Railways to Southwold
The story of the Southwold Railway, the narrow gauge line that operated between Halesworth and Southwold from 1879 to 1929, is well known. Less familiar are the details of earlier failed proposals to link the towns with a Blyth valley railway.
The 1840s and 50s were very active decades for railway construction in East Anglia. Norwich was linked to Yarmouth in 1844, and to Brandon and Ely in 1845, with connections from there to London. Lowestoft was connected via Haddiscoe to the Norwich–Yarmouth line at Reedham in 1847. Then, in 1854, a line from Haddiscoe through Beccles to Halesworth was opened. What was by then the East Suffolk Railway extended its line from Halesworth to Woodbridge in 1859 giving, with the Eastern Counties Railway through Ipswich, a direct route to London.
In the twenty years before the Southwold Railway opened there were several attempts to promote a connection. In 1855 the Mayor of Southwold presented a petition to the ESR requesting that a branch be constructed to Southwold but this was rejected. In 1856 local businessmen and others met and resolved to form a committee and to approach the local gentry and MP for their support. Progress seems to have been slow because in September 1860 the Southwold Town Council was still at the stage of preparing a memorial for presentation to Sir Morton Peto (contractor and director of the ESR). There was disunity in the town on raising the necessary money and apparent concern that those of position and influence were not setting an example. The project cost was estimated to be £40,000 and Peto was said to be willing to "enter upon the necessary arrangements" if half could be subscribed. But Peto became further committed with the finances of the ESR. He was unable to continue support of the Southwold branch project, causing its failure.
By 1865, a Blyth Valley Railway had been surveyed and plans deposited with the county and relevant parishes. Southwold Corporation and Sir John Blois had agreed to sell land and it was proposed to seek an Act of Parliament. Public meetings and subscriptions notwithstanding, the Bill presented in 1866 failed. A subsequent Bill also failed and in 1871 it was reported that the Blyth Valley Railway proposals were again being revived under "influential London auspices". Either another new Bill failed or it was withdrawn and not until 1875 were new plans deposited. Meanwhile an 1872 Southwold–Halesworth Tramway proposal had also collapsed through lack of funds. The 1875 railway proposals were competing with the Southwold Railway. The narrow–gauge proposal succeeded but it too was dogged by disunity and lack of confidence in the local community. Its original local directors resigned and a London–based board developed the line.
Suffolk County Record Office AE150/2/5.,
Note: You can read further information about the "Southwold Railway" on the Southwold Railway Trust Website.
David M. Lee, Southwold, February 1995
Back to the History Index
Some Favourite Websites For May 2021:
Michael Bullen – Walberswick based watercolourist and Artist
Watercolours are a moment in time with all the depth, light and simplicity of a haiku and just as elusive. Michael's paintings and prints can be viewed at his Studio overlooking The Market Square in Halesworth.
Green Haven Holidays – Caravan and Camping Site near Halesworth
Stuart and Katherine have enthusiastically established their campsite in the village of Rumburgh just north of Halesworth. From the outset they were keen that this would be an eco-friendly business. Village CAMRA pub close by. Re-opened on 1st May for the 2015 season.
The Halesworth Pet Store – Specialists in Animal Nutrition and Pet Care
Visit our shop or take advantage of our Free Local Delivery Service! We are experts in animal nutrition, catering for all quantities – from small bags to bulk deliveries amd we are happy to help with all of your requirements
Cranbourne, Walberswick – Luzury Self Catering cottage on the Heritage Coast with it's own swimming pool
Cranbourne is tucked in a peaceful corner of Manor Close with the excellent village shop nearby and central to Walberswick making all the attractions within easy walking. A heated outdoor swimming pool for summer use is protected by a lockable gate. Without detracting from the house in any way, Cranbourne unobtrusively includes features enabling less mobile visitors to equally enjoy their stay.
Juliet Penwarden Coaching – Juliet Penwarden Coaching - Horse riding and care
Juliet is an experienced and qualified coach who places a strong emphasis on harmony between horse and rider and takes great pleasure in helping partnerships progress, whatever their goals.