[Source: Alan Young]

Date opened: 27.6.1883
Location: In the grounds of Conishead Priory, reached by a ⅓-mile track leading eastwards from the Priory.
Company on opening: Furness Railway
Date closed to passengers: 6.3.1916
Date closed completely: 1.1.1917
Company on closing: Furness Railway
Present state:

Station building including former stationmaster’s house is extant but altered and extended and is called ‘South Lodge’.

County: Lancashire (Now Cumbria for administrative purposes)
OS Grid Ref: SD307760
Date of visit: July 2019

Notes: This location unexpectedly became the southern terminus of a railway that was envisaged to leave the Carnforth to Barrow-in-Furness line at Plumpton Junction, just east of Ulverston, and follow the south Furness coast to Barrow, so providing a gently graded line for the numerous heavily-loaded mineral trains that struggled with the steep gradients on the existing route. Eventually, only a 2-mile 30-chain line was authorised, with a station in the grounds of Conishead Priory 1 mile 58 chains south of the junction. This station was intended to serve a suburb of Ulverston, proposed in the 1870s and never built, but actually was to serve a new and fashionable hydropathic hotel (advertised as Conishead Priory Hydropathic Mansion). The Hydro opened circa 1880 and the station followed in June 1883.

It is difficult to establish exactly what name to give to the station. Different editions of Bradshaw render it as ‘Conishead Priory’, ‘Conishead (Priory)’ and ‘Conishead’; it is ‘Conishead Priory’ in the RCH Handbook of 1904; in the Furness Railway timetable of 1914, on the station nameboard, the illustrated FR ticket and Ordnance Survey maps  it is simply ‘Priory’.

At first the station was served by two return trains per day, but by 1895 one return journey was all that was provided.

August 1887 departures: Bradshaw does not state if the service is weekdays only
ULVERSTON                       11.30am    3.45pm            Journey time 12 minutes
CONISHEAD PRIORY        12.18pm    4.23pm

December 1895 departures: Bradshaw does not state if the service is weekdays only
ULVERSTON                       11.45am
CONISHEAD PRIORY        12.08pm

This service presumably enabled guests to arrive at the hydro in time for luncheon and carried others away after a leisurely breakfast.

Bradshaw April 1910 indicates that the Ulverston 11.55am and Conishead (Priory) 12.07pm departures are weekdays only.

For a station with such a meagre train service its building was of generous proportions: the Furness Railway knew that the first-class clientele of the Hydro and residents of the estate of exclusive villas would expect no less. The celebrated Lancaster architects’ firm of Paley and Austin provided many buildings of merit for the Furness Railway, and Conishead Priory is most likely to be another design from this practice. The buildings were placed west of the running lines and flanked by a single platform. They were constructed of bricks of contrasting colours with small sections rendered. The central portion under a pitched roof in line with the platform was the stationmaster’s house; this was a two-storey structure but with the upper storey of attic dimensions with full-size windows only beneath the main gables. The house presented a large gable standing forward and a small gabled attic to the forecourt. A single-storey wing extending north of the station house contained the booking office (within which the signal lever frame was located) and waiting rooms. The roof was swept forward over part of the platform to provide shelter. A gable extended towards the platform midway along this range, built of brick to dado height and timber above; this section contained the lever frame.  Facing the forecourt the door to the single-storey range was sheltered by a gabled porch. Upstairs the window openings were rectangular; on the ground floor most were wide segmental arches. A further single-storey wing extended south of the station house surmounted by double pitched roofs in line with the platform; this was brick-built but timber was used for the upper walls. Toilets were contained in this wing.

Two tracks were provided through Conishead Priory, but with only a single platform on the up line. A siding trailed from the north on the up side. There is no record of goods traffic being handled at the station, but the siding is thought to have been used for unloading coal for the Hydro’s gas works and it possibly could have accommodated carriages of wealthier clients.

By virtue of its location within the grounds of the Hydro and the infrequent trains it is highly unlikely that the station was used by any members of the general public.  Andrews (2010) notes that in one unspecified period of 18 weeks the line carried only 26 passengers. It is possible that some of these passengers joined or alighted at the intermediate station, North Lonsdale Crossing.

Conishead Priory was the first Furness Railway passenger branch to close when the train service was suspended on 6 March 1916; Bradshaw continued to show the service until June 1916. Formal closure took place on 1 January 1917, a date on which many of Britain’s quieter stations were closed to release staff for military service. Although some of these stations reopened after the end of the war, passenger trains were never reinstated on the Conishead Priory line. The Hydro closed in the 1920s, and its renaissance as a convalescent hotel for injured coal miners from County Durham depended on them travelling by train, but the Priory station did not reopen for their use; they used Ulverston station instead. Please see the Brief History for further details of the uses of the Priory and the Durham miners’ train service.

After Conishead Priory station closed one of the tracks northwards to North Lonsdale Crossing was removed for use elsewhere as sidings as part of the war effort, but double track was retained at the station, as shown by the OS plan of 1933. The remaining track south of North Lonsdale was used for waggon storage. The rails at Conishead Priory station were finally removed in 1952. The station remained more-or-less intact and in residential use. Today the building is still in use within the grounds of a Buddhist retreat and meditation centre and is named ‘South Lodge’. Although it has been substantially altered the building looks very smart and well maintained and is still recognisable as the old station. The position of the railway tracks can readily be discerned by the bridge abutments immediately south of the station site.

