From the 'Haverhill Echo' and 'Suffolk Free Press' of 2 March 1967



Town band played to scared crowd

The Sudbury-Shelford railway line through Haverhill closes this week - ending just over 100 years of activity. The line to Sudbury from Marks Tey (which is remaining in operation) was opened on July 11, 1849. The section from Shelford to Haverhill was opened on June 1, 1865. The final section, bridging the gap and making Haverhill accessible from either direction, was completed on August 9, 1865.

There is, of course, no one still living who was an eye-witness of the stirring events of those years. But some years ago the Echo interviewed one who watched the first train arrive in the town and her description is quoted in the article below.

When it disappears into the night on Saturday, the 8.32 diesel train from Haverhill to Sudbury will leave the town without a rail link for the first time in just over a hundred years.

The event is hardly likely to go unnoticed. There are certain to be those who mourn the 'death' of the railway at Haverhill.

But it will be a somewhat different occasion to that sunny Sunday afternoon a little over a century ago, when a massive, gleaming locomotive came thundering in, spitting steam and frightening the lives out of children, to open up Haverhill’s railway communication.

The old Colne Valley line, which closed down about five years ago, gave Haverhill its first rail link. And it is the moment when the first train came along the line to Haverhill we are able to recall.

In June 1953, in an Echo interview, Mrs. Eliza Claydon, of Haverhill, recalled some of her girlhood memories. The occasion was her 99th birthday - not long before she died.

One of her recollections was standing at the railway station seeing a locomotive for the first time, as indeed were most of the hundreds of other Haverhillites.

"It was a frightening experience", Mrs. Claydon recalled. "I was only about nine years old. The whole town turned out, the town band played. It was Sunday afternoon and the train made a terrible noise".

The old lady said the hissing steam and the clanging wheels scared the small children out of their wits.

Some years after this the Stour Valley line was opened up and Haverhill assumed some importance as a railway town, with lines branching off to Sudbury, one to Halstead and, a little further down the line at Bartlow another branch going to Saffron Walden.

The End

The rail death knell for Haverhill was first rung four years ago when Lord Beeching announced his programme of purge on uneconomic lines.

The lengthy stay of execution has resulted from a bitter and intensive battle at many levels. Then last year came the controversial decision from the Minister of Transport. It was, in effect, a compromise. Haverhill's link - the section of the Stour Valley line between Sudbury and Shelford - was to go, but the other section, from Sudbury to Marks Tey, was being retained.

Meanwhile freight services were being withdrawn, parcel traffic ceased, stations became halts and Conductor Guards were introduced - a quickly changing pattern which, coupled with poorer services, were interpreted as a deliberate run-down of the line.

The battle finally ended up the garden path where local authorities, headed by Haverhill, were led in a genuine bid to stop the axe falling. A £26,000 a year subsidy, which the councils may well have been successful in raising, doubled overnight, and killed any hope there might have been of the line continuing on a guarantee system.

The last train leaves Sudbury on Saturday night at 6.30, passing through Haverhill at 7.11. It starts its final journey along the line from Cambridge at 7.58 with stops at Linton 8.17, Bartlow 8.21, Haverhill 8.32, Sturmer 8.36, Stoke 8.42, Clare 8.46, Cavendish 8.52, Glemsford 8.55, Melford 9.0 and Sudbury 9.07.



Last train runs on Saturday

The final train runs along the Stour Valley railway on Saturday - but the last vestiges of opposition to the closure are going down fighting.

The last train from Marks Tey to Shelford leaves Sudbury at 6.30 p.m., arriving at Haverhill at 7.11 p.m. On the return trip it will be at Haverhill at 8.32 and Sudbury at 9.07. Then it's all over.

A party of folk in old time dress have arranged to board the train at Sudbury for this swan song, travelling back on the return train.

After jumping their last hurdle without too much trouble - the Traffic Commissioners tribunal - British Rail, last week went through the formalities of issuing the official notice that Haverhill and other stations will close this weekend.


The tribunal, held in Cambridge, was the last fence in the path of BR's efforts to close the line. But the local council's objections to alternative bus services were over-ruled.

Now the axe falls at Haverhill, Sturmer, Stoke-by-Clare, Clare, Cavendish, Glemsford, Long Melford (a junction until a year or two ago) and other stations between Haverhill and Shelford.

At Sudbury the line to London will remain open.

Haverhill Councillor, Mr Horace Eves is this week awaiting a reply from Minister of Transport, Mrs Barbara Castle with regard to the preservation of the railway route once the line closes.

Mr Eves, one of three local railwaymen who will loose his job as a result of the rail closure - was in a Labour Party Conference in London, which was attended by Mrs Castle on Sunday.


He submitted a question to the minister asking what was the minimum movement of industry and population required before the line could be re-opened. He was following up a point made in a White Paper last year, when the minister said the government would ensure preservation of certain routes, even though lines would be taken up as a result of the planned movement of population and industry.

Mrs Castle did not get around to answering Mr Eves' question on Sunday, but promised a written reply within a few days.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Dennis Taylor of Bracknell House, Long Melford, has charged British Rail with false pretences over the financial situation of the Stour Valley line.

Mr Taylor wrote to Premier Harold Wilson for the third time last week in the latest stage of his fight to not only save the Stour Valley line, but to make British Rail a financial success.


Both his previous letters had been acknowledged, and on the strength of this Mr Taylor made his allegations of false pretences by British Rail in his third letter last Wednesday.

He told the Free Press that the figures given to the Transport Users Consultative Committee, on which they based their deliberations, were totally different from those revealed in certain British Rail documents.

At the public inquiry the line was said to have been making a loss of £45,700. However, this was based on revenue which did not take into account £48,000 from direct costs revealed in figures published later.

Mr Taylor pointed out in his letter that if the second set of figures were correct, then the Stour Valley line showed a profit of £2,300 per year.

In view of those figures Mr Taylor hopes the Prime Minister will step in to avert the closure of the Sudbury to Cambridge section of the line.


If this is not done then Mr Taylor says he has a "cast iron case to put before the National Council on Inland Transport which the can fight on the grounds of what Harold Wilson said in a speech about the Beeching Plan before he came to power".