21st September]. He will be accompanied by Mr G. H. Wheeler, traffic superintendent; Mr Fred Gould, M.P. For the Frome Division; the Rev. F. Edwards, Nr Riddick, and Mr Gregory, chairman of the Parish Council.
The new halt will serve Single Hill and Shoscombe and will be a great asset to the people, who prior to this have had no means of transport, and have had to walk over a mile to get a vehicle.
The First Commissioner will entrain at Radstock at 5.35 p.m. and will arrive at Single Hill about 5.40. There will be a short ceremony, and Mr Lansbury will return to Radstock to address a public meeting. [Western Daily Press, Bristol, Wednesday, 18th September 1929]
Whilst this was the official opening ceremony, the regular timetable from the then new station did not commence until the following Monday, 23rd September 1929. The then new station and services were further described in the local press:
The New Halt
With the commencement of the winter train service upon the Somerset and Dorset Railway the new halt at Shoscombe and Single Hill, between Wellow and Radstock, will be open on Monday with a regular daily service of passenger trains. A booking office is being opened at the halt, with a local lady in charge, and tickets will be available for any station upon the line between Bath and Templecombe, and also for Bristol. Cheap day return tickets will be issued by every train any day to Bristol and Bath and by any train on Saturdays only to Radstock.
A regular service of six trains from Bath is arranged to serve the halt, these departing from Shoscombe at 8.52 a.m., 1.32 p.m., 3.15, 5.23, 6.27, and 9.19 p.m. On Saturday nights the special late train off Bath at 11 p.m., will also stop at the halt. In the other direction — Templecombe to Bath — there is a daily service of five stopping trains, these leaving Shoscombe for Bath at 8.54 a.m., 10.41 a.m., 3.27 p.m., 5.39 and 9.2. On Wednesdays and Saturdays only, the train leaving Radstock at 1.11 p.m. will also stop at the Shoscombe and Single Hill halt and also Wellow and Midford stations. [Somerset Guardian and Radstock Observer, Friday, 20th September 1929]
A week later, the same newspaper reported that the on the first day of service, twenty-two passengers made bookings to various locations from the halt’s office, and about an equal number of tickets were collected. On Tuesday, 24th September, on the second day of services to and from the halt, the number of bookings at the office significantly increased as a result of a party of thirty-four ladies travelling to Bristol on a day trip.
Shoscombe and Single Hill Halt comprised two platforms of concrete slab construction from the outset, situated either side of the double-track. No waiting shelters were provided on either surface, but a booking office, as referenced in the above newspaper extract, was provided at the end of the road adjacent to the railway. At the time, The Central Somerset Gazette (Friday, 27th September 1929) remarked that the station was a triumph for the S. & D.J.R.’s engineer, Mr Fox of Glastonbury, and his staff, for one of the platforms was situated on the edge of a sheer drop, requiring utmost care in construction.
The First Ticket
A great deal of controversy has arisen in the neighbourhood as to whom has possession of the first railway ticket issued at the halt. This ticket is to be found exhibited in the St. Julian's School, together with the first postage stamp which was sold at Shoscombe Post Office when that facility was granted to the people of the Shoscombe and Single Hill district over 20 years ago. The “number" of the first ticket is 0000. Before the opening ceremony on Saturday, Mr. H. A. Bending, the schoolmaster at Shoscombe, mentioned to Mr. G. H. Wheeler (the Superintendent of the line) his anxiety to secure the first ticket at the halt to exhibit with the first postage stamp as a perpetual memento of the occasion. Mr. Wheeler thereupon issued two tickets of similar character presenting one to Mr. Bending and the other to the Right Hon. George Lansbury. The person who purchased a ticket with the number “1”stamped upon it, has not of necessity the first ticket issued at the halt. These were issued to Mr. Bending and Mr. Lansbury. [Somerset Guardian and Radstock Observer, Friday, 27th September 1929]
Provision of a station at the site had been in the making for over to decades prior to opening. Representations were made to the railway company for a station at Shoscombe, but these were never taken up. However, in January 1929, residents were finally successful in their efforts to secure platforms on the railway:
In January last a further attempt was made to secure railway facilities, and a petition was drawn up, and a large number of signatures were obtained by the Rector of Shoscombe and Foxcote (the Rev. R. H. Edwards) and Mr. John Stock, of Single Hill. This effort was crowned with success, and now the people of the locality have an excellent railway service to any place to which they might desire to travel. [The Somerset Guardian, Friday, 27th September 1929].
In 1932, the halt’s status grew when parcels traffic started to be handled at the site. Previously, this had been taken care of at Radstock station, and a dedicated shed was constructed at Shoscombe and Single Hill for the new flows:
PARCELS ON THE S. AND D. J. R.
Facilities at Shoscombe and Single Hill Halt
The Somerset and Dorset Railway announce that in accordance with a request from the public at Shoscombe they have now made arrangements to deal with incoming parcels traffic for this district at the Shoscombe and Single Hill Halt. The parcels will be sent out from Radstock Station daily and stored in the parcels shed which has been erected for the purpose, and can be called for by the public during train times between the hours of 8.30 and 7 p.m., when the staff at the halt is in attendance.
This facility will be of considerable convenience to the public in this district, as at present they have to fetch the parcels from Radstock Station, a distance of two miles.
In addition to dealing with parcels traffic, cloak room facilities have also been provided and passengers' luggage, bicycles, etc., can be stored at the halt at the usual charges. [The Somerset Guardian, Friday, 3rd June 1932]
From 1923 to 1947 inclusive, the S&DJR was jointly controlled by London Midland & Scottish (LMS) and Southern Railways (SR). Historically, the former’s predecessor had been responsible for rolling stock maintenance; the latter engineering works. LMS and SR became London Midland and Southern Regions respectively of British Railways, from January 1948. From 2nd February of that year, all commercial matters affecting the S&DJR, which had until that time been handled by the LMS out of Bristol, was transferred to the Southern Region, managed from Southampton. Transfer of that part of the former S&DJR network north of Cole (between Evercreech Junction and Wincanton) from Southern to Western Region control was announced in February 1950. This included Bridgwater, Burnham-on-Sea, and Wells branches, and the line to Bath, the latter upon which Shoscombe and Single Hill Halt sat.
Closure of the halt is part of a very familiar, but much lamented story, which epitomised 1960s railway rationalisation. In the infamous The Reshaping of British Railways report, published in March 1963, it was proposed to wholly withdraw passenger services between Bath Green Park and Bournemouth West, and close the S&D between the former and Broadstone (Poole, Dorset). Of the stations along the route, passengers using Shoscombe and Single Hill Halt were in line to be the hardest hit, because the area had no existing bus service to fall back on. As a result, a condition of closing the halt set by the Ministry of Transport was that an alternative bus service serving the area first had to be provided. The last trains ran between Bath Green Park and Bournemouth West on Sunday, 6th March 1966, and closure was effective from the following day.
Both prefabricated concrete platforms are in evidence in this view to the north east, looking in the direction of Bath, the latter of which was about 8⅔-route miles distant. Each platform had four traditional lamps for illumination, but no shelter was provided.
© David Glasspool Collection