Ticket from Michael Stewart

See also North Lonsdale Crossing and

Brief History of the Bardsea Branch

Conishead Priory Station Gallery 1: 1890s -c1960

Photographs of Conishead Priory station when it was open are scarce. This view, looking north-east from the approach road, is believed to date from the 1890s and shows the full range of buildings. The stationmaster’s two-storey house is flanked to the left by the station office and waiting rooms and to the right by the toilet block. The design has something of an ‘Arts and Crafts’ appearance, with its varied colours of brick, use of timber and rendering and rustic gables. The buildings are believed to be the work of Paley & Austin, the celebrated Lancaster architectural practice noted for designing or altering many churches and stately homes in northern England and further afield, and this firm was responsible for Furness Railway structures including the excellent stations at Ulverston and Grange-over-Sands. Conishead Priory station was designed with care to appeal to the expected wealthy clientele who would alight here for the sumptuous Hydropathic Mansion in whose grounds it stood, and residents of nearby genteel villas (which were never built). The stationmaster dealt with a maximum of two mixed (passenger and goods) trains daily. He presumably oversaw the handling of coal in the siding destined for the Conishead Hydro’s gas plant and of any small goods brought in or dispatched by the mixed (goods and passenger) trains. His work life must have been leisurely; perhaps he was kept busy with family life, if they are the group assembled for this photograph.
Photo from the Cumbrian Railways Association Kerr collection

1913 1:2,500 OS map. The station stands in the grounds of the Conishead Priory Hydropathic Mansion. ‘Priory Station’ is named: in this and other editions of OS maps ‘Conishead’ seems not to have been given as part of the name. The single platform is west of the double track, and three elements are shown to form the station buildings, the central one being the stationmaster’s house. A siding is shown branching from the up line just north of the station which was probably installed to handle the coal for the Priory’s gas works and perhaps carriages of the Hydro’s richer clientele. The double-track railway reduces to a single track about 100yd south of the station, having crossed a bridge over a minor road; beyond this the embankment continues although it was never to carry a railway. A forecourt is shown which is likely to have been used by conveyances carrying passengers and/or their luggage between the station and the Priory Hydro, reached by the track leading westwards from the station. There is no signal box as such; the lever frame to operate the signals was within the station buildings.

1939 1:2,500 OS map. Trains ceased to run to Conishead Priory station in 1916 and the double-track line was singled between North Lonsdale Crossing and the Priory, although double track has been retained at the southern terminus. At this time the line is used only as a siding for waggons. The siding and signal posts have been removed. Although closed, the station continues to be named as if it were open, and even the 1: 2,500 map of 1970 identifies it as ‘Priory Station’.

The platform elevation of Conishead Priory station in 1955, looking west. By this time it had been closed to passengers for almost forty years and the tracks had been removed. A nameboard remains fixed to the wall of the stationmaster’s house, reading simply ‘Priory’; there was remarkable inconsistency in how the station’s name was rendered. The single-storey station buildings are to the right of the house. The roof is swept forward and supported on brackets to provide shelter on the platform. The timber section under a gable was the booking office which also contained the signal lever frame. To the left of the house is the toilet block. The house is in residential use.
Photo by Michael Andrews

Conishead Priory station c1960 looking north-west at the platform elevation. The stationmaster’s two-storey house is in residential use. Since the photo of 1955 the nameboard has been removed from the building. Trees and shrubs have invaded the former trackbed and are partly obscuring the single-storeyed station building to the right of the house, but one of the brackets supporting the roof over the platform is visible.
Photo by Alan Headech courtesy of the Cumbrian Railways Association

Conishead Priory station c1960, looking south-west at part of the platform elevation. This gabled timber section, with an attractive overhanging gable, was the station’s booking office. The signals were operated from a frame within the office. A clock, bereft of hands, is still in place above the office window. The brickwork to the right and on the gable of the stationmaster’s house (left, upper) is laid in contrasting coloured courses. Care was taken with the design to make the buildings attractive to the well-to-do clientele of the station.
Photo by Alan Headech courtesy of the Cumbrian Railways Association

Conishead Priory station c1960, looking west at part of the platform elevation. This gabled timber section was the station’s booking office. The signals were operated from a frame within the office. A clock, relieved of its hands, is still in place above the office window.
Photo by Alan Headech courtesy of the Cumbrian Railways Association

Conishead Priory station c1960, looking north-west. In the foreground is the former toilet block which, unlike at many stations, is completely under cover; the comforts of the first-class gentlemen passengers were clearly taken into account. The stationmaster’s house is to the right.
Photo by Alan Headech courtesy of the Cumbrian Railways Association

The remains of the buffer stop and the masonry of the loading bank at the southern end of the abandoned and overgrown siding at Conishead Priory station (c1960). Although the station did not officially handle goods, coal was brought here for the gas plant at Conishead Priory Hydropathic Hotel and small goods traffic, conveyed in the mixed (passenger and goods) trains will have been dealt with. Some wealthier passengers possibly travelled in private rail carriages which could have been stabled in this siding.
Photo by Alan Headech courtesy of the Cumbrian Railways Association

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Conishead Priory Station Gallery 2: c1960 - June 2019




[Source: Alan Young]

Last updated: Sunday, 01-Mar-2020 12:35:56 CET
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