Monthly Archives: November 2023

Trijunct Station

Derby Midland Station (1978)
Derby Station (2016)

Derby railway station’s three-way junction forms a hinge in the national railway network, not as extensive or complex as Crewe or York, but pivotal on the north-east/south-west axis and the route from South Yorkshire to London.

The railway came to Derby because the town was chosen as the meeting point of three independent railways, the Midland Counties Railway between Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and Rugby (opened June 4th 1839), the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway (opened August 12th 1839) and the North Midland Railway between Derby, Chesterfield, Rotherham and Normanton (opened May 11th 1840).

Passenger services for these three companies were provided at the Trijunct Station (1839-41), owned by the North Midland, at Litchurch, just outside the Derby boundary, because the only available nearer site for a single station, at the Holmes, was prone to flooding and would have required a more complicated track layout.

In 1844 the three companies amalgamated to form the Midland Railway, which grew to become an important main-line railway with services to London, Manchester and Carlisle.

The original joint station had a single platform, 1,050 feet long, with terminal bays for trains to Birmingham southwards and for the Midland Counties trains that departed northwards and headed east towards Spondon. 

The equally long Italianate station building was designed by the North Midland Railway architect, Francis Thompson (1808-1895), behind which was a cast-iron train shed by Robert Stephenson (1803-1859). 

Both of these structures are long gone.  An island platform was installed in 1858, along with further offices and a porte-cochère on the street frontage, designed by the Midland Railway architect, John Holloway Sanders (1825-1884).  A second island platform, with a footbridge, followed in 1881.  The front buildings were largely replaced by Sanders’ successor, Charles Trubshaw (1840-1917) c1892.

Following extensive bomb damage in January 1941 which destroyed the train shed and the buildings on Platform 6, all three sets of platform buildings, together with the footbridge and main signal box, were replaced in 1952-54.

The signal box was decommissioned in 1969 when a modern power box was constructed south of the station, and the Victorian front buildings were demolished, despite objections from conservationists, in 1985. 

All that remains of these buildings is the clock and the carved coat of arms of the borough of Derby from the porte-cochère, incongruously located in the station car park.

The replacement building in red brick is uninspiring.  Behind it, the 1950s concrete was found to be weakening.  The concrete footbridge was replaced in 2005, and new platform buildings followed in 2007-2009.  An additional platform was added during 2018 along with comprehensive remodelling of track and signalling to improve freight and passenger flows and to future-proof the station for decades to come.

Peter Stanton, describing the complex construction and engineering that took place over seventy-nine days of service disruption in Rail Engineer (November 15th 2018), remarked that there was “very little heritage to concern designers who could have a free reign to produce the most modern facilities”. 

The original Trijunct Station has been remodelled so frequently – 1858, 1881, 1892, 1952-54, 2005, 2007-09, apart from being bombed in 1941 – that it’s now a 21st-century passenger station. 

But the modern trains gliding in and out of Derby follow the same tracks and routes as the early steam locos that trundled into the Trijunct Station in 1839-40.

Hogarth’s house

Hogarth’s House, Chiswick, London

William Hogarth (1697-1764) was exceptional.  In our day we have no-one quite like him.

He began his career as a commercial engraver, and began to produce images for sale that exposed social and moral evils in contemporary life, from ‘Emblematical Print on the South Sea Scheme’, published in 1724, to the great narrative series, A Harlot’s Progress (1732), A Rake’s Progress (1735), Marriage A-la-Mode (1743), Industry and Idleness (1747) and the pair Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751).

He was a humane and sensitive portrait-painter, among whose works are a picture of the philanthropist Captain Thomas Coram (1740), a lively study of a ‘The Shrimp Girl’ (1740-45), ‘David Garrick as Richard III’ (1745) and a self-portrait with his dog, Trump, ‘The Painter and his Pug’ (1745).

He maintained a home and studio in Leicester Square, then called Leicester Fields, and by 1749 he could afford to buy a country retreat on the edge of Old Chiswick where he lived with his wife, Jane, the daughter of the painter Sir James Thornhill.  He was buried in the churchyard of St Nicholas’, Chiswick, his monument inscribed by his friend, the actor David Garrick (1717-1779):

Farewell great Painter of Mankind

Who reach’d the noblest point of Art

Whose pictur’d Morals charm the Mind

And through the Eye correct the Heart.

Though the Hogarths were childless, they maintained a lively household of relatives, while William made himself a retreat, his “painting room”, over the coach-house at the end of the garden.  The property remained in the family until the death of his wife’s cousin, Mary Lewis, in 1808.

The house passed through a succession of owners until 1901, when Lieutenant-Colonel Robert William Shipway of Grove House, Chiswick bought it to prevent its demolition and opened it to visitors in 1904, showing examples of Hogarth’s works and replica furniture based on his illustrations.  He gave it to Middlesex County Council in 1909 and it remains in local-authority hands, latterly managed by the London Borough of Hounslow.  Entry is free and donations are welcomed:  Home – Hogarth’s House | London Borough of Hounslow (  It was damaged by a parachute mine in 1940 but restored and reopened in 1951.  During a later restoration in 2008-09 a fire caused repairable damage while the house was empty of its contents, and the site reopened to the public in 2011.

