From time to time I enjoy pulling out a map and studying it carefully. Any map, and it doesn’t have to be one of the area in which I am studying. I can look at the details of the Isle of Skye or the (now mainly cleared) minefields of the Falkland Islands from my Long Island home. You may gather I have a broad collection of maps. Most of them are British Ordnance Survey, still the finest map-makers in the world, and some are of the same areas but of different vintages. It’s fascinating, for example, to compare a part of North Cornwall mapped in 1965 with its 1998 survey, and see how much has changed.
The other day I opened a fairly recent map of Worcester and the Malverns (OS Landranger map 150,) my old county and stomping ground, and for the first time noticed a disused railway connecting the Malverns with the riverside town of Upton upon Severn and beyond. Despite having grown up a mere ten miles from there I had no idea that this six-mile-long line had ever existed, but as it was closed in 1952 and the tracks long since removed perhaps I may be forgiven.
Built in 1860 it plied its way between Malvern Hills (later known as Malvern Wells) and the new station at Upton, crossed the River Severn, and connected to the main line at Ashchurch. To quote from the pages of the Upton Local History website:
Upton was provided with fairly substantial station buildings, pleasantly constructed in a warmish shade of red brick, with slate roofing. The main structure, situated on the northerly (down) plat- form, was a superb example of Victorian architecture, displaying a considerable array of decorative devices; these included ornate chimney stacks, string courses and diamond inset patterns carried out in contrasting yellow brick, and herringbone-style barge boards on the gable ends. A two story station master's house was provided at the Malvern end of the building, with the adjoining, central part of the structure accommodating the booking office and hall; the easterly portion housed the station master's office, waiting rooms, and lavatories. A fine wrought iron canopy graced the central section on the platform elevation.
It must have been a delightful line to travel. On either side lush fields, with the grand sight of Hanley Hall to the north. In the middle distance the spire of St Gabriel’s church at Hanley Swan, and the stubby tower of St Mary’s church at Hanley Castle would remind the travelling soul of the presence of the Church in every community. Then the pleasing station at Upton would soon come into view. Sadly nothing now remains of Upton station. The 1960s belief in demolishing anything old removed all traces of the buildings and platforms.
The local records list the station staff of 1921, all no doubt under the stern gaze and whistle of Mr Johnson the Stationmaster. Among them is a young man by the name of Sam Crump, who was the station lorry-driver. In later life his widowed wife used to run a small and extremely haphazard grocery shop on the Droitwich Road, Worcester, opposite the parish church of St Stephen where my father was the vicar. I have two distinct memories of this shop, demolished in 1970 to make way for a garish Texaco filling station: It was a place where, when known children would come to buy cigarettes for a parent those smokes would be wrapped in newspaper! And the place out of which I stepped two days before Christmas 1967, and was hit by a car, breaking my upper leg. A painful Christmas, but oh, so many presents and good wishes!
The next time I am in that area I am determined to pull on boots, take up the same map, and trudge to line as far as the river. Not only can I then look north-east to the 12th century tower of St Mary’s, Ripple, where my father served an inter-regnum in the 1980s, but I can also enjoy a ploughman’s lunch and a decent pint of beer in the Swan Hotel. Or maybe the Star? Or the Talbot Head.