ABOUT THIS PAGE
Page Last Updated: 13/08/23
This page follows the history of Fleet train station from 1847 when it was first established, to today.
The station occupies the address below:
Fleet Railway Station, Station Approach, Fleet, Hampshire. GU51 3QY
A railway station is a truly unique location that attracts people from every walk of life. From train enthusiasts to travellers, every person that passes through the station has their own story to tell – some expected, some not so much…and some you will never know.
This history of Fleet Railway Station encompasses the very best and the very worst of those stories. From simple facts, key dates and the construction of the station to horror headlines, moments in history and fond personal memories.
I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who contributed to the article, with special mentions to Barbara Munday, Brian Carr, Roderick Pierce and Barbara Shuttleworth for putting up with my endless questions…and of course to the late great Percy Vickery for all his hard work and research.
– Tina x
(P.S. – It’s rather huge so grab yourself a really big cuppa and a soft chair before you start!)
Fleet Railway…the early days…are you sitting comfortably? then we’ll begin…
1836 – 1843 (EARLY BEGINNINGS)
On the 7th April 1836 the London and Southampton Railway Company purchased land to pursue their dreams of a new railway…and by 1838 The London and South Western Railway (LSWR/L&SWR) had been formed. The railway company ran a network that extended to Dorchester and Weymouth, to Salisbury, Exeter and Plymouth as well as Padstow Ilfracombe and Bude. It developed a network of routes in Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire, including Portsmouth and Reading.
By 1843 the railway system in the local surrounding area was being extended but Fleet would still have to wait a bit longer until it got a station of its own. At that time though it did have a large siding/goods yard that was situated near Elvetham Road and dealt with building supplies and coal. The name H. Blacknell Ironmongers can be seen on the carriages below, the company had many of their horses and carts active on the site emptying and filling trucks.
Below: Fleet sidings/goods yard by Elvetham Road. Credit: Percy Vickery.
1847 (FLEET POND STATION BUILT)
Pressure from local influential landowners eventually prompted the opening of Fleet’s first station and booking office which were established in May 1847 and were originally built on the west side of the Minley Road bridge/station bridge. At that time the station was named “Fleet Pond/Fleetpond”, due to its close proximity with the pond, which was also a major attraction for London travellers.
In the opening year or so, there was only one stopping train am and pm in each direction. Pressure again from the local gentry demanded a more frequent service.
Trains were mixed passenger and goods and on demand a flat track and horse box would be attached to accommodate his lordship’s carriage and horses, coachmen, footmen, grooms etc., while he and his family enjoyed a first class compartment.
– Murray Hughes
The rail company had originally bought the land around the railway to help encourage visitors by promoting the pond as a tourist destination. In 1854 though, the War Department purchased Fleet Pond to use as a training ground for the Crimea War effort.
By 1858, there was so little traffic coming into the station that there was talk of closing it, although thankfully that never happened.
The map below can be dated between 1854 (when the war department bought the land to 1903, as the station changed location in 1904). You can see the original name of Fleet Pond Station.
Below: Map showing Fleet Pond Station. Credit: Fleet Pond Society.
Unfortunately as the railway grew, so did the risk of potential accidents and on 22nd November 1859 one such event occurred, when an express train collided with a goods train in heavy fog. The collision happened as the train was being shunted out of the path of the oncoming express but the signals weren’t seen by the train driver who ploughed straight through them, leaving passengers shaken and shocked. Fortunately there was no loss of life. The Station Master at the time was 36 year old Frederick Warner, the first known person to hold the position at Fleet.
Below: A newspaper article from 1859.
The Board of Trade accident inspector’s report cleared the Station Master of any culpability and blamed the staff at Farnborough as well as the crews of both trains for the accident. The Board of Directors were blamed for the type of signals in use and the lack of telegraphic communication. This was much to the indignation of the management who appeared to take the decision out on Station Master Warner by not giving him any pay rises for the rest of his time in service to the railway. They eventually dismissed him in 1868, citing missing funds despite both a lack of proof and many letters demanding that he should be reinstated.
1869 (STATION RENAMED)
In July 1869 the station was officially renamed Fleet Station, although local residents as well as the newspapers would still use the “Fleet Pond” identity for some years to come.
1892 – 1895 (THE GROWTH OF THE RAILWAY)
By now the popularity of the railway station was increasing with 11,800 tickets being issued in the previous nine months alone and in 1892 work commenced to build a passenger bridge over the line, which was stated as being “needed for the safety of the travelling public“.
In the same year an application was received from a Mr. E. U. Bullen for a proposed new hotel directly opposite the station, as he saw an opportunity to provide accommodation for the travelling public. Today that hotel still exists and is known as the Station Pub.
Below: Newspaper clippings from 1892 showing the new bridge plans and hotel application, as well as the original plans for the Station Hotel.
Below: An 1894 timetable to London showing Fleet Station. Credit: Bernard Potter.
The image and map below show the original Fleet Station (its new name) as it was in 1895 (on the opposite/west side of the Minley Road bridge). You can also see the Station Hotel on the map, which by now had been built opposite the railway site as planned. As the railway became busier visitors increased and Fleet became a popular destination for travellers from London. Fleet Pond was certainly a big attraction to those escaping the busy city for day trips but eventually the quieter life proved to be irresistible and the population of the town began to grow as large houses were built nearby and Londoners began to settle in the area.
Below: Photo and map showing the old station in its original position on the west side of the station bridge in 1895. Note it only has two tracks.
1896 – 1897 (ON THE MOVE)
The popularity of the station led to further plans for growth although this was restricted in its current position. Therefore in 1897 the London and South Western Railway purchased land from the War Department with the view to building a new train station on the east side of the Minley Road bridge that would include a goods yard and wider line. This would be the position of the station we know today.
Below: A 1911 map showing the new (and current) location of Fleet railway station.
1897 – 1899 (HEADLINE HIGHS AND LOWS)
With a new bigger station and increased growth in the local population, Fleet Station started to make more regular appearances in the media. From good to bad, Fleet was now firmly on the map and there was no going back.
In July 1897, headlines screamed of a “Lunatic at Large!”, adding an illustration reminiscent of the days of Jack the Ripper (just 9 years earlier). Ladies fainted and passengers were subject to a scene of “wild excitement”, as “a lunatic with a razor” arrived at Fleet Railway Station. One can imagine how very different that story would be if written today!
Below: Newspaper article from 1897 – Lunatic at Large with a Razor!
But not all of the headlines were as notable, with news of a far gentler story in July 1899. The stark contrast of emotions from the previous article perhaps sums up the unpredictable twists and turns of railway life.
Below: A gentler side of railway life, newspaper article from 1899.
October 1899 saw the outbreak of the Second Boer War. Troops are shown below gathering at Fleet Station to travel into battle, many of whom would never return home. The war was to last until May 1902. 22,000 British soldiers lost their lives during the conflict with an overall casualty count of around 75,000 soldiers and civilians.
1900 – 1910
1900 – 1904 (FULL STEAM AHEAD)
Although growing with each passing year, the Fleet Station of 1900 was quite different to the one we know today, in fact completion of the new station didn’t happen until 1904 when a more familiar layout could be seen.
In 1902 the new station build was well underway including installation of electro-pneumatic signalling to help improve the punctuality of the trains. A pump house was built west of the station bridge with a steam engine that supplied compressed air to the system.
Below: The track layout at Fleet 1900. Credit: Bernard Potter.
Below: Fleet Station c1901 under construction.
Below: The track layout at Fleet 1904. Credit: Bernard Potter.
By 1904 the population of Fleet had grown to about 2000, the new railway station was complete and demolition of the old site had already begun. The number of tracks had increased from two to four (this became known as “the quadrupling”) and the down platform was also completed.
Passenger care at the time was an important consideration with a covered area being built over both platforms (unfortunately for those travelling to and from the station this was removed in later years). A goods yard was built between Fleet Pond and the new station and finally on Sunday 13th March, after many delays, the railway staff made the transition to their new workplace. A new era of railway travel in Fleet had begun.
Below: The move to a new Fleet Station was finally completed in March 1904.
