I have searched through the pages of the 1891 census to identify those with a railway occupation, and likely to have been employed on the Nailsworth to Dudbridge section of the Stonehouse to Nailsworth railway branch line.
My assumption is that most railwaymen will have lived close to their place of work and that the valley topography will have accentuated that. If living within the Nailsworth valley railwaymen are likely to have been employed by the Midland Railway Company whose line this was in 1891. Beyond Dudbridge the close proximity of the Great Western Railway (GWR) Gloucester to Swindon line undermines this assumption. For example a railwayman living in Stroud or Ebley could just as easily have gone to work on either the Midland or GWR line. I have therefore limited my searches to the parishes of Avening, Minchinhampton, Horsley, Woodchester, Rodborough and Kings Stanley.
The census can only provide a partial picture of those working on the line; some railwaymen associated with the Nailsworth line may have lived further away or been absent on the day of the census. For some railwaymen living within these parishes the census specifically records that they worked for the GWR. This implies that for those resident within the valley, where there is no specific mention of the company, they are likely to have been Midland men. I have also only included those where there is specific mention of a railway connection. For example some are recorded as just “Engine Drivers”. These are likely to have been operators of stationary steam engines within the mills and factories of the valley.
The Stonehouse and Nailsworth Railway, in Gloucestershire, was opened in 1867 as an independent company but was soon after absorbed into the Midland Railway. It was a branch line 5.75 miles long running from a junction with the main Gloucester to Bristol line at Stonehouse and terminating at Nailsworth. There were 3 intermediate stations: Ryecroft, Dudbridge and Woodchester. From Dudbridge, about half way along the line, there was a spur off to Stroud (Wallbridge). Passenger services were suspended in June 1947, and never restored. Final closure to goods traffic was in 1966 – just one year short of the line’s centenary.
Geography of the line
From Nailsworth the first half of the line ran north along the floor of a steep sided valley. Woodchester station was at approximately the midway point of this valley section. Dudbridge station was at the mouth of the valley and from there the line turned west towards the River Severn flood plain. Ryecroft station was at about the midway point on this section to Stonehouse. A familiarity with the locality will be an advantage in understanding the places mentioned, but to help with geographical orientation the following link may be helpful. (Click here for link)
Nailsworth did not become its own parish until 1892. At the time of the 1891 census the town was divided between the parishes of Avening, Minchinhampton and Horsley. Nailsworth station and the adjacent Railway Hotel were in Minchinhampton parish whereas the adjacent hamlet of Egypt and Egypt Mill were in Avening parish. The parish boundaries tended to be the local streams. The valley section of the railway line ran very close to and roughly parallel with the parish boundaries along the valley floor. Minchinhampton parish was to the east of the line giving way to Rodborough parish close to Woodchester station. To the west of line was Avening parish as far as Inchbrook where Woodchester parish took over until just beyond Rooksmoor Mills. From there on this side of the line lay within the parish of Kings Stanley, including Dudbridge station.
16 railwaymen, plus the presumed proprietor of the Railway Hotel, lived in or near the town. Below is a contemporary map of the town showing the distribution of where they lived. The numbers in the text refer to the green tab numbers on the map. For a google map of the location click here.
1: Chas. S Hyder, aged 46, was the Station Master and appears to have lived at or adjacent to the station with his wife Elizabeth (47) and 4 children aged between 8 and 16. He was a local lad born in Rodborough parish.
2: Also recorded at “The Railway” is John Davies (33), and his wife Frances (31) and their baby son John. He is recorded as Innkeeper and so seems likely to have been the landlord of the Railway Hotel
which is opposite the entrance to the station goods yard (see Street View). They had Annie Hanks an 18 year old general domestic servant to help out.
3, 4 & 5: In lodgings in nearby Watledge were Albert Liggins, a Railway Guard, born in Northampton, and Sydney Childs (19), a Railway Porter, born in the Forest of Dean. Living with his mother nearby was William Walkley (21), a Railway Clerk, born in Minchinhampton parish. Their neighbour was Arthur Curtes (37), a Railway Engineman, born in Highnam, and his wife Caroline (38) their 4 children, and his sister.
6: A stone’s throw across the stream from the railway goods yard (see Street View) boarding with the Purnell family at Number 4, Egypt, were John Watson (23), a Railway Fireman, born at Draycott in Staffordshire, and George Saunders (22), originally from Dorset and described as a “Steam Raiser (on Railway)”.The latter suggests that locomotives may have been kept overnight at Nailsworth which required their fires lit the following mornings.
7 & 8: From Egypt there is a footpath, about 200 yards in length, ascending the west side of the valley towards Forest Green. This takes one to the top of Spring Hill. (see Street View – the top of the footpath is to the right with Northfields Road going off away from the camera towards the left). From here Northfields Road runs parallel with the valley and along this lane, within half a mile of the station, lived John Smith (29, born Bath), Railway Guard, who’d married a local lass Ada (28), born in Woodchester, and their 3 young children. Just a few doors down was George Taylor (51 and born in Gloucester), a Railway Engine Driver, his wife Eliza (51, born in Monmouth) and their Dress Maker Daughter Florence (29). There may be a tendency for those of higher rank within the railway to have come from further afield having been moved following promotions, with those holding lower positions having originated more locally.
