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History: The stories behind the Brentwood, Shenfield and Ingatestone stations

PUBLISHED: 12:10 23 May 2019

The Brentwood and Warley station in the 1840s.

The Brentwood and Warley station in the 1840s.

Sylvia Kent

This week, Enjoy Brentwood More's history columnist, author and vice-president of the Brentwood Writer's Circle, Sylvia Kent explores the story behind three of the borough's stations.

Shenfield station while it was being widened in March 1932.Shenfield station while it was being widened in March 1932.

Railways - love or hate them, trains play a vital part in many Brentwood commuters' lives.

From the early 1800s when coaching traffic was at its peak, Essex road surfaces were gradually improving, due to the efforts of those 18th century Scottish civil engineers Telford and Macadam.

Then, coach transport was eclipsed by the first steam trains following the 1836 Act of Parliament which instituted the Eastern Counties Railway Company. Soon, work on the terminus at Shoreditch via Romford, Chelmsford and Colchester and ultimately Norwich, started in March 1837.

The first section from Mile End to Romford opened two years later.

Network Rail's head of communications Kate Snowden, Greater Anglia engineering director Martin Beable, station volunteer adopter Robert Fletcher, Brentwood MP Alex Burghart, acting chairman of the Ingatestone and Fryerning Parish Council, Councillor Paul Jeater, Lord Petre, Mayor of Brentwood Councillor Sheila Murphy, The Railway Heritage Trust executive director Andy Savage, the Bishop of Chelmsford and station staff member Steve Wills. Picture: Juliette MaxamNetwork Rail's head of communications Kate Snowden, Greater Anglia engineering director Martin Beable, station volunteer adopter Robert Fletcher, Brentwood MP Alex Burghart, acting chairman of the Ingatestone and Fryerning Parish Council, Councillor Paul Jeater, Lord Petre, Mayor of Brentwood Councillor Sheila Murphy, The Railway Heritage Trust executive director Andy Savage, the Bishop of Chelmsford and station staff member Steve Wills. Picture: Juliette Maxam

Celebrations were organised attended by railway director VIPs and the Persian ambassador, all serenaded by a band travelling in the front carriage of each train.

On July 1, 1840, the railway extended to Brentwood.

Originally, the station was known as Brentwood & Warley. Because of its unusual land contours at Brentwood, the poor old builders found running sand and several were bankrupted.

Eventually, Thomas Hill struck lucky and found firm ground at the south-end of Shenfield Common which was hitherto flat, but transformed by the work of navvies filling their barrows with excess soil and themselves standing on the barrows and holding the handles, hauled up the spoil banks by ropes worked at the top by horse-machines.

The earth was tipped there, hence the name of the "tips" which generations of local children have enjoyed in their winter snow sledging-rides.

When the Seven Arches bridge was built, it was considered a masterpiece of Victorian engineering.

Neighbouring Shenfield station is rarely out of the news and work on the line continues just as it did 86 years ago when the Shenfield/Brentwood rail-track was widened from two to four tracks.

The work took several years to complete during the early 1930s.

Now, we are all waiting to use the Elizabeth Line (Cross Rail) when it is eventually completed.

Sunday, May 5, was a day of celebration at another local station, Ingatestone - one of the prettiest in Essex where the great and the good gathered to celebrate their station's 175th anniversary.

The railway opened in 1844 after William, the 11th Lord Petre allowed the Eastern Counties Railway to run over his land.

However, he had a great deal to say about the design and style of the building that was eventually constructed in its present location. He had stated that it should resemble Ingatestone Hall, his ancestral home.

How fitting 175 years later, that the 18th Baron, John, Lord Petre and other notable guests, including the Olympian Gold medallist athlete Fatima Whitbread and members of the Great Anglia engineering team, gathered to celebrate this event.

The Bishop of Chelmsford blessed the station and one of the parish council's longest serving members, former Councillor David Abrey, unveiled a commemorative plaque donated by the council.

Lord Petre said: "I feel particularly honoured to be included in the celebrations as, by all accounts, relations between my great-great-great-grandfather, who provided the land on which the station stands, and the Great Eastern Railway Company were not of the warmest."

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