The standard gauge single-track line between Yeovil Junction and Exeter opened to regular passenger traffic on 19th July 1860, completing a 173-mile-long trunk route for the London & South Western Railway (LSWR) from Waterloo via Salisbury. Sutton Bingham came into use at this time, being a rather unassuming station situated little over two-route-miles west of Yeovil Junction. Two gently-curving platforms on what was initially a passing loop (doubling to Exeter was completed in 1870) served this small Somerset village which, as reported in the 1861 census, had 11 inhabited houses and a population of 67. The locality is decidedly rural and sparsely populated even today, so it is surprising that a station was maintained here for more than a century.
Period newspapers of the era remarked that all stations which came into use with the Exeter extension were designed by Member of Parliament William Tite, who was then the LSWR’s resident architect. Undoubtedly, Tite’s most conservative efforts were at Sutton Bingham and Chard Road (later “Chard Junction”) stations; imposing two-storey-high gothic main buildings, as per the likes of Axminster and Honiton, were absent; instead, seemingly modest, single-storey structures were chosen for these sites. At Sutton Bingham, the main building was situated on the “up” platform; it was of red brick construction and comprised three gabled slated pitched roof sections, one perpendicular to those adjacent to it. It was not without finesse, the corners of the building being lined with stone; however, this feature and the red brickwork were for long (possibly since opening) hidden under a layer of render. A flat-roofed platform canopy of generous proportions — about 65-feet long — was attached to the main building; as per those examples at the likes of Axminster and Honiton, the valance was of an irregular sawtooth pattern. The “down” platform was equipped with a modest waiting shelter fabricated from corrugated sheeting, but even this had an element of style, boasting an upward-sloping canopy with spiked valance. Two track foot crossings existed between the platforms, one at the eastern end of the station, and a second directly in front of the main building. Of the latter crossing, early photographs show small depressions were made in the platforms at this point to provide a step down to it.
A goods yard was situated on the “up” side of the line, east of the platforms. As the below diagram illustrates, this comprised three eastward-facing sidings and a westward-facing stub, which were afforded a trailing connection with the “up” running line.
Circa 1875, a signal box came into use upon the “down” platform, east of the waiting shelter. This was built to an in-house LSWR design, known as “Type 1”, and comprised a stone base, a clapboard cabin, and hipped slated roof. This same cabin design emerged at other stations between Salisbury and Exeter during that period.
By 1927, trailing crossovers had been installed between the running lines, situated east and west of the platforms. The irregular spiked valance of the canopy and the centrally-located staff track foot crossing had also both gone by this stage.
From the outset, the “up” platform was faced with stone, giving it a flint-like appearance, whilst that on the “down” side comprised brick. Your author estimates that it was in the later days of the Southern Railway that the “up” platform face was rebuilt from stone into concrete blocks.
In about 1960, a prefabricated concrete shed — a product of Exmouth Junction works — was installed on the “up” platform, west of the main building. On 1st August of that year, the station’s name was suffixed “Halt”, although according to Clinker’s Register (1980), a staff presence was maintained at the site in spite of this seemingly downgraded status. The end, however, was nigh: the last scheduled passenger services called at the station on 31st December 1962. Public goods traffic had previously ceased on 4th April of that year. A series of sources quote the signal box's closure as ranging from as wide as 1965 to 1969, so your author cannot provide a reliable date for when this ceased to function.
The main “up” side building and “down” side waiting shelter were soon demolished after closure; upon the former “up” platform remained the prefabricated concrete shed of about 1960 origin. A prefabricated concrete lineside hut, dating from about 1958, also remained standing immediately beyond the eastern end of the “down” platform. At the time of route singling, effective between Templecombe and Chard Junction from 4th May 1967, the concrete shed on the “up” platform was demolished and the adjacent running line lifted.
16th July 1958
Unrebuilt Bulleid Pacific No. 34081 "92 Squadron" is seen passing through non-stop, London-bound, with a rake of carriages which had originated from Plymouth. The main station building, on the right, was devoid of a canopy by this stage, but retained finials atop its roof gables. The waiting shelter had similarly lost its canopy, but otherwise was complete, as was the LSWR signal box. The rectangular gap within the face of the "down" (left) platform accommodated the cables and point rods emanating from the signal box.
H. C. Casserley / © David Glasspool Collection