There are two distinct railway lines that pass through Wolfhampcote, intersecting near the Old Vicarage. Both lines have been disused for some time, and have become a haven for wildlife.
London and North Western Railway (LNWR) – Daventry to Marton (1895-1963)
The LNWR made the decision to construct a new line in the 1880s which would connect Daventry to Weedon. This in turn would mean that Daventry would have access to the London and Birmingham railway which passed through the existing Weedon station.
The first phase of construction was a 4 mile branch line from Weedon to Daventry, which was opened on 1st March 1888. Two years later construction started on a 14 mile extension of this line which would carry on from Daventry to new stations at Braunston, Flecknoe, Napton & Stockton and Southam & Long Itchington, then joining the existing Rugby to Leamington line at Marton.
The new branch line was opened on 1st August 1895. This is the disused railway line that runs behind the church on its way to Flecknoe. In its heyday eleven trains would run each day both ways, there were also morning and afternoon trains for the children of Flecknoe to attend school at Leamington.
The London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) took over ownership of this railway line in 1923, followed by British Rail in 1948.
Train services were cut back during World War II and with the advent of buses and cars traffic on the railway dropped considerably. Flecknoe station, being the most remote was closed in 1952, with all passenger services stopped in 1958.
After a relatively short life of 68 years the line was closed between Weedon and Southam in 1963. This included the line behind the church where the tracks were completely lifted in 1964.
Great Central Main Line (London Extension) Sheffield to London (1899-1966)
The Great Central Main Line, which was constructed from 1894 to 1899 by the Great Central Railway company, was built as an extension to the existing main line from Manchester which travelled though Sheffield and on to Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire. The intention was to create a high speed passenger service from the North and East Midlands directly to London. Once in service however, it became much more important for carrying freight and goods rather than passengers.
For more information on the Great Central Line please visit the Railway Archive which includes photographs, route maps and stories.
In the 1960s the line came under review in the Beeching Axe report (The Reshaping of British Railways). This report was part of a plan by Dr Richard Beeching (1913-1985), then Chairman of British Railways, to reduce the number of railways that were not efficient enough and thus save costs.
The Beeching report identified stations and lines with fewer passengers and recommended certain lines should close. It was considered that the existing West Coast Main Line and East Cost Main Line served the areas that the Great Central Main Line did. The closure of the Great Central Railway line was the largest single closure of the Beeching Axe and the most controversial of the 4,000 route miles that were eventually closed in Britain.
The Great Central line which runs through Wolfhampcote – the Rugby to Aylesbury section – was closed in 1966.
On a walk from Wolfhampcote church to Flecknoe you will pass through where a bridge for the Great Central railway used to stand, near the entrance to the Old Vicarage. This bridge was built in 1895, as can be seen by one of the bricks which is still there today.
If walking from Wolfhampcote to Sawbridge you will pass over the bridge that can be seen in the photo above. The bridge is now filled in, but used to go over the railway line.
Note: Stephen Dawson mentions the two railway lines as the ‘Big’ and ‘Little’ lines; the Little Line being the Weedon to Leamington Spa line with one track, and the Big Line as the Manchester to Marylebone with a double track.