1904 – 1906 (ADVANCEMENTS AND ADVERSITY)
The next few years was to be a busy time for Fleet with a number of troubles to contend with. It also saw dissension in the (taxi) ranks as competition for fares became fiercer, leading to blocked roads and a rather disgruntled policeman.
Below: The new four track station at Fleet c1905.
In June 1905 there was a near miss on the railway, as an express train approaching Fleet came off the rails along with two coaches. Thankfully the brakes were on by that time, avoiding what could have been a potentially nasty accident. As it was the passengers, left shaken by the event, were unharmed and the station only suffered from a delay to the service. It was not clear what the cause of the accident was.
Below: Two newspaper articles from June 1905, showing the taxi cab drivers debacle and the express train accident.
The year 1906 saw another expansion for the station as the town grew rapidly around it. At the annual Tradesmen’s Association dinner that year, members congratulated themselves on the success of Fleet after its separation from the old parish of Crondall. Mr. H. Blacknell (owner of the ironmongers carriages seen at the Fleet goods sidings in 1843 above), joined other local tradesmen in the meeting where he discussed the railway. Mr. Parsons, another local businessman stated that Fleet had been advertised in the Railway Guide that year which would see 50,000 copies distributed and that once published, people would see Fleet advertised as “a healthy place amongst heather and pines”, inducing them to visit and perhaps settle down in the town. They also stated satisfaction at the “pretty” railway but said they wanted more, possibly in the form of a weighbridge and crane, which would benefit the traders of Fleet and other local parishes.
1908 (DISASTER STRIKES)
Fleet Station is shown below in 1908, just a few years after it had been rebuilt and increased from two tracks to four. Coal trucks were left for the pump house which provided air for the electro-pneumatic signal system. At the time, four trains a day brought in full coal trucks (and returned with empty ones) from the sidings, which today is the car park. Pearson’s Estate Sales original office was situated on the left between the steps leading up to Minley Road and the railway boundary fence.
Along with several other companies, the London and South Western Railway employed a broadly Arts and Crafts style on its stations from the 1880s to the early twentieth century. Fleet on the main line to Southampton was rebuilt in 1904 following quadrupling of the line.
The new building seen below c1908, had all the hallmarks of the style: steeply pitched tiled roofs, half-hipped gables, asymmetrical elevations with windows cutting through the eaves, battered chimneys and the most dominant architectural motif, the cupola over the louvered ventilator for the gents lavatories. Wall surfaces were a combination of timber framing, boarding and pebble dash and the rather busy appearance of the building was heightened by the porte-cochère.
– John Alsop Collection
Below: Fleet Station pictured in 1908.
Disaster struck in March 1908 when a young platemaker named George William Pickett was run down by an express train and killed instantly. His co-worker, William John Hooker, just managed to throw himself clear in time.
Mr. Hooker continued working on the railway for a further 42 years until his retirement. He never forgot the day that his career, as well as his life, almost ended (see article from 1950).
Below: Newspaper articles report on the tragedy from March 1908.
1913 (BRAMSHOT/BRAMSHOTT HALT STATION)
You will see the name Bramshott/Bramshot Halt mentioned a few times later in this article and although it isn’t Fleet, it was so very close I felt it had to be included. A halt is usually smaller than a station, with minimal facilities and it is often a request only stop. It consisted of a small platform by Bramshot bridge, which was positioned just off the Fleet/Cove Road.
Bramshot Halt was opened on May 10th 1913 by the London and South Western Railway and was constructed after the Bramshot Golf Club was built nearby and up until 3rd July 1939 only members were allowed to use it. The spelling of the station varied, with the name “Bramshott” Halt on the train tickets and “Bramshot” Halt on the timetables…you will still see both versions used today.
Below: A newspaper clipping from the opening of the golf course, as well as map showing the location of the old station. Map credit: Golf’s Missing Links.
1921 (WAR MEMORIAL)
In 1921 Fleet unveiled its own war memorial following the creation of the Cenotaph the previous year. Although not actually on station grounds the 1921 opening ceremony shows an interesting view of the station to the right of it, as well as the position of the goods yards before it became a car park in later years. You can also see the original “Station Hotel” sign.
Below: Fleet unveils its own war memorial in 1921.
The station car park and goods yard pictured here in 1922 shows the use of both horse and cart as well as motorised vehicles. The Aldershot & District Number 8 bus waiting for passengers features an advertisement for Park and Sparkhall Drapers in Aldershot.
Below: Fleet Railway Station in 1922. Credit: Fleet Pond Society.
1923 (SOUTHERN RAILWAY)
On 1st January 1923, Southern Railway was formed. It was one of four big British railway companies to be established under the Railway Act of 1921.
“Following the Railways Act 1921 the LSWR amalgamated with other railways to create the Southern Railway, on 1 January 1923, as part of the grouping of the railways. It was the largest constituent: it operated 862 route miles, and was involved in joint ventures that covered a further 157 miles. In passing its network to the new Southern Railway, it showed the way forward for long-distance travel and outer-suburban passenger operation, and for maritime activity. The network continued without much change through the lifetime of the Southern Railway.”
1925 (STATION PLATFORM)
This photo shows the station platform in 1925. At the end of the platform was the Station Master’s house; there was one at each station until the 1950s (see section at end of article for more information on this). Today the site of the house is now part of the north car park.
The building on the left behind the platform is the parcel shed which held three box wagons. This is where Eales Bros. collected parcels for delivery around the district.
– Percy Vickery.
Below: Fleet Railway Station in 1925.
1926 (BRAMSHOT HALT RAIL CRASH)
Bramshot Halt may be a small station but it saw more than its fair share of disasters in the short time it existed. At 6.40am on the 4th November a train pulling trucks laden with empty milk churns broke a towing hook near Bramshot Halt and the last thirteen trucks were left behind. On arrival at Fleet station, the driver realised what had happened and shunted back to try and reconnect with the lost trucks. Seeing that the Weymouth express was close behind, the guard of the van tried to warn the oncoming train by running along the line with a red flag but to no avail. The train tore through the rear of the milk train including eight coaches, before it ploughed into the sleepers and crashed on its side.
The express train was carrying around thirty passengers who miraculously survived without serious injury although many were in shock. They managed to walk to Fleet station as it was in such close proximity to the crash site and many continued their journey.
The driver of the express train, W. Gibbs, wasn’t so lucky. He was pinned in down in the wreckage, trapped inside his cabin and seriously scalded by steam which was escaping from a broken pipe while surrounded by flames. He was taken immediately to Fleet hospital but later died of his injuries.
Below: The accident hit the news headlines nationally with many newspapers reporting on the story and printing the photograph of the crash:
1927 (BUSY DAYS)
The area in front of the station was known as “Fleet Station Approach” and is pictured here in 1927. In this photo you can see a traction company coach waiting to make a run back to Aldershot, while three taxis are parked in front of the station. Although the scene appears to be a quiet one, the area to the right of the coal trucks would have men manually unloading the trucks with shovels or forks. The sidings went through to what is now a car park and consisted of two tracks. Four trains a day would be used to collect the empty containers and place the full ones in the yard.
The railway was always busy hauling coal and other heavy goods. All the goods trains had a guard on the end of the line of trucks who had his own stove to keep warm in winter – or make tea! He also had a window from which he could see all along his train if anything was happening. It was a protruding window for this purpose. The guard had no means of getting in touch with the driver and mate while travelling along.
I always remember how long some of those coal trains were. We used to count the trucks as they went by. We’ve counted over fifty to sixty trucks in one train load of coal. Just imagine the weight of all that to pull along. Steam was certainly powerful!
– Ernest William Cousins
Below: Fleet Station Approach 1927.
I told you it was a long read! Ready for a break? How about a nice cup of tea and a few biscuits….
1929 (RAILWAY TRIPS FOR SKATERS)
Fleet Pond played a huge part in the story of Fleet’s Railway Station, in fact without it, things might have been very different indeed. It was without a doubt the main attraction for most people who visited the town in the early years, with crowds travelling down from London for day trips. It also became well known as a popular ice skating destination in the winter.
Many special trains were laid on to transport excited visitors to the Pond and 1929 was no exception as a harsh winter caused it to freeze over for six weeks, creating a haven for eager ice skaters.