It’s a delightful retreat, a welcoming, intimate contrast to the hard, chilly splendours of Chiswick House up the road.  The rooms are elegant, yet modest enough for quiet conversation.

It has the same atmosphere of intimacy and grace as the Ladies of Llangollen’s Plas Newydd in north Wales.

The windows look out on the garden, which is bounded by a high brick wall which diminishes even the noise of modern traffic queueing to negotiate the dystopic road junction that carries the name Hogarth Roundabout.

In the mid-eighteenth century it must have been a haven for a busy, creative, sociable artist.

Polish Airmen’s Memorial, Bradley, North Yorkshire

Polish Airmen’s Memorial, Bradley, North Yorkshire

On the quiet towpath of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near the settlement of Low Bradley, south of Skipton, there is a memorial marking the site where a Wellington aircraft HZ251, flying from Skipton-on-Swale near Thirsk to Silloth in Cumbria, lost a wing and crashed into the canal embankment on September 23rd 1943.

Seven Polish airmen were killed instantly.  Five of them were the crew of another aircraft which had been grounded, stranding them away from their base.

The seven airmen were –

Flt Lt Jozef WOLNIK age 31 Navigator instructor

Flt Sgt Franciszek CIASTON age 27 pilot

Flt Sgt Wladyslaw OSTROWSKI age 27

Sgt Boleslaw Josef SWIECA age 28

Sgt Boleslaw RYCHEL age 21

Sgt Jan CZYZEWSKI age 23

Sgt Abram KAWENOCKI age 22

Five of them are buried at Fulford Cemetery, York.  Flt Lt Wolnik rests at Layton Cemetery in Blackpool, and Sgt Kawenocki lies in Long Lane Jewish Cemetery, Liverpool.

Among the local people who rushed to the scene was Jack Lockwood, one of three young mechanics repairing tractors for the West Riding War Agricultural Executive Committee, or “War Agg”.  He travelled past the site, near Winifred’s Café, every day by bus:  he noted how quickly the gruesome wreck was cleared away, but thought about the dead airmen twice a day on his way to and from work until in due course he joined the armed services:

These Polish airmen’s stories have been meticulously researched.  Jan Czyzewski had married in February 1943;  his son was born four weeks before he was killed.  Jozef Wolnik had been married only three weeks.  Details of all seven airmen are recorded at

A lifetime later, two local men, Peter Whitaker and Jim Hartley, successfully campaigned for the memorial to be built so this episode should not be forgotten.  It was unveiled by Jozef Wolnik’s widow, Mrs Josephine Stebbing MBE, on April 22nd 2007.

Those of us who didn’t live through those times may be tempted to visualise wartime fatalities as the direct result of enemy action, but war spreads its evil further.  These foreign airmen who had come to Britain to fight the Nazis lost their lives while routinely travelling back to base.  Their lives were cut short, and their loved ones’ futures irreparably damaged. 

They deserve to be remembered too.

Tram tracks revealed

Tram tracks, Fargate and Leopold Street, Sheffield (2023) © John Binns

When Sheffield City Council abandoned its first-generation tram system in the 1950s, most of the redundant trackwork was simply covered with tarmac and forgotten.  At that time there was no value in uprooting the rails for scrap.

Ever since, workmen digging holes in main roads across the city have been repeatedly confronted by heavy steel girders blocking their way.

There was a recent flurry of media interest in Sheffield when most of the delta junction which connected the tracks along Fargate, Pinstone Street and Leopold Street came to light in the course of alterations to the pedestrianised area around the Town Hall.

People queued up to take photographs of the rusting rails, and BBC Look North and the Sheffield Star ran features on this 63-year-old piece of urban archaeology. 

Interviewees were sorry to see the tracks cut up, and wondered why they couldn’t be preserved for their heritage value:  Calls to preserve heritage as historic Sheffield tram tracks torn out for Fargate development (

Actually, that’s already happened.  Tram tracks found in the course of pedestrianising The Moor at the start of the 1980s were included in the landscaping, with immediately recognisable planters representing the lower-deck fronts of two standard Sheffield double deckers:  Searching Picture Sheffield.  These have now vanished.

In Firth Park, when a roundabout was constructed in the 1950s at the bottom of Bellhouse Road and Sicey Avenue, the trams continued to run directly through the road junction for the few years that remained before buses took over.  The tram tracks still slice through the roundabout after six decades’ disuse.

Firth Park, Sheffield: roundabout and tram tracks (2023)

This isn’t simply a Sheffield eccentricity.  Stretches of recovered track, and often the associated stone setts, are preserved in such cities as Birmingham, Bristol and Chester.

The Fargate discovery is old news.  A history forum stream dated 2008-2011 reported numerous excavated tracks across the city:  Tram Tracks on the Moor – Sheffield Buses, Trams and Trains – Sheffield History – Sheffield Memories.

Sheffield was one of the last British cities to eliminate tram services, yet though you have to be pushing seventy years of age even to remember these tracks being used, the nostalgia for the city’s cream and blue four-wheelers is powerful and, it seems, inheritable by younger generations.

It’s tempting to ask why there can’t be tram-tracks in use along Fargate, Pinstone Street and The Moor, heading to the south of the city, now that city-centre bus services are diverted several hundred yards from the city’s pedestrian thoroughfares.