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News > From the Archives > The Opening of Bruton Station

The Opening of Bruton Station

The Opening of Bruton Station - discussed by School Archivist - Andrew Leach
March 28th 2019 will remain a special date in the history of both King’s and the town of Bruton. This was the day, of course, when HM The Queen visited us to help celebrate the School’s 500th Anniversary by opening The Queen Elizabeth Music School. It was a memorable day for the town too, with bunting and cheering crowds all along the route taken by Her Majesty. Such joyous occasions are rare but by no means unknown in Bruton and a good example was the day, over 150 years ago, when a great Festival was organised to mark an event that was to have a most profound effect on the lives of all the town’s residents. It was on the 1st September 1856 that Bruton witnessed the opening of the Great Western Railway line through the town, and it was two days later that the town celebrated.


The railway line between Frome and Yeovil - 25¾ miles - was the latest stretch of line which would eventually connect Chippenham and Weymouth. According to a report at the time, ‘The first train on the new line started from Yeovil at a quarter to seven, or in correct railway phraseology (to which in such matters we must now adhere), at 6.45. A good many men, women and children saw it off, and gave it something like a cheer at starting. The engine ‘Mercury’ was decorated with flags and evergreens, and it had attached to it a couple of second-class carriages and one first-class carriage.

‘Between Yeovil and Frome there are five stations - Marston, Sparkford, Castle Cary, Bruton and Witham Friary. On reaching Frome, the traveller runs into the old line to complete the journey to Chippenham.

‘The line passes through a pretty country. Mostly it runs through meadows, and the view is skirted by ranges of hills. About Bruton, the scenery is very pretty - little dells and rivulets, with deep-cut banks, meeting the eye. The church stands out conspicuously, and was, we believe, the only edifice of the kind on the line on which a token of welcome was hung out. At Bruton arches, crossing the line on either side, the station was trimmed with evergreens, and bade us ‘Welcome to Bruton’.

‘Passing beyond Bruton we noticed the dense masses of wood, with a fine view of Colinshays, the seat of the Earl of Cork, caught from the line. We reached Frome at 7.40. The distance of 25¾ miles had been safely run, three stoppages included, within the prescribed time - 55 minutes. Our progress was easy and pleasant, notwithstanding that here and there it was made at almost ‘express pace’!

‘After breakfasting at Chippenham, we took the return train and at 12 o’clock were again in Yeovil. All the way down the line people were collected - on bridges, by the sides of roads, on hill-tops, and at the stations, to welcome the stranger locomotive and its freight. Some timidly kept far off; others came close up to the line with a hearty manly greeting.’

Festivities at Bruton

On the following Wednesday, ‘the inhabitants of Bruton had a day of great rejoicings, in honour of the opening of the line. Every shop was closed; trees, laurels, triumphal arches, mottoes, and flags were displayed in every street; and it seemed as if all the inhabitants had risen in a united body, with the warmest interest, and the most friendly feeling to do honour to the occasion. Passing through the High Street and Patwell Street we walked through almost a continuous grove - amongst huge branches of trees, or under triumphal arches which displayed mottoes such as ‘Long-looked-for come at last’, ‘Peace’, Success to the Railway’, ‘Victoria’, ‘Peace, Love, and Unity’. Outside the Sun Inn, a huge arch proclaimed ‘Prosperity to Bruton, may its Rail be crowned with success’, and opposite the hospital an arch bore the wish – ‘May this and all other Institutions flourish!’

In the Abbey Green, which is skirted on one side by the railway, on another by the church, and on a third by the vicarage, preparations had been made for many hundreds of poor persons, and here at 12 o’clock a large procession was formed in the following order;

The Blue Boys

The Men and Women of the Hospital, preceded by the oldest Member, 96 years of age, in a Bath chair

Bruton Friendly Society

Brass Band

Mr Ward, aged 87, in a Bath chair, guarded by two Soldiers

Factory Workers

Band of Hope

National and Sunday Schools

Inhabitants of Bruton

Householders of Bruton

After occupying an hour in perambulating the town, the band playing appropriate airs, the large party returned to the Abbey Green, where an immense number of men and women were regaled with a substantial dinner of roast and boiled beef, bread, and beer. The children had each a large bun and tea. After the good things had been stowed away, old English sports were commenced and climbing the pole, racing, etc., were kept up with great spirit till a late hour.

The entire exertions of the day were devoted to making the poor comfortable, and demonstrating the general feeling of gladness occasioned by the completion of the line. Every train that came in was saluted by rounds of cheering, which the passengers returned as heartily as they were given.

About 3000 persons assembled to witness the Bruton Festivities. The sun shone brightly throughout the day, and the whole passed off in the most agreeable manner.

The Accident at Bruton Station in 1865

All was set fair, and the railway soon became an important part of life in Bruton, transporting people far and wide in a way that was unprecedented, and bringing in coal, stone, sand, timber, and many other materials into the rail yard. King’s pupils were soon using the trains, especially when another line, through Cole, extended their reach.

Sadly, just a few years after it opened, on June 28th 1865, there was an accident at Bruton Station. According to a report in the Shepton Mallet Journal, ‘The railway policeman on duty had arranged for a truck loaded with flour to be pushed into the sidings to allow a ballast train to go through the station. Unfortunately he failed to reset the points and the train went into the sidings as well, through a goods shed, pushed a truck loaded with flour and some empty timber trucks in front of it into the buffers, sweeping everything before it, and all crashed down some twenty-five feet onto the Wincanton road, killing the engine driver and the fireman. The railway policeman was subsequently found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to six months imprisonment’.

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