This is the second of a number of extracts taken from the book Spalding in the Sixties and Seventies (1860 & 70’s) by F Ridlington.
Hand Gates at the Winsover Road Crossing
Spalding possessed no public water supply. The people relied upon rain water from the roofs, which they stored in tanks and cisterns, and in various ” town pumps” Hot spells and droughts, which seemed more frequent than nowadays, caused much inconvenience and sickness.
The cisterns failed first, and then the pumps. I like other boys, had many fatiguing tramps fetching water from some distant pump or pit. There was a pump with a trough attached in Bridge Street. Becoming a nuisance, it was removed.
When a public service became available the Spalding public were tardy in availing themselves of it. Those who possessed a supply of a sort were disinclined to pay a rate and incur the expense of an installation. New houses as a rule, had the public water laid on. But a good many of these consisted of a tap outside the back door instead of carrying it Into the house.
The primitiveness of signaling on the railways in the sixties is scarcely believable able to those familiar with the elaborate systems at present in vogue. I used to spend Saturday afternoons watching trains pass the Winsover road crossing. The gates were known as Glenn’s gates and I used to help Mr. Glenn to open and close them, being compensated by a short ride on one of them after the necessary momentum had been created.
Mr. Glenn’s duties were more than merely attending to the gates. He had to work the signals controlling the trains on a main and three branch lines. The present foot bridge and range of signals near the spot had not been erected. Near the gates was a platform with hand levers for working four sets of signals and four sets of points. There was no connection whatever between signal cabins and stations then, and Mr. Glenn had to rely upon the whistles of the approaching trains. The train from Peterborough announced its approach by one blast, that from March two. From Lynn three, and from Bourne four. He would sometimes fail to hear and count the whistles accurately and when this was the case he would pull down the wrong signal. The emergence of the engine to within sight and the repetition of the whistle disclosed the error, and Mr. Glenn would then restore the lowered signal and pull down the correct one. Another lever which Mr. Glenn had to work sounded a gong at the station to announce an approaching train.
An Important Episode.
The building of the line from Spalding to Lincoln in the early eighties was an important episode in local railway history. The Great Eastern Company projected a new railway from March, crossing Cowbit Wash to Spalding, thence to Lincoln and Doncaster, ultimately gaining access to York. The Bill was strongly opposed by the G. N. Company, and the committee decided on a compromise. There was to be a new railway from Spalding to Lincoln and this and the existing G. N. lines from March to Spalding and from Lincoln to Doncaster acquired and worked as a Joint undertaking by the two opposing companies. This new service was known as the G. N. & G. E. Joint Railways. When the two companies amalgamated in recent times, the arrangement ceased. The new lines brought Lincoln some ten miles nearer to Spalding.
On the opening of the line I and a brother walked to Pinchbeck Station and caught the first train to Spalding. l have still by me the ticket the first issued at Pinchbeck. The cost was twopence.
The early third class carriages had hard seats. And were dimly lighted at night by an oil lamp at the top of the partition, and had to serve two compartments. The only brakes were on the wheels of the engine tender and the guard’s van, and on approaching a station, the power was shut off nearly a mile away and speed reduced so gradually that much time was wasted. The carriages had loose couplings, and passengers were violently jolted by the starting or stopping of the trains. There were no express trains through Spalding, except a night mail.
Raid on Railway Refreshment Room.
I remember a tragi-comic incident at Spalding station in (I believe) the early ‘eighties. The G. N. Co. were then running cheap Sunday excursions to Skegness, and on one particular Sunday on the return train stopping at Spalding to take in water, there was a rush of rowdy passengers to the refreshment room, clamouring for food and drink. Discovering only a couple of helpless barmaids in the place and the absence of officials on the platforms, the visitors began to help themselves to whatever they could lay their hands on both food and drink. And even the crockery and glassware-of course, without paying. Having cleared the counters, the raiders hurried back to their seats and the journey was soon resumed.
Curiously. The engine men and guard had no knowledge of the happenings in the refreshment room until they reached King’s Cross. Arrangements were afterwards adopted to safeguard the refreshment room on Sundays with extra staff having to come on duty.
I imagine that not many of your readers are aware that the railway companies were the pioneers of our electric telegraph services. They installed telegraph apparatus for their own purposes and carried the wires on poles beside their lines. I remember the time when if you wanted to telegraph you took the message to the railway station and paid the fee to the clerk, and the message was duly despatched and delivered. I do not remember the year when the Post Office acquired this monopoly another early instance of State Socialism.
The Railway Station Club.
Down to comparatively recent times Spalding railway station was a kind of rendezvous of some of the inhabitants who had a good deal of time to kill. There were habituees who could be seen on the platforms regularly between mealtimes, sitting in the warm waiting rooms in the winter and on the shaded seats when the sun was hot. probably reading a newspaper or magazine borrowed from the bookstall. They just mooned about, watching trains discharge their human freight, or exchanging small talk with the other characters.
The station was also patronised by people who liked to chat with the genial John Harris for many years the popular manager of the bookstall and a well read man.I used to see some of the visitors taking up and perusing the contents of the stall without buying them and considered that they rather abused Mr. Harris’s good nature. The stall usually displayed pictures and contents bills which proved attractive.
In addition to the flaneurs. people used to make free use of station yards for various purposes, tethering horses. parking their vehicles, making assignations for transacting business, and as a thoroughfare to Stepping Stone Lane. They seemed to regard these premises as public property, and I must say that the company in the old days, allowed these privileges without demur. Boys used to spend a good deal of their leisure there. Spalding was one of the latest of the Important stations in the country to become ” closed”