Norton in Hales Railway 1870 – 1956

Norton-in-Hales station was built by the North Staffordshire Railway Co. and it stood on the Stoke to Market Drayton Line. The N.S.R. Co was nicknamed the ‘knotty’ because they adopted the Stafford knot as an emblem. This emblem was based on the badge of the de Stafford family and can be still seen on road signs today. In December 1865 a contract was approved by Parliament for work to begin on building the railway that would pass through Norton-in-Hales. The new railway line was to link the fertile agricultural district of North Shropshire to the highly populated Potteries.  In January 1868 a local newspaper referring to Norton-in-Hales reported that “the quiet village has been uninterrupted by a year’s sojourn of the navvies located in it”. On Thursday 27th January 1870 the line from Silverdale to Market Drayton was inspected, the Stoke to Silverdale line already being open, and the line was declared satisfactory and the Directors announced it would open the following week.

On Tuesday 1st February 1870 the first public train ran from Stoke to Market Drayton, although the general public had little notice and found the opening fairly sudden, as it was thought that the line would not be ready for weeks and that work on the sidings would be completed before the opening. It was felt that the suddenness of the opening prevented some of the usual demonstrations of celebration; there were no flags waving, the engines were undecorated and the carriages were neither better nor worse than those normally supplied. There was however, a week later, a ball held to celebrate the event.

It has been recorded in ‘The Stoke to Market Drayton Line’, by C R Lester, that Mr John Eardley, farmer of Norton, together with 3 kindred spirits, drove by pony and trap to Newcastle in time to catch the very first train to Market Drayton. After suitable refreshment they caught the next train back – and after further refreshment returned home!

The journey

The line is 12½ miles in length to Silverdale station. Starting from Drayton station as though going to Crewe, you pass the signals and then go off to the right by a sharp curve. The first part of the journey is through an open and slightly undulating country. Having run three miles the first station is reached at Norton-in-Hales where the respected rector has taken much interest in the welfare of the navvies employed on the work. The second station is only two-and-a-half miles from Norton, but the Knighton people are very much disappointed it is not one mile nearer. From Pipe Gate the railroad runs through a much more uneven country – it partakes in fact more of the nature of the country through the Potteries, and in summer many spots would be beautiful. Not least so is the part about Keele Road, the third station. This is surrounded with woods standing on steep hills; which make the situation quite picturesque. Two or three minutes ride from Keele Road brings the traveller to the nearest “spur” of the Potteries district at Silverdale. From this place it is three miles to Newcastle, and Stoke is two miles beyond that – making seventeen and a half to Stoke [1].

How it changed the area

Once the railway was opened the station served the locality with transportation of all kinds of goods especially for farmers and their commodities. There were facilities for the loading and unloading of cattle, cattle foods, coal and machinery.  It was actually found that farmers could make more profit by sending their milk to London and other cities, than selling it locally. A special set of vehicles were put on the first passenger train for this purpose, these vehicles then being transferred to a London express train once they arrived in Stoke.  Livestock being loaded at the station would have been a common sight before the coming of the motor car. The local halls around had their supplies of coal brought to the station, the coal wagon being put into a siding, from where it was transported by horse and cart to the various homes.

Norton-in-Hales soon became a popular location for country outings and Sunday School treats. During the Norton rectory museum’s hay-day, special trains were arranged for the Norton-in-Hales Annual Fete and Flower Show.

There were also football specials laid on a Saturday so that people could attend Stoke football matches. It was also possible at one time to travel to Hanley, see a theatre show and travel back to Norton-in-Hales by a late night train. Mother’s with perambulators could attend Market Drayton or Stoke with their babies, the prams being put in a big parcels van.

The Station Masters

Norton-in-Hales was a busy little station employing a Station Master, two porters and a booking clerk.

Station House Norton-in-Hales, 1871 Census George Holbrook aged 32, b1839 Macclesfield, Cheshire – Railway Clerk in Charge Emma Holbrook aged 24,  b1847 Kidsgrove, Staffordshire Julia Holbrook aged 2, b1869  Kenton, Staffordshire Percival Hooley Holbrook aged 10months, b1869 Norton-in-Hales

Station House Norton-in-Hales, 1881 Census James John Pye aged 31, b1850 Ledbury Hereford – Clerk Writing Elizabeth Pye aged 28, b1853 Newcastle, Staffordshire Frederick John Pye aged 12, b1869 Hanley, Staffordshire – Scholar Albert Pye aged 9, b1872 Clifton, Derbyshire – Scholar Charles Pye aged 4, b1877 Hanley, Staffordshire John W Pye aged 11 months Hanley, Staffordshire

Station House Norton-in-Hales, 1891 Census William E Fidler aged 49, b1842 Islington, London – Station Master – 1901 was Stationmaster at Trentham Mary A Fidler aged 54, b1837 Islington, London Adelaide Fidler aged 16, b1875 Stoke on Trent Stanley Fidler aged 13, b1878 Stoke on Trent – Scholar

Station House Norton-in-Hales, 1901 Census William Walton Head aged 37 b1864, Stoke on Trent – Station Master Annie Walton (nee Mitchell) Wife aged 37, b1864 Newcastle, Staffordshire Edgar Walton Son aged 8, b1893 Stoke on Trent William Walton Son aged 6, b1895 Stoke on Trent Elsie Walton Daughter aged 4, b1897 Stoke on Trent

Station House Norton-in-Hales, 1911 Census William Walton Head aged 47 b1864, Stoke on Trent – Station Master Annie Walton (nee Mitchell) Wife aged 47, b1864 Newcastle, Staffordshire Edgar Walton Son aged 18, b1893 Stoke on Trent – Clerk William Walton Son aged 16, b1895 Stoke on Trent – Clerk Elsie Walton Daughter aged 14, b1897 Stoke on Trent Stanley Tucker Nephew  aged 11 b1900 Elland Yorkshire – School

Closure

The early years of the 20th century were the busiest, there being thirteen trains daily from Stoke to Silverdale and five to Market Drayton. Residents of Norton were very well served by the railway, if they could afford a ticket! In 1892, they could catch the 8.42 train in Norton, change at Stoke, and be at London Euston at 12.55. Having completed their  meeting or shopping, they then caught the 4.00pm train from Euston and arrived back in Norton at 8.40pm.on weekdays or  9.14pm on a Saturday. In the pre first world war period, there were 7 or 8 trains in each direction from Norton every day.

Due to the popularisation of the motor car, in the late 1930’s, the railway line was reduced to a single track.  After World War II , petrol rationing ended which led to further growth of car ownership and use, passenger numbers dwindled even further, which meant there were only two trains daily from Stoke to Market Drayton.

Norton station closed to both freight and passengers on 7th May 1956, the last train being on 5th.  Following the closure, the original land owners were first offered the land on which the line was constructed and in 1968 the line at Norton was taken up by contractors, with the metals going to Sheffield and the wooden sleepers to various places in the country, some of which were sold to local farmers.

The old gates on the road leading to the station can still be seen, and the station has been converted to a private house. The old station master’s house still stands and has recently been modernised.

© Hannah Hague


Sources and Acknowledgements:

[1] Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser Feb 5th 1870

Mr and Mrs D.W. Parton, M. Davies and Mr and Mrs S. Belfield. Many thanks for your assistance and contributions during my research for this article.