Like most things it had its positives and negatives, with the fun of spending time on the ice sometimes outweighed by the risks of falling though it. There were a number of accidents and even deaths over the years but the popularity of Fleet Pond never diminished…although skaters did become a little more cautious over time.
Below: Fleet Pond ice skating over the years.
Below: Fleet Railway Station timetable 1929.
EARLY 1930s (ALDERSHOT TATTOO)
The annual Aldershot Tattoo was a hugely popular event which by this year was held in the purpose built Rushmoor Arena. It ran for ten days with royalty present each night as visitors came from all over the country, many of which travelled through Fleet Station. Up to ten trains a night would leave Fleet between 7 – 9.30pm every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening over both weeks of the Tattoo event, with hundreds of cars and charabancs travelling over the station bridge. Local Fleet residents would gather to watch the traffic at the station and along King’s Road bringing an air of noisy excitement to Fleet.
Below: Crowds gather at Fleet Station to travel to the tattoo in 1930. Credit: Percy Vickery.
But it wasn’t just people who travelled from Fleet, as the station was a base for the transportation of hundreds of floats for Express and United Dairies which were sent up to London. You can see some of these in the first photo below showing the carts lined in 1935 up under the United Dairies signs. At the Farnborough end, behind the Up platform, there was a “roll-on roll-off” siding where the milk floats were loaded onto flats for delivery. In the 1950s and 60s County tractors were also sent from this siding.
In the second image you can see two waiting taxis with the parcel shed behind the waiting car on the right, with goods trucks at the edge of Station Approach.
Below: Milk floats line up in Fleet station for transport to London in 1935. Credit: Percy Vickery.
Below: Fleet Station car park showing the parcel shed and goods trucks. Credit: Percy Vickery.
For a few years in the late 1930s the Methodist Sunday School Superintendent (Charlie Perrin), organised an annual outing to Bournemouth and Swanage by a special train that bore a special headboard saying “Fleet Sunday Schools”. For many of the children it would be the only time they saw the sea and the trains were often full to capacity with 800 plus seats available. The trips stopped at the beginning of the war but were later revived, continuing into the 1950s.
Mr. Charlie Perrin was well known in Fleet as he ran a local grocers shop called Perrin & Barker (now Fleet Dental Centre at 37 Reading Road South).
“My happiest memories of Fleet Station were the trips we took for the Sunday School outings. A local grocer, Mr. Perrin, used to walk up and down the corridors throwing handfuls of sweets into all the carriages!”
– Patricia Andrew
Below: 1) Perrin & Barker grocery store and 2) The Fleet Sunday School train ready for a day trip to the sea.
1939 – 1945 (THE WAR YEARS)
1939 was to be a year no one would forget.
In August that year there was an awful accident when three workmen who were building a new military camp crossing the Southern Railway line were run down and killed by an express train very near to Fleet in Bramshott Halt, others were seriously injured. The men crossed the main Southern line intending to board a special workmen’s train but despite warnings as they were waved back by the Station Master, took no notice and about 150 men rushed to get onto the train…the newspaper articles from the day tell the full sad story and Fleet resident Ernest Cousins shares his memories of the event.
The railway ran a special train to carry the workmen from London to the Bramshot Halt station. The platform was built by the track at Bramshot Golf Club for the wealthy golfers who came down from London to play at the golf club. I believe this was done by some members who had influence on the railway owners. Remember the railways were privately owned in those days!
Anyhow, these workmen, on their way back to London, should have walked over the Bramshot Bridge and down onto the platform to board their train. Some, instead of doing this, would climb through the fence and walk across the railway tracks to get into the train on the track side.
One evening it happened…as the men were trying to get on the track side, an express train came roaring through at 80mph plus and ploughed into three or four men who didn’t get out of the way in time, killing them instantly.
– Ernest William Cousins
Below: Newspaper articles detailing the tragic accident in 1939.
Below: Another article regarding the 1939 accident (scroll up/down to read).
This timetable from December 1939 shows the request stop at Bramshot Halt Golf Course. As the air ministry requisitioned the course in 1940, this would be the last time the stop would be seen.
Below: December 1939 timetable showing Bramshot Halt. Credit: FCLHG.
Less than a month later, on September 3rd 1939, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared that we were at war with Germany.
During the Second World War, Britain’s railroads were placed under governmental control. The railway played an important part in the transport of weapons and personnel. Train spotting also became very popular amongst the local youngsters in Fleet and many books were written on the subject, with seven issues being published between 1942 – 1945 alone. The electrification of the local tracks had been halted by the war and so only steam trains ran through Fleet at that time. A a day at the station would cost 1d for a platform ticket.
The majority of the locomotives were painted black in the war years with the exception of Class T9 No. 119 (the Southern Railway Royal Train Engine) and the Merchant Navy Class Engine No. 21c1 (later renumbered 35001), both of which remained green in colour.
Wyndham Boulter describes how he used to visit the train station after church on Sunday lunchtimes:
Eventually I decided to go to the station after church on Sunday lunchtimes to find the goods yard a hive of activity with R.A.F. personnel unloading bombs from wagons in the siding. These they stacked on to a very large lorry and trailer.
The fun began after the aforesaid vehicles had been driven out of the yard and began the manoeuvring process to negotiate the very tight turn in Fleet Road, to enable them to cross the station bridge. Many attempts to align the lorries and trailers with the bridge resulted quite often in cases of incendiary bombs cascading onto the road, to ironic cheering by the airmen.
The excitement was repeated on many occasions, always on a Sunday. The ammunition was for the squadrons based at Hartford Bridge (as Blackbushe Airport was then known).
In the photograph below you can see the 500lb bombs which had just arrived at Blackbushe Airport from Fleet Station. The name on one of the bombs shows its clear destination. The plane in the image is a Boston which had completed seven operations, as can be seen by the seven bombs painted on the fuselage.
Information (above) and images (below) credit: Wyndham Boulter and Bernard Potter.
1939 – 1942
In 1939 there was a rather sad article in the newspaper regarding the death of a depressed soldier, showing just how badly the war affected even those who couldn’t go into battle. You can also see an advert advising of restricted retail deliveries at the station “under instructions from the ministry of War”.
To continue the sad theme, news of the death of a local taxi driver was reported in 1939 when Mr. Frederick Woods of Albert Street passed away at age 66. The obituary in the local newspaper recalls the days when a horse cab used to be a common site at Fleet Station instead of motorised vehicles. Mr. Woods had worked at Fleet Station for over thirty years.
Below: Sad stories and war time updates in the local press.
In 1941 the local council announced that they would be fundraising for the war effort with a goal of £25,000 minimum. Proceedings opened with a bunting clad procession from Fleet Railway Station and was attended by members and representatives from the Royal Navy, Women’s Royal Navy Service, the Royal Army Medical Corps., the Royal Air Force, the Royal Artillery, the Royal Engineers and many others, including an A.R.P (Air Raid Precautions) van for animals, showing the important part our four legged friends played in the war.
There was also a suggestion by the originator of War Weapons Week, Dr. J. E. Frere, to help the country’s scrap metal fund by organising a “mile of keys”. Once again this originated at the station, showing the important part it played during the war as the heart of the local community.
Below: Fundraising efforts for the war in 1941.
The news in 1942 reported that a new siren had been installed by Fleet Railway Station, while elsewhere there was definitely something off about the headlines that told of a theft from the railway station…it brings a whole new meaning to fish fingers(!)…
Below: A fishy Fleet tale…
On May 6th 1945 the small station at Bramshot Halt closed for good. It had gained a rather notorious reputation as an accident blackspot over the years and had been bought by the government in 1940.
“The course was requisitioned by the Air Ministry in 1940, and it was rumoured that General Eisenhower stayed at the golf club at some stage. After the war the Ministry retained the land, the clubhouse was converted into offices, all quite small, in what had been the bedrooms in the Club’s heyday. The clubhouse building was eventually demolished after vandals broke in and set it on fire.”
– from website Golf’s Missing Links
1946 – 1949 (AFTER THE WAR)
After the war life normal life attempted to resume in Fleet. Fleet Pond(s), which had been drained during the conflict, in fear of attracting enemy craft, were once again refilled. But by then the vegetation had taken over and there was never the same expanse of water again.
