Notes: Middleton station was the first stopping place on the route from Lynn to Swaffham and Dereham. At this point the line lay roughly north-west to south-east for trains going towards Dereham. The village of Middleton is on the A47 road more than a mile to the south of the station that bore its name. A small hamlet known as Tower End is nearer and accounts for the compound name later adopted for the station.
The station building is on the north (down) side of the single line beside a level crossing over the Middleton to Leziate lane. The station building, as originally built, was in an ornate style. A slate roof, its line at right-angles to the rails, covered a building of two contrasting shades, one of beige brick and the other of knapped local flint with a flat facet as its facing. The platform side boasted a canopy for shelter and a further three-face bay window. Above the canopy a window looked southwards from a first-floor room built into the roof. By the 1950s the canopy on the main station building was gone and the building rendered. An ornate chimney-stack topped it all off. A low platform for passengers was provided in front of the building: It is difficult to ascertain its original length because the platform was raised in 1882 and may have been extended. Part of the original platform was retained in front of the booking office door to avoid having to raise the door; there was a ramp up to the new level. On the higher platform a substantial waiting room, its roof-line parallel with the track, was built just east of the original building. The new provision included a canopy over the platform and heating. GER board board minutes only refer to a ladies' waiting room so it is assumed there was a general waiting room in the main building. Both the raised platform and waiting room were authorised on 21 February 1882 and completed a few weeks later. A 21 lever Stevens signal box was provided on the west side of the level crossing on the down side.
On 28 July 1852 Mr Smith of Ouse Bridge was appointed to take charge of Middleton and Mr Reeson of Middleton to take charge of Ouse Bridge. Ouse Bridge was a station on the Ely - Lynn line. The swap may have been for the convenience of Smith and Reeson's families.
Goods facilities at the station itself were limited in extent. Loading accommodation for horses was authorised on 6 February 1883. A siding with a headshunt, shunted from the east, led to a short bay behind the through platform. However, close by there was, from soon after opening, and remains, a high volume freight business in top-grade silica sand used in glass making. On 18 Jan 1881 a siding for a Mr Bagge was authorised for coal and sand traffic. This would appear to be the beginning of regular sand traffic from Middleton. It is assumed the Bagge referred to in the GER Minutes was originally William Bagge Snr and the matter was then taken over by, presumably, his second son the 3rd Baronet. The siding and headshunt, accessed by a facing point for eastbound trains, lay to the west of the level crossing. A separate mineral railway, possibly two-foot gauge, led northwards to a sandpit at Old Carr, no more than a quarter-mile away. By Edwardian times in the early 1900s this railway had gone, its earthworks extant. Old Carr sandpit was turned over to forestry. The 1904 Railway Clearing House handbook of stations states that although the station could handle horse boxes and prize cattle it did not handle general livestock. Some time after this date, cattle pens were provided alongside the siding to the west of the station.
East of the station new extractive activity had begun with 520 acres now being worked. On 1 March 1904 a siding for J Boam & Sons for sand traffic was approved. Boam is the more familiar name associated with Middleton sand traffic, whereas Bagge seems to have been more of a general merchant who happened to also deal with sand. On 4 April 1905 expenditure on additional goods yard accommodation was approved. This was likely to be in connection with Boam's sand traffic. Boam's long siding, accessed from the west, led to a new line heading north, operated by a reversal in the siding. In March 1907 a 20 ton weighbridge was provided. Sand traffic was stated in the same entry in the minutes as being 3000 wagons annually but it is not clear if this figure was actual or projected. On the 1905 OS Map this line stops short of Holt Carr, only a few hundred yards from the main line. On the 1928 map its purpose is clearer. A sizeable industrial plant was built where the line had terminated in 1905. Beyond it, further north, networks of standard gauge railway and two-foot gauge tramway lines extended past an historic estate at Holt House and led into large areas of sand-pits to the south of the hamlet known as Brow-of-theHill. Examination of modern maps and online resources shows a massively expanded series of pits and a large array of industrial buildings. The internal railway and tramway networks have gone, replaced by conveyor belts.
