In The Warminster and Westbury Journal on Saturday, 6th May 1905, it was reported that the Great Western Railway (GWR) had commissioned a pair of rail motor cars on Monday, 1st of the same month. The two Swindon-built vehicles were to be stationed at Trowbridge, Wiltshire, and make daily journeys over a wide area, going as far as Bristol to the north west and Salisbury to the south east. Each rail motor cost £1,750 (£192,100 at 2020 prices) to build and were reportedly powerful enough to haul up to three or four trailing vehicles, such as horse boxes and goods wagons. Known as “branch” cars, to distinguish them from a “suburban” variant, each vehicle could accommodate forty-six passengers; a luggage compartment was in evidence and, when empty, this could accommodate a further five passengers. A single rail motor was staffed by three men: an engineman, fireman, and conductor. The GWR would shortly deploy these vehicles on a then new service between Trowbridge and Chippenham, serving a series of purpose-built stations:
It is proposed shortly (it is stated) to establish a motor rail service between Trowbridge and Chippenham, calling at “halts” — as small timber platforms are designated, to distinguish them from the stations proper — at Staverton, Monkton, Lacock, and perhaps other places. [The Warminster and Westbury Journal, Saturday, 6th May 1905]
In the Wiltshire Times on Saturday, 14th October 1905, it was announced that the GWR was to open the then new halts at Lacock and Staverton, three miles south of Chippenham and two miles north of Trowbridge respectively, on the following Monday, 16th October. Two other halts on the route between Trowbridge and Chippenham — Beanacre and Broughton Gifford — were reported as not yet being ready, so were scheduled to open at a later date. The timetable from the outset had eighteen services calling at Staverton Halt each day — nine in either direction — on weekdays, which increased to ten trains each way on Saturday. On Sundays, there was scheduled to be just one service in either direction between Trowbridge and Chippenham. Tickets for those passengers embarking at the halts would be sourced from the conductor on the train. The fare from Trowbridge to Staverton was priced at 2d, and that from the latter to Holt was 1d (£0.88 at 2020 prices).
The line between Westbury and Thingley Junction (two miles south west of Chippenham) via Trowbridge had originally opened as a double-track Broad Gauge line, 15¾-miles in length, on Tuesday, 5th September 1848, with a daily service of seven trains in each direction. Intermediate stations were originally provided at Melksham and Trowbridge, and the line had been built under the auspices of the "Wilts, Somerset & Weymouth Railway" (WS&WR), Brunel having been appointed as engineer. The company ran out of money before any extension beyond Westbury was made, and the GWR assumed control of the line from 14th March 1850, the WS&WR formally being dissolved the following year. The route was converted to a double-track standard gauge line in June 1874.
Now back to 1905. At Staverton Halt, two platforms were situated either side of the double-track. Although the photograph below shows these to be of brick construction, from the earliest years these must have originally been all-timber affairs, as remarked in the newspaper extract quoted previously. Early photographs which your author has seen of Lacock Halt depict the station there with wooden platforms and no waiting shelters; later images show the platforms to have been rebuilt in brick and "pagoda" waiting shelters — a quintessentially GWR feature — in evidence. Therefore, the halts were rebuilt at some stage by the GWR, but that at Staverton — although becoming a recipient of brick-built platforms — never possessed "pagoda" waiting shelters; instead, each side had a diminutive clapboard waiting shelter of a design which was not unlike that of a traditional outhouse. Passage between the platforms was by means of an existing road bridge situated about 40-yards south west of the platforms.
Station closures between Thingley Junction and Trowbridge started in 1955. On and from Monday, 7th February 1955, passenger services were withdrawn from Broughton Gifford and Beanacre Halts by British Railways' (BR) Western Region. At the time, BR remarked that a road service operated by the Western National Omnibus Co., Ltd., was available from Chippenham and Melksham, covering the areas served by those stations. Next was the infamous The Reshaping of British Railways report, published in March 1963, within which was announced that passenger services between Chippenham, Trowbridge, and Westbury were to be modified. This transpired to be the closure of Staverton Halt, Holt Junction, Melksham, and Lacock Halt stations, on 18th April 1966.
25th September 1960
A Chippenham-bound view depicts a delightful rural scene, showing the well-kept platforms, each of which had a pair of gas lamps. The GWR did not employ their classic "pagoda" style shelters here; instead, small timber variants were used. Footpaths, such as that in the foreground, descended to the platforms from a road bridge, the latter of which provided passage over the tracks. H. C. Casserley / © David Glasspool Collection