A RAILWAY SERVED WHARF

THAT WAS NEVER BUILT


STUART MOYE


  When 150 people gathered on the 1st August 1856 at the George and Dragon in Buntingford they had in mind a railway from Buntingford to Ware. This was to run via the valley of the River Rib through Standon, Wadesmill then turning east into the Lea Valley to the town of Ware. This was not surprising as for many centuries the north to south route from Ware to Buntingford had been an important route for many centuries. However by the start of 1857 it was becoming clear that the determined nature of the opposition from Mr. Christopher Giles – Puller owner of the Youngsbury Estate near Wadesmill would force a deviation of the proposed line.

      New plans were therefore made for the line south of Standon to divert to the south east over the watershed to towards Hadham. The railway was then to follow the valley of the River Ash to eventually reach St. Margarets. This did not mean that the new route was without objectors. The Bill went before parliament with opposition from among others the River Lea Company. The concerns expressed by the river company focused on their perceived loss of traffic once the agricultural hinterland, north of the railway station at Ware, had direct access to rail transport. Up to that time much of the goods from that area had been brought by road to Ware and then had a choice between train and barge transport to London. The River Lea Company therefore insisted on a rail served wharf being constructed near to St Margarets station at the expense of the railway company and this was incorporated into the Act of Parliament.


The diagrammatic map shows the proposed plan for a railway served wharf

upstream of Stanstead Lock on the Broadwater section of the navigation


      It was difficult in those days for Railway Companies to fight off all the demands put forward by local interests who thought they had good reason to claim that a proposed new railway would be detrimental to their interests. A common strategy was to agree a compromise, which led to a clause in the Act of Parliament that appeased a particular objection. Once the Act of Parliament for the new railway had successfully been acquired then the railways sometimes dragged their feet on implementing what they had previously agreed to. The Ware Hadham and Buntingford Railway Act received its Royal Assent on the 12th July 1858.  Construction began towards the end of 1858 at the Buntingford end of the line so the matter of the railway served wharf at St. Margarets remained very much a matter for the future.


A modern view from Amwell Marsh Bridge looking towards Stanstead Lock just visible

 in the distance. The proposed barge lay-by and wharf would have been built just

 beyond the three boats moored in the foreground.



       As the line progressed the railway company realised that a further Act of Parliament was needed to enable further deviations and importantly the ability to seek financial help from the Eastern Counties Railway which operated the Hertford Branch. The Buntingford Line was only completed due to the financial support of the larger company. Even the Eastern Counties Railway had succumbed to amalgamation by the time the line opened on the 3rd July 1863. So it was the Great Eastern railway Company [GER] that provided the trains and operated the first services on behalf of the Buntingford Company. At that time many of the facilities along the branch had not yet been built so the River Lea Company  perhaps were not too concerned about their wharf. They were expecting progress once the railways financial difficulties were resolved. The GER took over the Buntingford Company on the 1st September 1868 and began to bring the branchline up to more acceptable standards. However there were no signs that there was any intention to build the rail served wharf alongside the River Lea.



A 1970s view of Amwell Marsh Bridge looking towards St. Margarets. This would have been the bridge that the two engineers saw when they carried out their site visit in 1869. The bridge was considerably narrower than the navigation indicating the subsequent widening of the channel since the bridge had been built.