Middleton was one of five intermediate stations on the Lynn & Dereham that, soon after opening, had become request stops. The timetable for 1866, just twenty years into the line’s existence, offered only four trains in each direction, the first towards Lynn as late as 10.55am: passengers for Dereham found a 9.08am departure as their first option. The station was not an ’unstaffed halt’ but passengers wishing to travel had to arrive five minutes before the advertised time. Those wishing to leave the train had to inform the guard earlier in the journey. On Saturdays an extra train ran to Norwich for its market, leaving Middleton at 7.58am: returning market-goers caught the 5.20pm from Norwich and changed at Dereham. There was no equivalent help to reach the Lynn Tuesday Market.
On 27 April 1871 a special cattle train ran through level crossing gates. The train was running from Trowse - Lynn and the incident occurred at 9.30pm after the signalman had "gone off duty following long hours". One would assume the signalman had not been made aware of the cattle special as no action was recorded against him
Only Middleton and Fransham stations remained as request stops in the 1882 tables. A train shortly after 7am went to Swaffham and Thetford, the Norwich market train appeared in the columns and five further down trains would stop on request; a sixth, a mixed train, called on Monday evenings. In the up direction travellers from other stations going to Lynn’s Tuesday market had a train provided for them but it did not call at Middleton. Except on Tuesdays, a mixed made a definite stop at 9.59am. Four further trains offered a request stop, the last at
9.15pm. One train ran each way on Sundays. The station was renamed Middleton Towers on 1 November 1924.
In the London and North Eastern Railway’s (LNER) 1925 tables request stops were no more. Six down trains spread between 7.22am and 9.01pm called at Middleton Towers. The first up train left at 8.15am followed by five more, the last at 8.27pm. One additional train was run on Saturdays, calling at Middleton Towers at 5.45pm. ‘Market’ trains were not apparent at this date and no Sunday service was offered. At this time Middleton Towers station was jointly supervised along with East Winch station: in 1925 this task fell to one George Taylor.
The 1932 Working Time Table shows that Middleton Towers hosted only one down goods train, and that just on Saturdays when it called only to detach empty wagons if required to do so. However up goods trains stopped there three times each weekday, the better service possibly in connection with the silica sand trade. It does suggest that the one down train might often have been well loaded with empty wagons or additional ‘down empties’ trains ran out with the timetable.
Steam passenger work ended with the British Railways Eastern Region summer timetable in
1955. The engine sheds at Swaffham and Dereham closed to steam and new Metropolitan Cammell and BR-built Derby DMUs were allocated to the route. The service was increased to a level without precedent with twelve weekday trains calling at Middleton Towers in each direction: two more called on Saturdays. One train each day ran to and from the Thetford branch. There were no Sunday trains between Dereham and Lynn.
Despite BR’s modernisation attempts the end was signalled in Dr. Richard Beeching’s report TheReshaping of Britain’s Railways, published in March 1963 and closure of Norfolk’s branch lines began with some urgency. Additionally services on the Lynn & Dereham were run down by closure of general goods facilities at intermediate stations. In August 1966 Middleton Towers became an unstaffed halt. Closure notices were served in 1968 and the line, including Middleton Towers station, closed to passengers with effect from 9 September 1968, with the last trains running on Saturday 7 September.
In 1968 run-round facilities were provided following the closure of the line between Middleton Towers and Dereham. On 23 March 1981 British Industrial sand took over Boam's siding. Within a few years the siding was replaced by a conveyor which is still in use today.
Route map dawn by Alan Young. Tickets from Michael Stewart. Bradshaw from Nick Catford.
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: East Winch, Pentney & Bilney, Narborough & Pentney, Swaffham, Sporle, Dunham, Fransham, Wendling, Scarning & Dereham (EAR Station)