|Abstract||The Railway first came to Essex on the 18th June 1839 inaugurated
by the "Eastern Counties Railway" first London to Norwich.
Prior to that date, conveyance of passenger and goods traffic
had to be effected by horse drawn coaches or carts,
a long and tedious journey dependant on where one wished to go.
In 1963 a few years before he passed away, I undertook to
drive by motor car the late Mr. James Colling over the
route he followed with his father the late Mr Richard Collins
for some sixty years, when persons living in Tollesbury or
hereabouts wished to travel to London. James or "Joyful"
as he was popularly known had been the licensee of the
"Victoria" Inn for some fifty yaars, and he told me that the
"London job usually took three days with an overnight stop at
Brentwood and cost five golden sovereigns."
At the turn of the century hay cost £3 per ton, and it was
necessary to take two trusses of hay for the journey.
En route joining the A12 at Kelvedon one could imagine the
scene when there were but few motor cars and the hostelries
on the main road advertised "good stabling".
Quite a number of the coaching "Inns" had been rebuilt and
in most cases we found that the traditional stabling of old
had been converted into garages. We made scheduled stops
at the "Eagle" and Saracens' Head, Chelmsford, and the
"Golden Fleece", Brentwood.
Our journey finished at the "Bow Bells", Bow, of which
Mr Ted Tugwell, who was proud of his Tollesbury forbears, was the
landlord. Our journey had taken a few hours as opposed to a
day and a half in the days of old. For James it had been
a most nostalgic trip over a much improved A12 road which he
had traversed many times in horse drawn conveyances and
since 1919 in his T Model Ford tourer taxi being one of
the first such vehicles in Tollesbury.
In 1862 the Great Eastern Railway came into being,
absorbing the Eastern Counties Railway and off-shoots
of that undertaking in the eastern counties.
Even before the passing of the Light Railways Act of
1896 strong representations had been made for the
construction of connecting railway links with the main
London to Norwich line, and one of the prime movers in
this area was Sir William Abdy, who was ably supported by
Mr. Wilkin of Tiptree, Dr. J.H. Salter of D'Arcy and
Messrs. Thomas H. Binney and George H. Wombwell of Tollesbury,
and many of the landowners and of the district.
In 1902 after some few years of negotiations, a light
single track railway was constructed for the Great
Eastern Railway from Kelvedon low level to Tollesbury,
with intermediate stations and halts at Feering Halt,
Inworth, Tiptree, Tolleshunt Knights, Tolleshunt D'Arcy,
Guisnes Court (Halt) and Tollesbury. The line was
further extended in 1904 to the south, across the fields
and marshland to Mell, where a wooden pier, ¼ mile in
length was thrust out into the River Blackwater.
The railway was opened on the 1st October 1904, which
was a Gala Day for the villages, as passengers were
conveyed free in open trucks drawn by the contractors'
steam engine "Fashoda". The line extension and Pier were
finished in 1907, the Pier Station was situated close by the
sea-wall and comprised a wooden waiting room, bucket toilet
and obsolete railway carriage to serve as freight office
and lamp oil store. Lighted oil lamps, two red horizontal
lights, had to be displayed on a mast at the pier-head as a
navigational warning to boats.
It was hoped that the Pier would attract yachting and
passenger traffic, and that the area of marshland adjoining
would be developed.
The opening of the Pier on 18th May 1907 attracted
much local attention the event was supported by the
attendance of many large yachts, including the passenger
steamer "Southern Cross" and the G.E.R. Co's yacht
"Wyvern" which Was piloted by Capt. William Frost of
Before 1904 Tollesbury fishermen had to land their catches
at Harwich or Brightlingsea for despatch to the markets.
At Harwich the fishermen had the assistamce of a friendly
railway official to facilitate their despatches, and they
were somewhat saddened when told that he was being moved,
but were most surprised when they found that their old
friend had been appointed to take charge at Tollesbury
Station. He was Mr. Jack Gallant who served for so many
years at Tollesbury until his retirement.
The train usually comprised two passenger carriages combined
with guard's van and quite often a freight van for shunting
off at a station en route, and was drawn by one of the G.E.R.
classic tank engines. In course of time the train became
known as the "Crab and Winkle", this was no reflection on
its speed, but was attributed to the amount of shellfish
usually conveyed in those days. Mr Jack Gallant told me
that his record despatch in one day was 120,000 oysters,
firsts and seconds, from ToLLesbury. Prior to the 1st
World War, Tollesbury became quite a holiday centre,
there was a deal of private residential accommodation,
various troops of boys' organisations set up tented
facilities for their own use on the Little Marsh, and
quite a number of yacht owners who had assisted their
skippers in the purchase of houses visited the village to
inspect their craft. One could purchase coloured comic
postcards depicting the "Crab and Winkle" and the
passengers picking wild flowers en route.
Are there any such cards now in existence ?
No tickets were issued at Tollesbury or the intermediate
stations, fares were collected and tickets issued en
route by the guard, who was able to traverse the length
of the train by central gangways running up inside each
passenger coach. The smokers' compartment adjoined the
guard's van, lighting of inside the coaches was by gas
contained in cylinders under the coaches. On the
engine itself and on the stations there were oil lamps.
Fares only amounted to a few pence, Tollesbury to
Kelvedon 9d (4p) for a single journey. Anyone wishing
to travel on to London or elswwhere had to obtain their
ticket, at the Kelvedon booking office on the main line.
The guards most popularly known were Messrs. Peter Warne
and Maurice Balls. In the days before the G.E.R. was
amalgamated with the L.N.E.R., these two gentlemen, were
immaculately clothed in blue serge frock coats
with silver buttons depicting the GER crest of a "Wyvern's
wing", and a peaked cap with silver braid round the peak.
Station staff were similarly smartly dressed, but the
quality of the clothing deteriorated after the amalgamation.
Nothing untoward happened on the railway during its period
of activity. There were the odd disrailments in shunting
operations, but no fatality other than the one tragic
accident to a local boy during the construction of the
line to the Pier.
Trains left Tollesbury at 8.25 a.m., 11.40 a.m., 2 p.m.
and 6.30 p.m. to connect with the London or Norwich
bound trains on week-days, these times were adjusted
from time to time. At Tollesbury a member of the railway
staff always tried to make sure that no intending passenger
was coming down the road. Owing to decline in traffic
the Pier was closed in 1921, breached in 1940, and
demolished after the 2nd World far. Tollesbury
station was finally close down on 7th May 1951.
On its last journey the engine had chalked on its side
"Born 1904 - died 1951 - There be many a poor soul have