This was one of two intermediate stations which were brought into use on Monday, 16th March 1868 with the single-track branch line to Seaton in Devon. The line was 4-miles 23-chains in length, made a connection with the London & South Western Railway’s (LSWR) Waterloo to Exeter main line at Colyton Junction (originally "Colyton for Seaton"; later "Seaton Junction", and little under 148-miles from London), and had been authorised by an Act of 1863 under the auspices of the “Seaton & Beer Railway” (S&BR). Depending on one’s source, the line cost either £35,000 or £50,000 (£3,350,000 and £4,786,000 at 2021 prices respectively) to build; news articles quoting the larger figure appear to suggest that this included the expense of land acquisition. The line was leased to the LSWR from the outset, and the principal shareholder of the nominally independent S&BR was Sir Walter Trevelyan, Lord of the Manor of Seaton. On opening, there was no Sunday service on the line.
Colyford was 2⁷⁄₁₀-miles from the junction with the main line; a second intermediate station at Colyton Town was situated about 1,300-yards from the junction. The names were derived from the River Coly, which rises in the Parish of Farway, 3½-miles southeast of Honiton, and flows into the estuary of the Axe, the latter of which opens onto Lyme Bay. Colyford was described in the Companion to the British Road Book [Comprising the Southern Counties (Kent to Cornwall)] (1898) as being a “hamlet of thatched cottages of no particular interest”. It was a parish of Colyton, laid claim to a Post Office, and had a population of about 200 inhabitants.
The station at Colyford comprised a single brick-built platform situated on the western side of the rails. Just a single-track passed through the parish; no sidings were evident, and a level crossing was situated immediately north of the station. Colyford’s first Station Master was reported in The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette (20th March 1868) as being Mr. Dermiott, and the same publication remarked on the structures completed at each site along the branch line:
Colyton Station, like the two others at Colyford and Seaton, is a neat structure, composed of red brick, relieved with bands of black and white, and though the colour is somewhat glaring, it does not contrast disagreeably with the green of the surrounding hills and fields.
Colyton and Seaton stations both comprised attractive, but substantial, two-storey high buildings with pitched slated roofs; that at the former still exists today. However, whilst the newspaper article alludes to a similar structure being evident at Colyford, period photographs suggest this was not as large as those at the other stations. Perhaps the “neat structure, composed of red brick” in Colyford’s case was in reference to the crossing keeper’s cottage, sandwiched in-between the northern end of the platform and the road. Upon the northern end of the platform was a clapboard waiting shelter, whilst midway down the surface was a timber structure with slated pitched roof, which housed a waiting room. Finally, at the southern end of the platform was situated an enclosed cast-iron urinal, which is today the only original part of the station still standing.
By 1878, Colyford’s Station Master was one Mr Hall, and in that year the level crossing gates were destroyed by a runaway wagon:
A RAILWAY TRUCK ASTRAY - A singular accident happened upon the Seaton branch of the London and South Western Railway last week. It appeared that Mr. Hall, the stationmaster at Colyford, had not retired to rest very long last Tuesday evening when he was awakened by a tremendous crash. On getting up he found the double gates that cross the line close by the station had been smashed. The wind was very high at the time, and, odd to relate, it blew a chance truck from Seaton Station — quite a mile away — along the line with great force. The truck was dashed into Colyford Station, and right through both gates, breaking them all to pieces. [North Devon Journal, 23rd May 1878]
Alterations under the Southern Railway were substantial. First was the demolition of the level crossing cottage and adjacent timber waiting shelter, which coincided with the installation of prefabricated concrete panel fencing along the rear edge of the platform. Your author cannot track down an exact date, but during this initial wave of changes, the timber waiting room midway down the platform and the urinal remained standing. A glazed prefabricated concrete hut was later provided at the northern end of the platform; your author estimates this occurred shortly before nationalisation.
BURGLARY AT COLYFORD STATION.
Colyford Station was burgled during Wednesday night or in the early hours of yesterday morning. A quantity of luggage and £2 1s. 1d. [£132.80 at 2021 prices] in cash was stolen. The robbery is believed to have been the work of a motor car gang. [The Western Times, 28th June 1929]
The main road between Lyme Regis and Exeter (now the A3052) crossed the railway at Colyford. At the level crossing, after extensive rain on Sunday, 8th September 1946, the road was submerged under four feet of water; similar flooding again happened in October 1960.
The enclosed timber waiting room, situated midway down the platform, was still standing in the mid-1950s, but by 1959 had been flattened. The gap which opened up on the platform’s rear edge as a result of its demolition was infilled by wire fencing. Thereafter, the decline continued. From 1st January 1963, the Seaton branch line — as per all of those rails west of Salisbury — came under Western Region control. In March of the same year, the infamous The Reshaping of British Railways report was published, which listed Exmouth, Lyme Regis, Seaton, and Sidmouth branch lines for closure. The following November saw diesel multiple units introduced on the Seaton branch to replace steam, in an effort to reduce operating costs; however, this course of action was not enough to save the line. In local newspapers in February 1966, British Railways’ Western Region officially announced that Somerset & Dorset passenger services between Bristol and Bath (Green Park) via Mangotsfield, Bath (Green Park) and Bournemouth, and Evercreech Junction and Highbridge, were to be withdrawn, as were trains between Seaton Junction and Seaton, all effective from 7th March of that year. A formal date of closure was only possible after licences for new road services, to replace rail, had been authorised. Closure of the branch line to Seaton also included the withdrawal of passenger services at the Junction station on the main line. Of the original branch lines listed for closure, that to Exmouth survived.
Soon after closure, the branch line’s rails were lifted, but the platform surface and station structures at Colyford remained intact. The former track bed in-between Colyton and Seaton was purchased by one Claude Lane in 1969, who had until that time operated a 2-foot gauge electric tramway in Eastbourne. Unfavourable lease terms offered by Eastbourne Council encouraged the tramway operation to be relocated elsewhere, and the first services ran upon a short section of track at the Seaton end of the operation on 28th August 1970. The track at Seaton was laid to a wider gauge of 2-foot 9-inches, the former Eastbourne tramcars subsequently converted, and an extension to Colyford came into use on 9th April 1971. The former branch line platform at Colyford was demolished, but the vintage cast-iron urinal was retained, and the timber level crossing gates initially remained on site. An extension of the tramway from Colyford to Colyton opened on 8th April 1980.
Architecturally, the station was nothing to write home about. By the time of this photograph, a single-storey prefabricated concrete hut sufficed as the main building, but the vintage cast-iron urinal — seen at the far left and dating from the earliest years — was still standing, as were traditional lamp standards. The buildings of the village can be seen in the right middle-distance, beyond the level crossing. This is a westward view: left for Seaton, and right for the main line at Seaton Junction.
© David Glasspool Collection