Today in Gosport’s Past:- on 7 February 1842, after over 6 months of delays & false starts, the railway line from Gosport to Fareham and Bishopstoke (Eastleigh) was officially opened.
Trains used the Gosport-Fareham railway line for the first time on 29 November 1841, although the scheduled date for the opening had been 26 July 1841, but that date had to be put back because of landslip problems on the line .I’ve been unable to discover whether there were any official opening celebrations on this date.
So on 29 November train services began, but more problems were occurring, not least of which was the tunnel at Fareham, which had to be dealt with quickly, and properly. And so, despite the line’s first trains running on this earlier (including a troop train from Winchester), essential work put an abrupt halt to matters, and the line was forced to close again after just four days.
The problem at Fareham tunnel was rectified during December and January, and the line was officially opened (again?) on 7 February 1842. I don’t think many are aware of just how important and significant our railway actually WAS in the 19th century.
I’ll attempt to explain this without boring the pants off everybody – here goes. On 11 May 1840, The London & Southampton Railway was able to run, for the first time, trains between London and Southampton – the first coastal destination in the south of England to be connected with the capital (other than to Greenwich on 24 December 1838, which was more or less IN London); Brighton wasn’t connected until 21 September 1841, and Dover wasn’t reached until 7 February 1844. Apart from Folkestone, which was on the Dover line, there was no other coastal town connected to London; even Portsmouth (via Guildford) wasn’t complete until 24 January 1859.
The branch line to Gosport (mooted as a connection to Portsmouth) was approved by an Act of Parliament as early as 1839, and was the very first branch line of The London & Southampton Railway, which, upon being granted approval for the Gosport line, immediately changed its name to The London & South Western Railway, so the Gosport line (from Bishopstoke – later Eastleigh) was actually the very first branch line of that company, which later operated all trains in & out of London Waterloo to destinations at Portsmouth, Bournemouth & Weymouth, Salisbury, Reading (Southern), Exeter , and various parts of Cornwall.
Despite the delays of 1841, the official opening date of the Gosport railway was still less than 8 months after the GWR London to Bristol line opened. Prince Albert travelled by train to Gosport on 8 October 1843, and Queen Victoria made her first train journey to Gosport on 14 October 1843, when she accompanied Louis Philippe back to France; Albert had greeted him on his arrival in Gosport. Permission was given to Prince Albert & Queen Victoria to extend the railway line from Gosport through the town’s defences to a new royal station in Royal Clarence Victualling Yard, opening on 13 September 1845.
The line from Fareham to Cosham opened on 1 September 1848, and extended to Portcreek junction to connect with Portsmouth on 1st October 1848. Even then, railway services to Porsmouth terminated at Portsmouth & Southsea station, as the extension to Portsmouth Harbour wasn’t completed until 1876. Gosport was years ahead of Portsmouth when the Gosport to Stokes Bay Pier service commenced on 16 April 1863, with direct steamer connections to the Isle of Wight, with an avoiding line opened on 15 June 1865, enabling trains from London Waterloo and Eastleigh to travel direct to Stokes Bay without the need for the engine to ‘run round’ at Gosport, saving considerable time – until 1876, passengers arriving at Portsmouth had to find their way from the town station to Clarence Pier, where the Isle of Wight (and other) steamer services operated from.
An intermediate station was opened on 15 June 1865 close to where The White Hart stands now (more or less where the telephone exchange is), initially named Stoke Road, soon changed to Gosport & Alverstoke, and renamed Gosport Road on 8 November 1866; this was for the use of passengers requiring to travel to/from Gosport town, which was now avoided by Stokes Bay trains.
Another intermediate station was opened at Brockhurst on 1 November 1865, the name being changed to Fort Brockhurst from 17 November 1893, largely to avoid travellers confusing the station with Brockenhurst, in the New Forest. A branch line from a bay platform at Fort Brockhurst to Lee-on-the-Solent was officially opened on 12 May 1894, with halts at Privett (renamed Gomer Halt to avoid confusion with Privett, on the newly-opened Meon Valley line (1903), and Browndown (situated where the Cherque Road now diverges from the Gosport Road), and another halt was opened at Elmore on 11 April 1910. The MoD railway system at Bedenham was constructed in 1913, and joined to the LSWR line at Holbrook. The line was extended from Bedenham to a new system in Priddy’s Hard in 1914.
On the original line, there were railway over-bridges at Redlands Lane and Newgate Lane (Fareham), and Wych Lane, with road bridges at Gregson Avenue (post-WW2) Brewers Lane, Tichborne Way (after 1940), Rowner Road, and Anns Hill, with level crossings at Military Road, Cambridge Road, and Lees Lane. There were signalboxes at the west end of Gosport station, and at Lees Lane, with a ground frame at Brockhurst. Gosport station had a substantial goods yard, with a number of small turntables installed for the use of wagons. There was a footbridge at the end of Queens Road, and one close to where Toronto Place is now, and at Lees Lane.
On the rest of the system (from 1863) there were viaducts at Workehouse Creek and Anglesey Viaduct (Stoke/Alver Creek), two bridges across the moat near Fort Road/Gilkicker, road bridges at Bury Road and Clayhall Road a rail over-bridge near Stokes Bay Pier, a tunnel through the ramparts to Clarence Yard, and footbridges at Daisy Lane and Gosport Road station.
Further level crossings were installed at Cambridge Road. Military Road/Gomer Lane, Browndown, Elmore, and Lee (all on the Lee branch), Frater Gates, Spring Garden Lane & Mumby Road (these two replaced an iron bridge across the moat after it was filled in), Weevil Lane, Little Anglesey Road, Crescent Road, and Fort Road; the MoD-only lines had level crossings at Elson Road/St Thomas’s Road, Grove Road, and Green Lane, with a rudimentary MoD crossing where Monks Walk is (the end of Ham Lane). There were also several foot crossings. A small loading dock with a gantry lift was built next to Fort Rowner, on the northwest side of Military Road, directly opposite Fort Brockhurst station.
Passenger service closure to Gosport was from 15 June 1953, goods services to Gosport & Clarence Yard ended from 6 January 1969; steamers stopped running from Stokes Bay Pier at the outbreak of WW1, and the Stokes Bay line closed from 30 October 1915; the last passenger service from Lee-on-Solent ran on 31 December 1930, and goods services on that line ended as from 30 September 1935. The last train ran from RNAD Priddy’s Hard to RNAD Bedenham on 14 January 1986, and the last use of the Gosport line was by a weedkilling train on 17 September 1989.