Below: Southern Railway 4-6-0 steam locomotive No 850 ‘Lord Nelson’ passes through Fleet with a passenger express train in 1946.
In 1948, Britain’s Railway network was nationalised by Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee. An interesting side note here is that Clement Attlee once lived in Fleet and even played for for Fleet Town Football Club in his youth. His Aunt lived in a house that backed onto the original grounds (before they moved to Calthorpe Park). But I digress…
Nationalisation saw many changes and upgrades to the network with the name British Railways coming into existence to oversee the new railway system. Areas were divided into six regions with Fleet classed as part of the Southern Region.
Below: Fleet Station luggage labels dated pre-nationalisation.
WHSMITH AT THE STATION
Back at Fleet Station the WHSmith kiosk was a familiar site as the company had a franchise to have newspaper stalls at all Southern stations. Originally space was made on the down platform in the early 1920s for this but when British Rail took over after the end of the Second World War, platform offices were reorganised meaning there was no longer room for it. At this point a separate shop was built for it which stood against the station railings.
When the station was rebuilt after electrification in the late 60s the shop was not included (see 1969 for photo).
WHSmiths wasn’t to return to Fleet until the opening of the Hart Centre in 1990 and as one disgruntled resident reminded the local newspaper, it wasn’t their first time in town!
Below: WHSmith in its new separate shop outside the station.
Ernest Cousins shares his memories of working for the newsagent as a young boy and delivering papers on his bike in Fleet:
I had a job as a paper boy and delivered papers to the big houses in Fleet in the mornings and evenings. I worked for WHSmith & Sons who had book stalls on nearly all the railway stations on the main line. I don’t remember the pay – it was probably a few shillings a week.
The job was done between school hours, I was about 12 years old at the time. WHSmith & Sons were the only paper shop that supplied waterproof clothing and a bicycle! It was a bright red one with two canvas paper bags mounted on the rear, one each side of the back wheel and also a lamp for the machine! You only had a front light in those days, no rear light.
– Ernest William Cousins
Back in the day the railway was a magical place for enthusiasts of all ages. From the romance of steam engines to royal visits it wasn’t uncommon to see both adults and children lining up to catch a glimpse of a train or two.
In 1950 The Southern Railway were anxious to encourage normal leisure activities after the war years and so on 20th June 1947 the Devon Belle commenced operation. The train was a luxury express that offered a high level of comfort and luxury, offering reservable seats as well as an observation car at the rear.
The Devon Belle ran until 1954 when it was taken out of service but in that time it caught the eye of many a trainspotter while passing through Fleet Station.
Below: The Devon Belle Express in 1950 at Fleet Station. Credit: Tim Freeman.
To keep something as complex as a railway station running on time there would have to be strict adherence to the rules. Over the years there would have been many booklets, handbooks and instructions from on high but most of those would have been lost in the mists of time. Luckily Brian Carr still has some fantastic memorabilia from his and his fathers days at the station – here we see some images of the British Rail Rulebook from Fleet Station in 1950.
Below: British Rail Rule book from Fleet Station 1950. Credit Brian Carr.
If you’re still reading (well done!), you may remember the story of a young man who narrowly escaped with his life, while watching his work mate die in an horrific accident in 1908. That boy was William John Hooker and in 1950 he retired from the railway after 43 years.
The article below shows how he never forgot that fateful day.
Below: From a young platemaker to retirement. William Hooker retires after 43 years on the railway.
In 1952 Mr. Bert Woodger took over as the Station Master at Fleet. The photo of him below was provided by his Grandaughter, Rebecca Godden, showing him standing on the station platform looking rather dapper in his uniform. The Station Master’s duties would have covered a multitude of issues that may have cropped up on a daily basis. Here we see the shocking case of the youth that combed his hair in the ladies room….(*gasps)…
Below: A photo of Station Master Bert Woodger at Fleet Train Station. Photo credit: Rebecca Godden (Grandaughter)
Aldershot and District buses were a common sight at Fleet Station as they transported commuters to and from the station. The number 8 changed in appearance over the years and vehicle enthusiasts will note the transition in style and capacity but the memories of catching the number 8 is still shared by many Fleet travellers and the buses played an important part of daily life at the railway.
Below: An original Fleet Station bus blind, Aldershot and District tickets and the number 8 bus from the 1920 to 1950s.
1953 (A ROYAL DRIVE BY)
The Royal family were no strangers to the local area, often making trips to inspect troops or visit army barracks. On 15th July 1953 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip travelled through Fleet station to their destination in Winchfield where they were met by the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire (the Duke of Wellington) before being driven to R.A.F Odiham as part of the Coronation review. The event was to see more than 1000 officers, airmen and airwomen in a coronation parade with marching bands and over 800 planes that had rehearsed meticulously for a complex fly-past.
While Fleet cannot claim to be the host of the celebrations, local children and residents were to celebrate in the town as the Royal passenger’s train passed through the area.
When Queen Elizabeth II was due to travel into London on our line, many folk from Cove Road walked up to where the road curves to the left slightly, so they could see her train go by.
This was a very exciting day for all us children, who suddenly found we had Union Flags to wave at the train as it whizzed past us all. Sadly, we were not aware of anyone actually catching a glimpse of Her Majesty or Prince Philip.
– Barbara Shuttleworth
Barbara Munday (née Barbara Woodger) was the daughter of Bert Woodger, the Fleet Station Master at the time and was lucky enough to get a place on the platform for the special occasion. Rebecca Harrison, Bert’s grandaughter shares this fantastic photo of the Queen’s visit at Winchfield with her Mother in the front row.
Here is a photo of when the Queen arrived at Winchfield Station in 1957. My Grandfather Bert Woodger was the station master at Fleet so my Mum got front row there resting her chin on her hands.
– Rebecca Harrison
That’s me in the photo. I was then Barbara Woodger. Station Masters daughter. Lots of memories!
– Barbara Munday (nee Woodger)
Below: The Royal visit at Winchfield station in 1957. Credit: Rebecca Harrison.
For the train buffs amongst you, you might be interested to know that the train carriage to transport the VIP passengers was named Aries and it was the last traditional Pullman car to be built at the Pullman Car Company’s works in Brighton just the year before. The cars were amongst the first railway vehicles to have double glazing and they sported such touches as mirrored panels, stylish lighting, rectangular toilet windows and external flush panelling to give the cars a cleaner appearance. Aries was often called upon to operate special trains for visiting heads of state and royalty and served until 1968 when it was bought and used as a static restaurant for 30 years before undergoing restoration from the Kent and East Sussex Railway.
Ok…so back to Fleet…
1955 (HOMEWARD BOUND)
Local school boarders could be seen gathering on the station platform in 1955 as they prepare to go home after the end of the summer term. These students are from St. Nicholas School…note the helpful porter with his trolley, a bit different to today!
Below: St. Nicholas school boarders going home in 1955. Credit: Percy Vickery.
1958 (THE DAWN OF ELECTRIC)
In 1958 the steam engine that controlled the railway signals was replaced by an electric pump, marking the start of the electric takeover of the railway.
Below: A 1931 map of Fleet Station shows the position of the pump house (far left), which was replaced in 1958.
Have you finished your cuppa yet?…ran out of biscuits or need the loo? Maybe check out our online history group while you’re having a quick break!…
1950s – 60s (EMERGENCY BACKUP)
By now the railway had become the heart of the town, encouraging growth and prosperity as well as some less welcome visitors along the way. The emergency services in town were essential to ensure the smooth running of the station and were always on hand when needed. We have already seen multiple accidents on the railway which required the services of an ambulance, so here’s a quick look at the police and firemen of Fleet…
From the early days of Fleet Railway to today, thefts from the station have been a rather regular occurrence…and 1959 was no exception as Detective Constable Albert Curtis found himself face to face with a masked intruder in the early hours of the morning. After being struck over the head with a wooden club, the D. C. went on to arrest the offender, named as Mr. Aggar. Aggar’s defence was that he had been gambling lately and had got a bit short of money….well that’s ok then…
Below: 1959 newspaper article showing theft from Fleet Station.