9: Perhaps 5 minutes walk south from the station up the incline of the Bath Road, the main route through Nailsworth and today’s A46, on the left are “Victoria Villas” (see Street View) with their central prominent first floor circular stone plaque denoting construction in 1887. These were thus new properties when William French (15, born Slimbridge), a Railway Clerk, was one of 5 boarders with widowed Louisa Smith (?67) and her niece Eva Neale (35).
10 & 11: Park Road runs down the side of Victoria Villas (see Street View) and after about 80 yards is Tanners Piece (today part of Park Road Crescent), were two railway families lived. Charles Bowker (27, born Stafford), a Railway Guard, was here with his wife Ada (26, born Oxford). Their 4 years old son Francis had been born in Birmingham suggesting that Charles’ job had brought them recently to the area. Their near neighbours were George Burcher (45, born Longhope, Gloucester), a Railway Foreman, and his wife Sarah (44). Their second son Ernest Burcher (15, born in Avening parish) was a Railway Clerk. He had been born locally but their first son Albert (18) had been born in Worcester suggesting that the railway had brought the family to the area soon afterwards. They had two other children Alfred (9) and Kate (8).
12: A little further up Bath Road Pelham Hynes (22, born at Langton St Andrews in Lincolnshire), is recorded as a Railway Clerk, lodging with Elizabeth Rich a 52 year old private schoolmistress and her nephew Percival Herbert (6). Two railwaymen lived a little further from the Nailsworth.
13: William Mauler (40, born within Horsley parish), described as a Railway Carrier, and wife Elizabeth (30, born Wotton-under-Edge) and their 6 children, all born locally, were at Wallow Green, and
14: (uncertain initials) Jellyman (20), a Railway Porter, and his wife of 23 were living with the in-laws on the High Street in Avening.
9 railway employees are recorded living at or near Woodchester Station. Four of these were Railway Platelayers. Their job would have been to inspect the track and located at Woodchester they were ideally placed to walk the line in either direction. They were close neighbours too. Below is a contemporary map showing the scatter of railwaymen’s residences. For google map click here. The numbers in the text refer to the number on the map. Living on the High Street were (1-4) (for Street View click here):
1: William Haster (39, born Bridgewater), a Railway Platelayer, and his wife Susan (35), with their one year old daughter Ethel, and a brother-in-law.
2: George White (43, born Avening parish),a Railway Platelayer, and his wife Caroline (46, born Tetbury).
3: William Horwood (50), a Railway Platelayer, and his wife Elizabeth (46), both of the parish, and their two sons, of whom Oliver (19) was a Railway Porter. His 18 year old brother Arthur is described as “Wood Sawyer” perhaps in Workman’s sawmill which was directly opposite Woodchester railway station on the other side of the main Stroud- Nailsworth road (A46). (click here for Street View – former station house to the left, sawmill to the right)
4: Arthur Smith (22, single, born Kingstanley), a “Railway Carman”.
5: Up the hill, overlooking the High Street, William Nearn (16, born Ryde, IOW), a Railway Clerk, was lodging on Laggar Lane.
6: A short walk down the hill towards Stroud, off Southfield Road Herbert Everiss (22, born Avening parish) a “Railway Labourer” was a lodger at Woodchester House Cottage.
7: In the direction of Nailsworth the High Street forks into Atcombe Road and Frogmarsh Lane. Henry ?Cratolly (39 and born in the parish), a Railway Platelayer, was resident with his brother William on Atcombe Road.
8: At Frogmarsh itself (see Street View) lived Anthony Grice (31) and his sister Martha (38). The census describes him as a “Stoker of Railway Engine”. The term specifically differentiates him from someone who might be involved with factory based steam engines. Martha is a “Lodging Home Keeper”. Interestingly they were both born in Derby which was the location of the headquarters of the Midland Railway. The Nailsworth branch was part of that railway company at this time (1891). One wonders whether Anthony’s job brought him to the valley and Martha came along with him and found her own role locally.
Rodborough Parish railwaymen
For those recorded in Rodborough parish it is more difficult to be sure whether they worked on the Nailsworth line or the GWR Gloucester-Swindon line which from Stroud runs up the adjacent Chalford valley. The parish includes the headland that separates the two valleys. Where the railway employee lives on the Nailsworth valley side of the hill, nearer to the Midland line, one might assume they worked on that line. Where they lived on the Stroud and Chalford valley side they were perhaps more likely to be associated with the GWR line; but one cannot be certain. The following lived near to the Nailsworth branch, between Woodchester and Dudbridge, and seem likely to have been associated with it:
Joseph Nash (19, b Trowbridge), a Railway Porter, is listed in the census under the “Fleece Inn” at Rooksmoor. This is probably the current “Old Fleece Inn” which is directly opposite Rooksmoor Mills behind which the Nailsworth line ran (see Street View).
