The bar

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The Railway Refreshment Rooms at Bridgnorth Station were first opened during 1861 under a temporary licence obtained by Browning and Co of Paddington. Very little is known of this firm, who appear to be a catering firm possibly contracted by the GWR.

Although the line was not yet fully operational (an expected date had been mooted as September 1861), there was enough trade to justify operation, including from those still working on the line itself.

In building the station, the Severn Valley Railway (the original one!) had demolished three local alehouses – The Sun, which moved to Listley Street and became The Rising Sun; the Hollybush, located on the opposite side of the road to the station, and The Fiddle, now supporting the embankment by the demolished road bridge to the tunnel. It also forced The George, which was originally where the coal wharfs are now, to its present position across the road. There is a very full account of the court cases in the Bridgnorth Journal 1858/9.

The line finally opened to the public on 1 February 1862, following a very successful inauguration dinner given the day before in the Assembly Rooms, Bridgnorth by Mr and Mrs Thomas Whitefoot, the proprietor of the Crown and Royal Hotel in the High Street (which remains today as The Crown, though in a rather different guise).

This success may have moved the Severn Valley Railway to entrust their catering services to Mr Whitefoot, so on 26 April 1862 the Railway Refreshment Rooms were fully licensed.

The Crown had several links with the railway, acting as a parcels office for the GWR and running an omnibus to meet every train, and it appears that Thomas Whitefoot was quick to see the commercial benefits resulting from the coming of the latest transport system to the town.

In 1876 Thomas Whitefoot retired from the Crown and Royal to pursue his Wine and Spirits business, and relinquished the licence of the Railway Refreshment Rooms. The licence was once again taken on by Browning and Co.

In 1891 the census returns show the position of manageress being occupied by Clara Hodgman. She remained at the rooms until about 1902, when Edward Morrall took on the licence.

Edward was no stranger to the trade, having come to Bridgnorth in the late 1860s and established a wine and spirits business in Underhill St. and later a second branch in the High St. In about 1880 he took on the Swan Hotel and by 1900 had added the Harp and Pheasant (now simply the Harp) and also The New Inn.

By 1905 he appears to have relinquished the Swan Hotel and taken on the Railway Refreshment rooms, possibly starting around 1902 as by that date William W Grantham was the manager; he remained in this position till 1913/14 when Morrall went bankrupt.

The licence then returned to the Whitefoot family, and to Thomas Whitefoot Jnr. who was by now running the family business, his father having died in 1900. Thomas Jnr. had already shown an interest in railways as in 1890 he was the deputy chairman of the Castle Hill Railway Co (then known as ‘the lift’), now the Cliff Railway. Thomas Jnr. was also an agent for Cheshire breweries and it is likely that during this period the Windmill mirror came to the Refreshment Rooms.

In 1926 Thomas sold the venture to W and HE Tanner of Shrewsbury. In the 1930s Robert C Griffiths, who until 1929 had run the George Hotel at the bottom of Station Drive, was the manager.

Research has so far yielded little of the period 1940s – 50s.

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Possibly around 1955 George Elias Thorpe became the licensee. He remained after 1963 when the railway closed, and by the time the preservationists arrived he was running a rather eccentric and not entirely reputable establishment. He retired in 1972.

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Acknowledgements: Grateful thanks to local historians Ann Chadwick and Val Plante for research

a brief timeline

Bridgnorth Station Timeline

Bridgnorth is one of the few places in the country to have a railway tunnel immediately below the medieval heart of the town. The tunnel, 550 yards long, runs below High Town.

 

timeline tunnel route

Bridgnorth Station Building is made of stone in a restrained Jacobean architectural style.

20 August 1853: The first Severn Valley Railway Act received the Royal Assent.

26 May 1858: Contract for building the railway completed between the company and the contracting engineers. Work began on 14 August.

Autumn 1861: Line complete and ready to receive traffic, although opening was delayed for another six months to obtain a permanently substantial formation for the permanent way.

31 January 1862: First official train, of 22 carriages, left Worcester Shrub Hill at 11.30am, reaching Shrewsbury at 2pm.

1 July 1872: Great Western Railway Act – Severn Valley Railway Branch becomes part of God’s Wonderful Railway.

1887: Original down platform extended, a passenger shelter erected, and a cast-iron and wrought-iron lattice footbridge built to connect it to the up platform.

1887: Town Corporation pays for a new approach road to the station.

1892: Two fully interlocked signalboxes opened at the north and south ends of the station, superceded in 1923 by a single central box on the up platform.

1895: Town Corporation pays for a lattice footbridge to shorten the route from High Town to the railway, at a cost of £1,400.

7 November 1904: Bridgnorth – Wolverhampton omnibus passenger service initially using three Clarkson steambuses, soon replaced by petrol-engined Milnes-Daimler buses from 1 April 1905 until 2 June 1923, when Wolverhampton Corporation took over.

August 1922: Knowle Sand Brick Works siding opened, with ground frames at either end of loop, capable of accommodating 35 standard wagons plus engine and brake van.

June 1962: The Western Region of British Railways announces that passenger trains between Shrewsbury and Bewdley would be withdrawn. Bridgnorth Town Council objects to proposals, believing the line could be promoted as a holiday attraction.

27 March 1963: British Transport Commission’s report The Reshaping of British Railways, colloquially known as The Beeching Report.

August 1963: Official notice of withdrawal of passenger services north of Bewdley, to be effective from 9 September 1963. Freight and parcels continued until the end of the year, after which time there was only coal traffic to and from Alveley Colliery.

8 September 1963: The last British Railways passenger train to run into Bridgnorth from the south, double headed by ex-GWR 0-6-0 Pannier Tanks Nos 9624 and 4665.

2 December 1963: All Severn Valley line stations except Bewdley and Stourport closed completely, and track taken up between Buildwas and Bridgnorth.

6 July 1965: Meeting at Cooper’s Arms in Kidderminster.

25 July 1965: Inspection of the line between Hampton Loade and Bridgnorth followed by contact with British Railways to get demolition work stopped.

February 1966: Price of £25,000 agreed for purchase of line.

1 January 1967: Purchase by Severn Valley Railway Society of track southwards from Bridgnorth to Alveley Colliery from British Railways.

24 May 1967: Severn Valley Railway Company Limited incorporated, to enable application for a Light Railway Order.

1 June 1967: Contracts exchanged on sale of line from Bridgnorth to Alveley.

3 February 1969: Alveley to Bewdley section officially closed by British Railways.

December 1969: Severn Valley Railway Society merges with the Severn Valley Railway Company.

5 January 1970: Passenger service withdrawn between Bewdley, Kidderminster and Hartlebury.

May 1970: Second Light Railway Order granted.

23 May 1970: Re-opening Day – first public trains between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade. Locos 3205, 46443, 43106 and 48773 used over the weekend. Trains run at weekends to the end of October.

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10 April to 30 October 1971: Summer timetable operated between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade.

April 1974: Services extended to Highley and, six weeks later…

May 1974: Services extended to Bewdley; daily running during the summer season extended to five weeks.

31 July 1984: First preservation-era trains between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster.

18 June 2007: Exceptionally severe weather causes damage at forty five places between Bridgnorth and Bewdley. Services reduced to Bewdley – Kidderminster only. Major appeal launched to fund £2.5M in repairs.