Fires at the station weren’t an uncommon occurrence in the steam era, as sparks from trains were often responsible for starting small blazes on the grass embankments. Thankfully the Firemen of Fleet were on hand to deal with such matters and get things under control.
At this time Bert Woodger, Station Master at Fleet, lived in the Station Masters’s house in what is now the north car park. His daughter recalls how living so close to the station came in handy at times:
Being on the Station meant Dad was on hand. Especially at night when the railway banks caught fire from the steam trains!
– Barbara Munday
The fires may have proved to be a concern for those running the station but through the eyes of youth they provided to be exciting entertainment, as local children watched the flames being battled. Barbara Shuttleworth remembers the hot summer days when the firemen, including her uncle, would be on call.
In the very hot summers we used to have in the mid to late 50s or so I remember them, often the hot red cinders from the engine funnel would set the grass banks alongside the railway line on fire.
Of course, that was very exciting for two very young children to witness but depending on the area set on fire, the flames could go down the embankment and up the other side.
This was either to the Common, covered with trees, gorse bushes, scrub land, tinder-dry grass or the soldiers camp, both very big fire hazards, or on the other side of the line, the sparks could flame a fire into the bottom ends of the gardens of the houses built along Cove Road. The railway work men would regularly come along the tracks with scythes and hoes to cut down the fast growing vegetation that thrived there each summer.
In those days the hot summers always lasted the full six weeks of the school holidays and if the worst came to the worst, there was always the Fleet Fire engine to come to the rescue.
My Uncle, Fred Manfield, was an Auxillary Fireman for many years. When the fire siren sounded he would jump on his bicycle, which had no saddle, and pedal from his garage, that he owned with Mick Lacey, down by Fleet Railway station. If the engine saw him coming, it would stop and pick him up and he would leave his bike where it was until the emergence was over. In those days that could be done and it was always there when he returned! He was a very popular, gentle giant.
– Barbara Shuttleworth
Below: Newspaper article including fire at Fleet Station and photo of Fleet Fireman including Fred Manfield (Barbara’s uncle) in the middle of the back row.
The 1960s were to mark a huge turning point in the railway system. The decade would start with eager trainspotters waving through steam trains and marvelling over the appearance of slick diesel engines as they thundered through Fleet. They would end as electrification was introduced and the appearance of the old railway station underwent an equally dramatic change.
By the 1960s photography had become a popular hobby with more people having access to their own personal camera. This of course greatly enhanced the life of the humble trainspotter who revelled in taking snapshots of what would be a memorable decade in railway history.
Here are some of the trains of the 1960s that were spotted in Fleet…and the stories that go with them.
1961 (THE BOURNEMOUTH BELLE)
The Bournemouth Belle ran from 1931 until nationalisation in 1948, taking a break during the war years. The Pullman train was one of three with the Suffix ‘”Belle”, the others were the Brighton Belle and the Devon Belle (seen earlier in this article).
During the summer, the railway ran what was called “The Bournemouth Belle”. It was an express train with the rear coach all glass.
The passengers sat facing the rear end and of course they had a clear view of the surrounding countryside as they sped along on their journey to Bournemouth from Waterloo.
– Ernest William Cousins
Our garden in Cove Road backed on to the railway line into Fleet Station. My twin, Martin and I would stand on the wired fence and wave to the drivers and passengers as the trains went by. In those days the majority of them would smile and wave back!
We loved to see the Bournemouth Belle racing past in its brown and yellow livery. So clean and smart and fast – it would make our hair stand on end. We sometimes were taken across the tracks for a picnic on the Common – tremendously thrilling!
– Barbara Shuttleworth
Below: The Bournemouth Belle passing through Fleet Station in 1961. Credit: Bryan Hoskyns.
1963 (THREE CAR DIESEL TRAIN)
Here we hear about a three car diesel train that was only used at Fleet on Sundays. Roderick Pierce shares the photos taken with his grandparents in 1963.
The first photo with the ‘Hampshire’ diesel unit was taken by me on 10th March 1963. It was a Sunday, the only day of the week when these diesel units were used through Fleet, shuttling between Basingstoke and Woking.
The other photos were taken on the same day in 1963 by my late grandfather, Fred Bird – I have the original slides which he gave me.
The photo looking East includes the signals and the bicycle shed that stood on the down platform, and the goods shed in the background. It shows me (aged 12) with my late grandmother.
– Roderick Pierce
Below: Fleet Station in March 1963. Credit: Fred Bird/Roderick Pierce. (Click to enlarge).
1964 (BULLIED BATTLE OF BRITAIN SPITFIRE)
In July 1964 an original Bullied Battle of Britain Class 4-6-2 No 34066 Spitfire, arrives at Fleet Station, much to the delight of local trainspotters.
Below: Battle of Britain Spitfire arrives at Fleet in 1964. Credit: ANISTR.COM
1964 (WEST COUNTRY STEAM ENGINE)
Brian Carr is the son of Vic Carr, a popular member of staff who worked on the railway for over twenty years, retiring in 1985 (more on him later!). Brian also worked as a fireman on the railway. Here he shares a wonderful close-up photo of a West Country Steam engine in 1964 and recalls one funny story from his travels…
One of my funniest things when on the footplate was coming back from Waterloo on a early evening passenger train. When we got to Farnborough main. There was a young girl, who went to Farnborough Technical College. She would be saying goodbye to a young student. With the usual kiss goodbye. But when we got to Basingstoke. She would always be greeted by another boy. Who always greeted her with a kiss.
About 15 years ago while driving through a village just outside Basingstoke, Oakley or Overton? I saw her going into a house on the main road. Being a nosy person. I knocked on the door. And asked if I could speak to her, about my experience. She was amazed at the story. And had a good laugh about it. True story!
– Brian Carr
Below: “A west country steam engine 1964. This picture was taken at Fleet Station on an old Brownie camera by Robert Nutter”. – Brian Carr
1964 (ALL CHANGE AHEAD)
1964 kicked off with news that a new stationmaster was being appointed to Fleet Station with Mr. J. Baker taking over from Mr. B. Woodger after 12 years. But it wasn’t an easy start for the new railway agent as the station parcel office was raided in the early hours one Saturday morning. Mr. Woodger, who still lived at the Fleet Stationmasters house, said he had heard nothing of the raid.
Below: 1964 saw a new Station Master at Fleet and a raid at the station.
Meanwhile, local traders in Fleet were shocked to discover that British Railways were considering the possibility of closing the station goods yard, meaning goods wagons would have to be re-routed to Aldershot or North Camp….and as lovers of the railway revelled in the heyday of the steam era, Dr. Beeching published a plan to speed up the railway system by electrifying the whole line. One has to feel for the new Station Master who chose one hell of a year to start his new position.
Below: Plans to axe the railway station goods yard 1964.
Below: Dr. Beeching announces his plans for the railway as the age of steam comes to an end.
By 1965 the tracks in the goods yard and the parcel shed (seen below) were no longer in use. At the same time the number of commuters to the station were increasing rapidly and parking areas were being laid out to accommodate the many travellers that arrived by car.
Below: Fleet station pictured in the mid 1960s with a rapidly expanding and busy car park. Credit: Percy Vickery.
I remember a man on his bike whose job was to light the gas lamps with his long hook. Before it all became electrified!
– Barbara Munday
The old semaphore signals could still be seen on the railway track in this year – these would soon be replaced with more modern colour light signalling.
The image below shows the D826 Jupiter train passing through Fleet. It was in service from 1960 until 1971.
Below: D826 ‘ Jupiter ‘ hammers past Fleet with a train for Exeter St Davids, 1965 (photographer unknown). Credit: Paul Nightingale/Paul Jay.
1966 marked the end of an era as full electrification was introduced to Fleet Station and the pump house, which provided air for the electro-pneumatic signal system, was demolished. The electro-pnuematic signalling was also replaced by colour light signalling.
Below you can see one of the last trains to arrive in Fleet before the full electric service was introduced; 35014 Merchant Navy Class “Nederland Line”.
Below: Merchant Navy Class 35014 Nederland Line. Credit: Fleet Parish Magazine.