Ralph Payne (31), a Railway Carman, his wife Rose (26), both born in Avening parish, and their 3 sons aged 1, 3 and 4, are recorded as resident at Kites Nest just beyond Lightpill in the direction of Stroud. This is also close to the Nailsworth line as it leaves the valley and turns west around the base of Selsley hill.
[There was a pub called the “Fleece” here, at the fork in the road, which was more recently renamed “The Kites Nest”, but this seems less likely to have been the Inn that was the home of Joseph Nash.]
George Perry (60, b locally), a Platelayer, and widower, lived at nearby Kings Court with his 3 teenage sons.
Alfred Watts (40, born Stroud), a “Railway Signalman”, lived on Bath Road with his wife Matlida (44) and 5 children aged 7 to 15. This “Bath Road” extends from Lightpill to Stroud but the sequence within the census suggests it is that part nearer to Lightpill (between its junctions with Dudbridge Road and Dudbridge Hill; see map link ). (click here for Street View of former Railway Inn location)
This was near to Dudbridge and there was certainly a need for a signalman at this location because of the branch line’s junction with its spur to Stroud Wallbridge.
On the same section of road lived Edwin Allen (?33, b Bath), a “Railway Station Master”, at Rose Cottages, with unmarried Housekeeper Elizabeth Brown (54, b South Cerney), and at Woodbine Villas William ? (34, b Doncaster), a Railway Goods Agent, with his wife (33, b Newent) and two daughters, Amelia (12) and Ada (10) both born at Twerton. Their immediate neighbours where the families of Edward Phillips (26, b Coventry), a Railway Collector and Canvasser, and William Maynard (28,b Kingstanley parish) a “Carman for Railway Company”.
Also on Bath Road, living with the in-laws was John Tanner (25, b Minchinhampton parish) a “Railway Stocker”.
Richard Norman (47, b Birmingham), a Railway Porter, his wife (46, ?Alburis, b Holwell, Oxfordshire) lived at Spillmans – close to the Stroud spur and Wallbridge station. Despite their distant origins they seem to have lived in the area for over 20 years as their 4 children, aged between 6 and 22, had all been born locally. However one cannot be sure that Richard worked for the Midland as a close neighbour, Thomas Lippett (30, b Cheltenham), living at Park Cottages is specifically described as a “GWR Signalman”. This is also true of Fredrick Poole (33, b Stroud), a Railway Clerk, resident at Field Terrace off Rodborough Hill.
Other railwaymen living in the Rodborough parish but living nearer to the GWR line and thus probably associated with it were:
Jacob Adams (37, b Horlsey), Railway Porter, Southfields, Stroud.
James Earle (21, b Trowbridge), Railway Porter, Court Bank, Butterow. George Ratcliffe (57, b Avening parish) Railway Labourer, Dark Lane.
Samuel Garland (23, b Tetbury), G W Railway Platelayer, Middle Lagger.
Railwaymen living in the Kings Stanley parish:
Ralph Greedy (27, b Newent), a Railway Goods Fireman; lived on Mill Lane, very close to Dudbridge station, with wife Doreas (25, b K-Stanley) and two daughters, born locally, aged 3, and 7 months. It is highly likely he worked on the Nailsworth line.
Selsley village (over looking Dudbridge). One cannot be certain which railway company the following worked for but their names are included for completeness.
William Philips (34, b Cam), a Railway Engine Driver. It seems that, along with his wife and children, he was visiting relatives at Nebsters Lane on the day of the census so the location of his own home is uncertain.
James Dangerfield (34, b Selsley), a Railway Labourer, was living with his parents at The Knapp.
William Shill (43, b Wells), a Railway Porter, was living at Scholl Square, Selsley with his wife Hannah (44, b Tuffley) and their 3 children aged 8, 13 and 17.
Also on School Square was Fred Dangerfield (20, b Selsley), a Railway Porter, living with his financially independent widowed mother Mary (56, b Woodchester), his younger brother Walter (14) and a boarder.
Kings Stanley village
There were several railway families on Shoot Lane, Kings Stanley. The listings are between Broad Street and Blakeford + Shoot Street which suggest a location near the current Shute Street. There has probably been a change in spelling over time or a census spelling error. They were:
George Restall (23), a Railway Ganger, living on Shoot Lane with wife Fanny (27) and son William (2).
Joseph Manns (34, b Morton Valence), a Railway Platelayer, with wife Sarah (32, b Kings Stanley) and their two daughters, Minnie (9) and Dorothy (1).
George Savage (26), a Railway Porter, his wife Elizabeth (22), his sister and two young children. Boarding with them was George Kingman (23) also a Railway Porter.
Two postcards from the early 20th century overlooking the Railway Hotel and Goods Yard. Some of the wagons are parked “MR” for Midland Railway – the owner of the line at this time.
Ryeford Station – letter concerning space at Saw Mill Sidings.
Dated 25th October 1934.
Woodchester Station – responses to 2 complaints from Arthurs Press Ltd.
All photographs shown here – copyright Chris Heaven
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