It might surprise some people to learn that Arksey once had a railway station. The fact that it is now completely eradicated could account for this. What is not surprising to anyone who has to travel through the village regularly, is that Arksey is only accessible (directly from Bentley) by crossing the east coast railway line via the level crossing, which normally entails a lengthy wait at the crossing barriers for one or more trains to pass.
Ordnance Survey map extract, 1903.
On August 11th 1848 the first trial trip of the line from Doncaster to Stockbridge station took place with horse drawn carriages. That same year the first King’s Cross to York trains began running, but because Doncaster only had a temporary station (which was just north of the present one) trains went via Askern to York. The Great Northern Railway opened the more direct route from Doncaster to York via Arksey in 1871. What seems to have gone undocumented is any reference to the actual design and construction of the station, and in particular, its unusual appearance. The photograph above suggests that both structures were initially all brick, each with possibly a timber frame.
However by the period of closure it seems to have received a rendered or pebbledash coating over the brickwork, with the frame either stained or painted black (see front cover photograph). I have seen no photographs of its construction demolition, which would possibly give clues. Ed.
In December 1850 the station was renamed Arksey and Stockbridge, and the name shortened to Arksey in September 1854. By 1861 four trains were operating each way daily except on Sundays, when there were three. The railway carried coal, corn, cattle and lime and was a speedy way for Bentley and Arksey villagers to reach Doncaster. In competition with the railways, the firm of Hodgson and Hepworth began operating horse buses in the late 1800’s with the purpose of carrying people from outlying districts to their shops. Bentley was one of the areas to benefit from this bus.
The Arksey bus at the level crossing, 1955. [Peter Dumville].
Following the Second World War and the end of petrol rationing, car ownership increased, and this coupled with the poor state of repair of the railways, led to the formation of the British Transport Commission (BTC). The BTC set about closing the least used branch lines. Between 1948 and 1962, 3,318 miles of railway was closed. The east coast main line escaped these cuts of course, but some stations did not, Arksey being among them, on 5th of August 1952. It was finally demolished in the 1970s. Some reports I have read state that the station was closed during the cuts made by Dr Richard Beeching, but his report was not published until 1963, well after the actual closure, so that was not the case
John and Mary Beverley (centre) at the Marsh Lane gatehouse
Situated on the right side of the lane, on the Arksey side, Marsh Lane gatehouse is first mentioned in the 1891 census when Jasper and Eliza Alderman were resident there. They seem to have stayed there until around 1901. Following the departure of the Aldermans, John Henry Beverley (1848 – 1909) and his wife Mary Hannah (1844 – 1917) took over the gatehouse. John was a distinguished Afghan War Veteran who had served with the 92nd Gordon Highlanders. He served for eleven years in India, was a one-time bodyguard to Queen Victoria and fought in the first Boer War. After returning home he took employment with the Midland and Great Northern
Railway. He married Mary Hannah Umpleby in 1882 in Manningham St Paul. Following John’s death in 1909, Mary Beverley moved into the Arksey Almshouses and many Class Meetings of the small Arksey Wesleyan Society were held there.
Other gatehouse keepers listed include:
George Ley; 1918 – 1920
Arthur Cross; 1922 – 1926
Sydney and Emma Holmes; 1927 – 1931
Charles and Ellen Bloomfield; 1934 – 1937
Arthur and Doris Wilson; 1939 – ?
Dorothy Leeson; 1945 – 1948, when she is joined by
Lizzie Kirton and Daisy Jones.
John Collinson Kirton, Lizzie Kirton and Daisy Jones 1949-53.
The gatehouse ceases to be mentioned after 1953, when it was probably demolished. Bentley pit workings had encroached on the Marsh Lane route to Shaftholme and it was now no longer possible to use that road. Today, Marsh Lane as a road terminates at the start of Shaftholme Road. The lane however, becomes a rough track which leads north to the Round About Moat and then a foot crossing leads over the railway line where the old gatehouse once stood. The track continues west, running parallel with the railway for a time before meeting up with other lanes leading either south, back to Arksey over another foot crossing, on to Stockbridge lane via the locally known ‘Cinder Track’, or north to Bentley where it ends at Elm Crescent.
Although the arrival of the Great Northern Railway must have been welcomed by the inhabitants of Arksey as a convenient, and faster, way of getting to Doncaster, and indeed, other places further afield, it came with less welcome aspects, such as noise and dirt. It also brought danger in the way of derailments, crashes, accidents, and death to those foolish or unfortunate enough to venture on to the tracks at the wrong moment. There are many reported of incidents of this nature in the newspaper archives but here we take a look at just a few of the
railway incidents reported in the 19th Century.
LEEDS MERCURY, 30th September 1876.
Accident Near Arksey
About four o’clock yesterday afternoon a Lancashire and Yorkshire goods train, owing to the breaking of the axle of a wagon, came to grief on the down line of the Great Northern Railway, on the Doncaster and Knottingley line, near Arksey. The result was that half a dozen wagons with their scattered contents were thrown off the line into the adjoining fields, the permanent way was torn up, and the use of the rails temporarily stopped. The trains in the subsequent part of the day had to be worked on a single line. Although considerable damage was done there was little inconvenience.
YORKSHIRE GAZETTE, 22nd November 1884.
Doncaster – The Shocking Fatality on the Railway
Yesterday evening Mr F. E. Nicholson, the county coroner, held an inquest on the man Wood, who comes from Shibbs Walden, and whose body was found on the railway near Doncaster, on Wednesday night. It appeared from the evidence that deceased had been to the statutes, and was going home by way of Arksey. He however missed his train, and is supposed to have set out to walk along the line. He however, took the wrong direction, and was no doubt overtaken by a goods train, knocked down by the buffer, and his body trailed along the four foot for over half a mile. The corpse was frightfully mangled. The jury returned a verdict of “accidentally killed”.