1967 (WAVING GOODBYE TO STEAM)
From December 1966 test trains were run on the railway system but despite electric lines being introduced to Fleet the previous year, both steam and diesel trains ran through Fleet until 10th July 1967.
From 1963 to 1985 my father worked at Fleet Station. This photo below shows me on the footplate (as a fireman) and my Dad, leading railman Vic Carr, at the far end of platform talking to the guard and getting ready to leave for London. The steam engine “34102 Lapfood” is at the front, which was on one of its last runs and was withdrawn from service not long after this picture was taken. The photo also shows the old goods shed opposite.
There’s a lot missing from the front of the engine. Original shed code. And original number plate. What a shame for such a beautiful steam locomotive.
– Brian Carr
Below: Brian and his Dad Vic Carr at Fleet Station in 1966. Credit: Brian Carr.
Below: One of the last steam trains to pass through Fleet. Credit: Nick Jaffrey.
In 1969 the Fleet station had a major upgrade with the wooden Edwardian buildings replaced by a rather plain looking prefab “CLASP” (Consortium Local Authority Special Programme) building. The goods yard was also closed and replaced by a car park.
In the image below you can see building and clearance work being carried out. The structure to the left of the photo is the old WHSmith newsagents shop (see photo from the war years). You can also still see the old platforms on the other side of the bridge.
So, Fleet station, having just had a mega makeover, this pic is of the buildings that have just been demolished, being built..!! Atmosphere is added by those old fashioned semaphore signals, up high so train drivers could see them against the sky rather than in front of the road bridge…!!
– Lee Dolton
Below: Fleet station undergoes refurbishment in 1969. Credit: Lee Dolton.
The changes to the station would see a large part of its history lost forever but at least one part of it was retained, as Sue Heskins tells the story of a much cherished railway bench…
My parents moved to Fleet after they were married and my Dad worked for timetabling for Southern Region Railways and worked in offices at Waterloo station. When they first lived here my Dad managed to schedule a train to stop at Fleet station at a time which suited his commute to work!! Perks of the job I suppose! Anyway at some point during the 1960’s the station had a refurb….My Dad managed to buy (acquire) one of the old railway seats before it was scrapped. It then spent 52 years in their back garden until my parents passed away 6 years ago.
We then had the job of moving it to our house, which is not an easy task as it was pretty solid and very long so wouldn’t fit into a normal sized van. We managed to get it home but the years had taken their toll on it and the wood was starting to rot in places. My Dad, bless him at one point had tried to preserve the wood by using wood filler but that reacted to the wood stain so he’d painted the wood brown to cover it up….My Mum went ballistic at him!!
So…during lockdown my husband had time on his hands and decided to refurbish the bench. He’s done a total nut and bolt refurb, thanks to W. C. Bakers and replaced two of the wooden panels. It’s been sanded back, teak oiled and painted with new Hammerite green paint……My Dad would love it and we’re happy to still have it in our garden, given its history.
– Sue Heskins
Below: The bench which was rescued from the Fleet Station refurb and restored by Sue’s family. Credit: Sue Heskins.
1972 – 1974
In 1972 Fleet Council finally bought Fleet Pond and the surrounding land back from the Ministry of Defence as they no longer needed it. By now the station had a very different look with the prefab ‘temporary’ structures which had now replaced the previous buildings.
Below: Fleet Station pictured after the rebuild c1974. Second photo credit: Liliann Elwyn Bull.
1976 (THE FLASH)
Maps of the train station show an expanse of water known as “The Flash” to the south of the station, which originally served as a flood relief area. In 1976, this was filled in when an industrial estate was built, expanding the land opposite the station and changing the landscape. Nowadays this is the Waterfront Business Park.
Below: Fleet station and “The Flash” pictured in 1945 and 2023.
1976 (RULE BOOKS)
Here we see some more fantastic rule books from Fleet Station shared by Brian Carr, this time from the 1970s. There are also instructions for the new electrified lines. It’s interesting to see how how the style of the book has changed from the previous 1950s ones (which looked so much classier!).
Below: Rule book and electrified track instructions from Fleet Station in the 1970s. Credit: Brian Carr.
1978 (BOB DYLAN CONCERT)
July 1978 proved to be rather a unique month for Hart residents and certainly one that kept local officials busy, as Blackbushe Aerodrome became the location for a Bob Dylan Concert. The event prompted a huge joint operation by police and council officials with roads being closed and special arrangements being made to get to and from the concert…which of course included Fleet Train Station.
British Rail Southern Region laid on 28 extra trains which ran every 15 minutes, carrying London based fans to the station where buses were laid on to take them to Blackbushe. Concert-goers from other areas of the country were directed through Basingstoke station, also ending up at Fleet, thereby adding to the crowds. Although alcohol was not sold at the concert, local off licences did a roaring trade with fans stocking up in town before heading off to the event. Detectives were on alert at Fleet Station after a tip-off from a London printing firm as forged tickets were being sold in the area. Nine people were arrested after selling the fake tickets for £7 each…yes…£7!!!
The Dylan concert photos were taken on the 15th July 1978. The train was a ‘special’ for the crowds that were attending the concert near Blackbushe, it was an electric unit of a type not usually used at Fleet – they were usually suburban units.
– Roderick Piece
1) Another ‘Dylan’ special taken by myself looking the other way from the road bridge. It shows a few remains of the original ‘up’ platform opposite the ‘Fleet Hotel’.
2) Below: I can’t remember why there were so many people being directed over the footbridge to the up side – I certainly wasn’t around when the concert finished so I can’t explain it – neither can I explain the presumed air cadet group on the down platform!
– Roderick Pierce
Below: The local press warned of the upcoming travel congestion for the event.
Below: Travellers to the Bob Dylan concert via Fleet Station and over the M3. Credit: Steve Pinn.
Unfortunately a train derailment at Waterloo caused huge delays to the service which left commuters stuck on the way to the station. Reports of people causing damage to local properties, being sick and going to the toilet in local gardens came flooding in (I could possibly have phrased that better!) but residents complained no police came to their aid. At Fleet Station, night staff said they had no complaints about the fans who slept on the platform stating that they had left a mess but hadn’t caused any damage.
Below: Newspaper article “A Bitter Aftermath” from July 1978.
1980 saw a relatively calm year at the station. Station employees and staff from Redfields Nursery gathered together to brighten up the station by adding some touches of colour to the raised flowerbeds on the platform. Railywayman Mr. Vic Carr, a popular figure at the station, helped tend the flowers.
Below: Newspaper article with Vic Carr, Railwayman at Fleet Station.
Below: Fleet Station in the early 80s including a platform shelter pictured with an advert for Pearsons Estate Agents and Auctions.
Below: Fleet Train station and bike racks pictured in 1980.
Below: 1980 Track relaying in progress. Credit: Roderick Pierce.
1981 (TRAIN CRASH)
The alarm was raised by residents in Elvetham Road in January 1981 as the new year started off with a bang, literally, as a goods train with twenty seven trucks loaded with ballast left the rails opposite Stockton Avenue. Although the rails were badly damaged thankfully there were no injuries.
Below: A newspaper article about the train crash in January 1981.
1981 (TWO ROYAL VISITS…SORT OF…)
On the same day that his engagement to Lady Diana Spencer was announced to the world, Prince Charles travelled down through Fleet, on his way to dine with the Gurkhas in his role of Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Crookham. Despite freezing conditions, crowds of well wishers turned out in the evening to see him and offer their congratulations.
Although he was driven to the dinner, that didn’t stop the crowds catching a glimpse of his car as it went past. On the way back however he was driven to Fleet Station to catch the Royal Train and it was then that those waiting managed to greet the Prince and have a few words with him.
We waited at the station when Charles got the train from Fleet not long after he got engaged to Diana. I think he’d been up the Gurkha camp.
We all sang Congratulations & he stopped & asked what we were doing there. We told him that we’d come over from the Fleet Hotel when we heard he was leaving from Fleet station.
– Janice Hayes
Below: Prince Charles greets crowd at Fleet Station in 1981.
