Notes: Notes: Fransham station was just 1 mile and 23 chains east of Dunham and 19 miles 59 chains from Lynn. It served a very small community in and around the hamlet of the same name (population in 1891 was 315) a few hundred yards to the south-east of the station.
The station was smaller than others on the Lynn & Dereham. At first Fransham had two platforms and a passing loop. A short platform lay directly in front of the station building on the up side. There was a longer platform on the down side. These features are shown on the 1884 OS 25inch map. By the time the 1905 map was surveyed the point leading to the loop at the west end had been removed and its line converted to a siding. At the west end of the loop a headshunt was added. The station building was on the up side and was grand if on a small scale! Its roof-line lay at right-angles to the line. A slate roof covered a building of knapped local flint with beige brick corners. A fine 3-facet bay window with intricate glazing panels and its own slate sub-roof looked out over the line. Entry to the building was through a nicely proportioned porch of beige brick on the east side. On the west side two ornate chimney stacks, one with a single flue the other with three, ended higher than the roof line. On the same side a flat-roofed portico provided some shelter for passengers. At some point a canopy was added but that burnt down in the 1960s as a result of a fire in the adjoining lamp shed. When opened there were two boarded crossings to gain access to the platform.
On 20 April 1886 Saxby & Farmer were contracted to provide a 15-lever signal box at the station. and on 1 March 1887 the contract for a footbridge was awarded to Messrs. Heavyside. The steel footbridge with open diamond-latticed sides that crossed both tracks at the west side of the level crossing. This was a feature, amongst the smaller stations on the line, that appears to be unique to Fransham. Why it was built is a mystery. It was taken down in 1936. As it had done at other stations, the Great Eastern Railway also provided a waiting room on the platform some time after 1884. At Fransham it was of red brick with an attractive arched tops over its door and single window: it sported a single chimney stack at the east end. Its roof was probably of red tiles and the roofline was parallel to the track. The building was located about mid-way on the platform.
Goods facilities were limited to one siding on the up side, shunted from the west. The station handled general goods but not livestock and was not provided with a crane. A headshunt went west and the siding ran through the station and across the road crossing. As a result there were two lines past the station building. The siding and headshunt were parallel to the running line. As the station didn't handle livestock there was no cattle dock nor was there an enclosed goods shed. on 15th July 1857, the 4.0 pm goods from Dereham ran over 17 turkeys at Fransham.
On 10 November 1922 abolition of Fransham signal box, saving £144 per year was approved. When this occurred is unclear as in 1923 the LNER noted Fransham still had a 15-lever Saxby & Farmer box. The 1928 OS map (surveyed in 1926) reproduced below shows the box had been demolished. After closure of the box the level crossing was subsequently protected by a ground frame and the siding unlocked by key attached to train staff issued, probably issued at Swaffham.
Hunt's Directory of East Norfolk 1850 shows Edgar Skeit as a 'railway clerk'. Company minutes for 29 July 1853 record the Fransham stationmaster as being a Mr. E. Street, however White's History, Gazetteer, and Directory, of Norfolk 1854 lists Edgar Skeet (probably the same person) as being station master at Great Fransham, a role he carried out for 30 years. Other Station Masters include Mr Durrant in 1888, Alfred Page and Richard Jesse Read, both in 1896, William Thomas in 1900 and, later, Harry Youell. Thomas Newall had charge in 1908 and was still at Fransham at the close of the Great Eastern era in 1923. The LNER did not consider it necessary to have a Station Master at Fransham and placed the station under the management of Dunham’s incumbent.
Fransham was one of five stations on the Lynn & Dereham that had become request stops soon after opening. That was the case in 1866 when the timetable showed three trains in each direction at the station on weekdays and one on Sundays. Passengers wishing to board had to arrive five minutes before the scheduled departure time: to alight the guard had to be notified earlier in the journey. As at other stations, on Saturdays only, a train catering for Norwich market-goers and not shown in the tables called at Fransham, doing so a few minutes after 9.00am. Homeward-bound passengers were advised to travel on the 5.20pm from the city and change onto a waiting train at Dereham.
By 1882 several stations on the line had gained status and were no longer request stops. That was not the case at Fransham. Several trains passed without calling and five down trains would stop when requested to do so. Just one train, a mixed, made a definite stop and that was on Wednesday evening only at 9.15pm. On Mondays only a down mixed stopped on request at about 10.05pm. Towards Swaffham and Lynn passengers were offered just four trains, all calling upon request. There was no Sunday service.
In the early days of the LNER matters improved a little at Fransham when, in 1925, five down trains called. Six up trains stopped most days with one more on Saturday afternoons at 5.04pm. Mixed trains had disappeared from the tables. Again, there were no Sunday trains.
The poor goods facilities at the station reflected in the sparse service offered. The sample timetable to hand is for 1932 when the only up goods that would definitely stop at Fransham was the 12.50pm Norwich to Lynn. Running only on Saturdays it would be found at Fransham at 5.40pm. The 7.40am Dereham to Lynn goods would call on any weekday if there was traffic to be handled. Towards Dereham no goods trains made a regular stop. An 11.55am Class D from Lynn would stop if necessary at about 2.40pm: it did not run on Tuesdays and Saturdays. On Saturdays it left Lynn at 12.45pm and might call, if traffic was available, about 3.00pm.
Diesel Multiple Units took over all passenger workings from the beginning of the 1955 winter timetable. The line’s stations, including Fransham, saw a big increase in services: eleven up trains bound for Lynn stopped, one more ran only to Swaffham where a change for Lynn was offered. Thirteen down trains stopped: one came from Thetford via Watton. There was no Sunday service on the line. The improvement was not to last.
Despite BR’s modernisation attempts the end was signalled in Dr. Richard Beeching’s report The Reshaping of Britain’s Railways, published in March 1963. Closure of Norfolk’s branch lines began with some urgency. In addition services on the Lynn & Dereham were run down by closure of general goods facilities at intermediate stations. In August 1966 Fransham became a request stop once again, but now unstaffed as well. Closure notices were served in 1968 and the line, including Fransham’s little station, closed to passengers with effect from 9 September 1968, with the last trains running on Saturday 7 September.
Route map dawn by Alan Young. Tickets from Michael Stewart.
Additional source GER board minutes. Additional research by Darren Kitson.
Click here for a brief history of the Lynn & Dereham Railway
See other stations on the Lynn - Dereham line: Middleton Towers, East Winch, Pentney & Bilney, Narborough & Pentney, Swaffham, Sporle, Dunham, Wendling, Scarning & Dereham (EAR Station)