SHEFFIELD EVENING TELEGRAPH, 28th November 1888.
Singular Accident on the Railway
‘This morning a young woman named Agnes Hemsworth, aged 15, who lives at Bentley, near Doncaster, was found in the waiting room at Arksey Station under singular circumstances. On the previous night she had been to Norton to meet her mistress, but as the latter was not there to meet her she came back. On getting to Arksey she met with an accident, but is unable to explain how it occurred. It was thought that she fell out of the train, and that it must have passed over her foot, a portion of which was found about 50 yards away. At seven o’clock this morning she was found by a porter in the waiting room where she had been all night. Her foot was badly crushed, and she was unable to walk. An express train was stopped, and she was taken to Doncaster and admitted into the Infirmary, where it was found necessary to amputate her foot.’
SHEFFIELD EVENING TELEGRAPH, 3rd January 1889
Yesterday Mr T. Atkinson, the borough coroner, held an inquest at Doncaster respecting the death of William Harding, aged 25, clerk in the office of the station-master, Mr. Rayner, who died from injuries at Arksey Station on Monday night. It appeared that deceased had been subject to epileptic fits. On Monday night he went to Arksey to assist the acting station-master with his accounts, and at nine o’clock left the office and went on to the platform without his hat. A goods train was being shunted to make way for the passenger train, and deceased just turned round to go back to the office when it is supposed that, being seized with a fit, he fell from the platform on to the line, and four or five trucks passed over him. He was lifted up and placed on the platform, when he ejaculated to a man nearby “Oh, Dick.” His legs were shockingly mutilated, and he died half an hour after being admitted to the Infirmary. A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned.
YORK HERALD, 25th January 1890
Sad Fatality At Arksey
A sad fatality occurred on the G.N.R. main line near Arksey Station on Saturday morning [11th October], the victim being a aged widow, Frances Amelia Harwood, who lived at the Arksey Almshouses.
The story of the accident was told before Mr F Allen the Doncaster District Coroner, who attended at the Plough Hotel, Arksey, on Monday to hold the inquest. Inspector Marks, G.N.R. Police, and Mr J A Baddiley, representing the Locomotive Drivers’ and Firemen’s Association, were present. Sarah Ann Charlesworth, 19, Broughton Avenue, Bentley, identified the body as that of her mother, who was the widow of George Harwood, of Summerscales, Derbyshire, brickmaker. She was 89 years of age, and though active, her eyesight and hearing were failing and she had a bad memory, and at times acted childishly.
Lucy Warner, widow, living at the Almshouses, said deceased spoke to her at 10.40 am on Saturday, saying “I am going over there” (meaning the coal tip), “will you go with me on Monday?” To get to the tip she would have to cross the G.N. main line by a footpath a short distance north of Arksey Station. She went the same way last week to gather sticks. She was the oldest inhabitant of the almshouses, and was able to look after herself. Arthur William Wright, 118, Alexandra Road, Grantham, engine driver on the Great Northern Railway, said that on Saturday he had charge of an engine running light from Doncaster to York. If there had been no signals against him he would have gone through at 30 miles per hour. Upon approaching Bentley Colliery, about 11.5 am, he saw deceased starting to cross the line about 100 yards in front of his engine. He sounded the whistle, but she took no notice. He sounded it again, shut off steam and applied the brake. Deceased looked the opposite way.
He was 150 yards away when he first sounded the whistle, and possibly 50 to 80 yards the second time. Deceased made no effort to get out of the way when the engine was close to her but the engine knocked her sideways on the left side of the road. Witness did not stop, but went on and reported the matter to the signalman at the Shaftholme junction, about a mile away. He would be running at about the rate of 30 miles per hour when the engine struck deceased. He could pull up a light engine in three or four hundred yards running at that speed. His instructions for such cases as this was to stop and render assistance, but under the present circumstances he thought it better to run on to Shaftholme.
Questioned by Mr Baddiley, the driver said his position on the footplate was on the right side. When he blew his whistle he thought the deceased would stop. He looked out over the left side of the engine and saw her fall on the left side, clear of the engine. Albert Thornton, living at Scholey’s Yard [off High Street], Arksey, platelayer, said he went and found the body 17 yards north of the footpath which crosses the line, about half a mile north of Arksey Station. The body was on the grass and quite dead.
PC Grimshaw said he had examined the body and found the skull fractured, the right arm, left leg, and right shoulder blade broken. The engine did not appear to have passed over the body.
A verdict of “Accidental death” was entered SHEFFIELD EVENING TELEGRAPH, 31st December 1896
Death in a Railway Carriage
‘This morning, the Doncaster Borough Coroner (Mr T. B. Sugden) held an inquest concerning the death of Mr Joseph Davey, earthenware dealer, Silver Street. The deceased was 64 years of age, and on Tuesday visited his daughter, Mrs Sowerby, at Knottingley. He walked to the station and left at 20 minutes to nine for Doncaster. On the way to the station he complained of feeling unwell, and had previously suffered from bronchitis and his heart. Robert Hall, guard of the train, said his attention was called to the deceased at Arksey, and he was then kneeling on the bottom of the carriage, his head being against the seat. thinking that he was asleep, the guard eased him and closed the door. When the train arrived at Doncaster it was found that he was dead. Dr MacKay, who had held a post-mortem examination, said that death was due to syncope caused by fatty degeneration of the heart. The jury returned a verdict accordingly.
Porter Mervyn Senior, clerk Dorothy and Station Master Ron Edwards, unknown photographer and date, but probably close to or on the closure date – 5th August 1952.
From GNN December 2021
Written by Alison Vainlo