ROYAL “VISIT” PART DEUX
A few months later in July, the royal train passed through Fleet station, carrying Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their way to Southampton to start their honeymoon on board the royal yacht Britannia. This royal visit wasn’t quite so personal although it still drew the crowds as people packed out the station platforms to wave and cheer as the train went past.
I don’t know what we were expecting but a collective sigh went up, after all the waiting to see the new bride and groom, the train rushed through without a wave or sight of Charles and Diana on the way to their honeymoon in Broadlands! But we were there!
– Angela Stephens
1983 – 84 (CRIME ON THE RISE)
Railway crime appeared to be on the rise in the 80s, with the local headlines describing issues that were plaguing the stations of both Fleet and Farnborough. Late night vandalism by punk rockers (remember them?!) and car theft topped the list of problems, as police and railway staff increased patrols in an effort to cut down on the misdeeds.
The newspapers of 1984 made potentially uncomfortable reading for some, as “Loogate” hit the headlines. Travellers were less than impressed to read that they might be denied the chance to spend a penny while on their daily commute as British Rail was considering scrapping the toilets when next renovating the station. To the relief of many, Fleet Station does indeed have loos today…(although reportedly not open very often!)
Is it wine time yet? If you’re still reading I think you’ve earned it!….
1985 (VIC CARR RETIREMENT)
1985 saw the retirement of railwayman Vic Carr after twenty two years working for the station. In this article, kindly shared by his son Brian, Vic remembers the era of steam trains and coal fires and tells how he went back to the station one night just to watch the last ever steam train pass through Fleet.
Below: Popular railwayman Vic Carr retired in 1985 and was the subject of an article in The County Magazine. Credit: Brian Carr (Son).
1986 (UPS AND DOWNS)
The Fleet Station of the 1980s was a much simpler design than we see today. Ian Boulter shares some photos that were taken by his father, Wyndham Boulter, who was a professional photographer from Fleet (and also the author of the bomb-watching stories during the war earlier in this article!).
Below: A rather sparse looking Fleet Station pictured in the 1980s. Credit: Wyndham Boulter.
Railway life sees many headlines, some good and some bad. March of 1986 saw a story about a man who tried to end his life at Fleet train station three times. Staff thankfully stepped in to prevent any injury at the last minute by turning off the power, preventing what could have been a terrible tragedy.
In September of ’86 though there were happier headlines, as crowds lined the streets of Fleet to watch 600 Gurkhas march through the town centre. Leaving Fleet Station, the troops marched up Fleet Road where Mrs. Mildred Stocks, Chairman of Hart Council took a salute from them. The parade was part of the battalion’s centenary celebrations.
Below: Gurkha parade leaving Fleet Train Station 6th September 1986. Photo credit: Shimna Gammack
Below: Railway tickets from Fleet Station 1986-87.
1987 (GREAT STORM)
If you are old enough to remember the great storm of 1987 then you are bound to remember where you were at the time. The evening seemed uneventful at Fleet Station that night, as the BBC weather forecaster Michael Fish uttered those immortal words…””Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t!“…the rest as they say, is history.
Below: Fleet train station the morning after the great 1987 storm. Credit: Sally Strugnell.
The railway station remained the same for much of the 1990s, with just a splash of vivid red paint to liven up the rather dull and ageing prefab buildings.
In 1993 British Railway was privatised and broken up into 100 separate companies.
Below: Fleet Train Station in 1991.
2000 – 2010
2000 (FLYING SCOTSMAN)
The Flying Scotsman has made many visits to Fleet Station over the years and is always a popular attraction for train enthusiasts and local residents. Here you can see the famous train at the station around the year 2000. Famous local historian Percy Vickery (whose research helped greatly in the writing of this article), can be seen on the right hand side wearing a jacket.
While the surrounding area of Fleet grew and became more built up, the station underwent surprisingly little change. The photos below feature some different views from 2008, showing a few modern touches and a change of colour from red to blue but by now the station was beginning to look very dated…no matter what colour it was painted.
Below: Views from the station in 2008. Credit: Trever Saunders
2010 (A WINTERS TALE)
It was a cold start to 2010 as January saw freezing conditions with heavy snowfall and ice, causing chaos to the roads and railways of Britain. Fleet was no exception to this as commuters battled on through the elements to continue their train journeys. It brings to mind the early days of the station with eager crowds rushing to skate on the frozen waters of Fleet Pond…
Below: Fleet Station in the snow 2010. Credit: The Telegraph.
2010 (MURDER INVESTIGATION)
May 2010 marked a truly tragic time for Fleet when it hit the national headlines with the news that the body of a newborn baby girl had been discovered at the station. It was found by a cleaner in a bag, in a bin, on one of the platforms. Police stated that the baby had suffered significant injuries that were not caused during birth and a murder investigation was launched.
After a police appeal, a 16 year old girl came forward and was arrested on suspicion of murder. She was found to have stabbed her baby to death while in shock after giving birth without realising she was pregnant and was sentenced to a 12 month community supervision order.
Below: News article from BBC 2010.
Below: Fleet Station taped off by police as they carried out a murder investigation in 2010.
2011 – 2022
In the years 2011 – 2021 a series of much needed upgrades and improvements were carried out at the station including; upgrading the pathway from the car park to Fleet Pond, replacing the main station building, installing a new and improved footbridge, increasing the size of the car park, improving cycle parking, installing new security barriers and fitting new electric charging points.
There was also a name change in 2017 as South West Trains became South Western Railway.
– FLEET POND PATHWAY
When Fleet Station was built, the most direct route from Winchfield to Farnborough was directly across Fleet Pond, so a causeway was constructed to divide the ponds – and it is still remains today.
The Pond in fact flows right under the station with the embankment joining the big pond and little pond. You can see this on the map below from the Fleet Pond Society along with some photos of the site taken in 2020.
The pond has an access point from the station car park and in 2011 an additional bridge was installed to ensure safe passage between the two areas with the help of local council and government funding along with fundraising from Fleet Pond Society.
Below: Map of Fleet pond showing division of the big and small ponds. Credit: Fleet Pond Society.
The engineers building the railway line from London to Southampton did not let an ancient pond stand in their way. They constructed an embankment across it, which still stands today, dividing the main pond from the smaller pond by the Heron on the Lake pub.
– Fleet Pond Society
Below: Images of Fleet Pond and the causeway that allowed the creation of Fleet Station.
The steps from the Fleet Station car park that lead down to Fleet Pond are looking a little tired after all the footfall they’ve had over the years but Councillor Steve Forster has reported that these will be updated soon, providing a safer passage for those wishing to visit the pond.
Below: The steps from Fleet station car park to Fleet Pond. Credit: Steve Forster.
– CYCLE PARKING
Bike theft has long been a problem at the station and the demand for secure cycle parking was on the increase.
So, in 2011 a secure cycle parking compound was installed, situated between the station buildings and the road bridge on platform 2 (Basingstoke). Access to the compound was via a swipe card. However despite being free to use, the facility didn’t initially prove to be very popular, with many customers still parking their bikes in the ordinary cycle spaces on the platform.
Below you can see the cycle parking available on the platform and the new secure area. The old cycle lockers can also be seen with tape on them, awaiting disposal.
Below: Secure cycle parking, installed in 2011.
2016 saw the cycle parking upgraded again with an additional 158 cycle parking spaces and 9 two tier shelters installed.
Below: New cycle parking installed at Fleet Station in 2016. Credit: Cyclepods.
But more was still to come. In 2021 the cycle parking was upgraded yet again, adding 202 new cycle storage spaces in a CCTV protected building. On the booking hall side of the train station, another 72 spaces were added to the cycle storage area adjacent to the car park.
Below: Images of the station taken in 2020, including the preparation work for the new cycle hub storage (scroll to view).
Below: Parking cycle upgrades: (Images 1-3) 2021 Credit: Frankham Consultancy. (Images 2-5) 2023.
Below: Cycle storage at Fleet Station in 2023.
– NEW STATION BUILDING
In 2012 planning permission was submitted for a new, more modern station building:
Below: Plans for a new station 2012.
The work to replace the station building began in 2013, along with some of the other improvements and by 2015 the station was looking very different to its former self.
Below we can see the progression of the work to replace the station building. The blue portacabins used by the construction company can be seen in the background.
Below: Fleet station pictured in 2013 just before the main building and bridge was demolished. Credit: Martinvl/Wikimedia.
Below: Building replacement work being carried out at Fleet Station 2013. Photo credit: Nigel Thompson.
Below: New station building being erected 2014. Credit: Graham Jones.
Below: New station building in 2015
– FOOTBRIDGE REPLACED
As part of the improvement works, a new footbridge was required that offered wheelchair access and which complied with the latest disability legislation. The old footbridge was removed surprisingly quickly overnight on the 24th/25th July and was replaced by a more modern upgrade that offered lift access.
Below: The original latticework footbridge at Fleet Train Station. Photo credit: SU8155/Geograph.
Below: The new footbridge. You can still see the centre of the old bridge inbetween the tracks. Photo credit: SU8155/Geograph.
Below: The old footbridge being taken down and replaced. Photo credit: Given Up/Geograph.
– CAR PARK IMPROVEMENTS
Also in 2013, work began to add an additional 150 spaces to the car park. In May 2014 South West trains opened the top deck of the new car park, which has a capacity of 191 spaces for commuters. The bottom deck opened shortly afterwards.
Below: Fleet Train Station car park construction 2014.
Below: New double level parking in 2015.
A number of parking improvements were carried out in the following years including electric charging point installations as well as resurfacing the car park to include improved drainage.
Below: In February 2020 the car park was resurfaced – before and after. Credit: Network Rail.
Below: 2019 Electric charging points were installed. Credit: Network Rail
– NEW CANOPY AND WAITING ROOM
In 2016 a canopy and waiting room was installed on platform 1 and new LED lighting was fitted.
– NEW BARRIERS
In 2019, new barriers were installed at Fleet Train Station. (See article New Barriers at Fleet Station).
Below: The new barriers installed at Fleet Station. Credit: Steve Forster.
FLEET STATION TODAY
The Fleet Station we all know today is a far cry from the original design, although the basic layout is still quite similar. To complete our look at the changing face of the station over the years, we take a look at it in August 2023, from the top of the Fleet Road/Minley Road bridge, to views of the platform and a passing freight train.
Below: An empty GB Railfreight train passes through Fleet Station – August 2023.
TICKET OFFICE TO CLOSE?
As of July 2023, discussions are currently underway to close ticket offices in train stations all around the UK, one of which is in Fleet. The governments plans are being strongly contested by passengers and unions but despite closures not being due to begin until Autumn, some train operators have already started closing them down. So this may well be the last we see of a working ticket office in Fleet.
Below: Fleet Station ticket office in 2023.
Just when you thought you’d finally reached the end!…with any article, there are always a number of interesting facts and snippets which don’t quite belong anywhere else. This section contains a few goodies about the railway staff and accommodation over the years that I’ve managed to put together, as well as a look at the changing appearance of Station Approach.
FLEET STATION MASTERS
Every railway station had a Station Master who was responsible for the overall running of pretty much everything to do with station life. Back in the day, Station Masters (Station-Masters/Stationmasters) were also called Station Agents. You can read more about the Station Master’s houses in the next section.
Here are a list of all known Station Masters of Fleet since it opened way back in 1847. There are some gaps, so if you can help, please get in touch!
Frederick Leigh Warner
J. W. Sansom
W. R. Chandler
W. H. Tolley
2 Minley Road
H. J. Savage
2 Minley Road
2 Minley Road
2 Minley Rd
2 Minley Rd
12 Minley Rd
W. H. Caseley
2 Minley Rd
2 Minley Rd
* – The railway did not provide accommodation at this time.
1 – First recorded Station Master.
2 – Mr. Anderson is the son of previous Station Master, Henry Anderson.
3 – Henry Anderson listed as living at Station House where Fleet Rd meets Cove Rd. There is no further record of this property.
4 – 12 Minley Road was named “Redcote” (until at least 1950).
5 – Mr. Woodger continued to live at his Fleet residence when he left Fleet Station to be in charge of Farnborough and Brookwood stations.
6 – Mr. Baker was the Station Master at Winchfield and Hook. He remained living in Winchfield after taking up the Fleet position.
The Anderson family are listed as living at Redcote (12 Minley Road) between (at least) 1923 – 1950 despite not holding a position of Station Master in all of those years.
After this date, Fleet and other small stations were under the control of the Basingstoke Station Master, so it was the end of the Fleet “Agent”.
STATION MASTER’S HOUSE (FIRST)
From around 1900, the railway started to provide offers of rented accommodation for their workers. This often included larger houses for the Station Masters and smaller cottages for the workers. You can see the known addresses of the Station Masters in the table above.
Around the time of the new Fleet Station being built in 1904, a house was built in what is now the north side railway car park. The address was 2 Minley Road and it was to be the original home of the Fleet Station Master. There are no know photos of the house and garden, which was at the bottom of a slope.
The house is believed to have been demolished in the late 70s when plans to turn the area into a car park were first put forward. Below you can see the position of the house on a map from 1911. If you have a photo of the house or any information about it, please get in touch!
I’ve always regretted not having a photo. There was a picture one time but it has been mislaid over the years. It was a lovely big detached property with 4 bedrooms but it needed updating. Both Farnborough and Winchfield had similar houses that were pulled down too.
– Barbara Munday (Daughter of Station Master Bert Woodger)
Below: 1911 map showing Station Masters House.
Below: 1948 aerial view showing Station Masters House.
In the photo below, you can just see the roof of the old Station Master house where the number one is shown.
After the demolition of the house, another property took the place of the official residence and this is still standing today…
STATION MASTER’S HOUSE (SECOND)
Number 12 Minley Road has been recognised as having historical value as the Station Master’s house of Fleet. It isn’t clear why the previous address appears to have no official recognition…perhaps it was demolished before any past value was placed on its history? who knows!
The house features a sign outside, alluding to its original use and as luck would have it, as this article is being written (August 2023) is currently up for sale, giving us a unique opportunity to take a look inside the property.
Below you can see how the house looks today, along with a listing from Hart Council recognising the historical value of the property and a map to show its close vicinity to Fleet Station.
RAILWAY COTTAGES AND STATION HOUSE
Another location for Fleet railway accommodation was the railway cottages in Elvetham Road. These consisted of six terraced buildings in a typical worker style that still exist today at the address 22 – 28 Elvetham Road.
Below: Railway cottages in what is now now as 22 – 28 Elvetham Road.
There is also mention of a Station House/Station Cottage/Old Station House in the workers residences but I’m not 100% sure where that is…my best guess from research done is shown below – please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong or if you have more info/photos to add to this section!
Here are some dates I’ve managed to find for occupants of the railway workers homes. As usual, please do get in touch if you have any more information on these.
(Old) Station Cottage/House
1929 - 1950
A. E. Lipscombe
1910 - 1950
B. P. Allen
1910 - 1926
1929 - 1950
W. G. Pickett
1910 - 1926
A. Trimmer/Mrs. Trimmer
1933 - 1936
1937 - 1939
W. H Hatto
1910 - 1929
1933 - 1950
W. J. Brackstone
1923 - 1939
A. H. Tocock
P. C. Goddard
1910 - 1926
1929 - 1939
J. Hooker, G. L. Groves. C. Freeman
I believe this is the building referred to as Station House in Elvetham Road.
Below: Station House? I think this could be the building referred to – today it is 2 Elvetham Road.
Below: Further views of 2 Elvetham Road.
If this is the address of the former Station House, sadly it doesn’t look like it will be around for long, as planning permission is currently being sought to demolish the old building and replace it with yet more flats.
Below: Before and after…plans are currently underway to demolish the building for new flats.
And so, to finally end the history of Fleet Station, here’s a little look at the entrance to the train station (known as Station Approach) and how it has changed in appearance over the years. The Station Hotel hotel (public house) sign can be seen below on the left in the same location it is today.
Below: How Station Approach has changed over the years.
Well that’s it for now! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this article, it was certainly a huge project for me – probably the biggest one so far! Please do check out the other articles on the website and spread the word…and of course, if you have any interesting information or photos on the history of the railway – or Fleet – then get in touch or even better still, come and join our online history group!
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