Handel’s oratorio, ‘Hail the Conquering Hero’ played 160 years ago by brass bands from Beaminster and Yeovil at the opening ceremony of Crewkerne Railway Station, was played on euphonium by John Coleshill on Saturday morning. The musical piece, written in 1747 by German born British Baroque music composer, Georg Friedrich Handel, had welcomed crowds of people onto the platform on July 18th, 1860 to see the first train arrive from Yeovil Junction, hauled by locomotives Britannia, Montrose and Vulcan.
The 160th anniversary of the historic event was marked on Saturday by only three members of Friends of Crewkerne Station, secretary Gail Coleshill, John Coleshill, historian Mike Frackiewicz and the new Station Ambassador, Tim Mears. The small group who all wore facial masks, met outside the pumphouse, underneath the anniversary banner depicting an old photo of the railway station. Similar banners were placed on the old signal box and on railings in Market Street, courtesy of Humphries Kirk solicitors.
Friends of Crewkerne Station (FOCS) had made bunting for the station and had planned to hold an exhibition in the station waiting room and at Crewkerne Town Hall. The proposed celebrations had been scaled back considerably, to comply with the Government’s guidelines during the coronavirus crisis. FOCS secretary, Gail Coleshill said: “We were hoping that there could have been an event similar to that which ocurred 160 years ago, but sadly that was not to be in these strange times. We are proposing to mark the historic occasion with more activities when there is more freedom of movement. Hopefully by the time we are able to have a celebratory event, we will have plenty of people’s railway recollections.”
FOCS are inviting people to share their stories, poems and photographs of the station. They are looking for ordinary or extra-ordinary tales, like shopping trips from Crewkerne by train to Exeter or visits by rail to London for a show or to see the city’s famous landmarks and sights. Entries can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or left at the station office. An article on the opening of Crewkerne Railway Station with other historical notes was published in the summer edition of The Crewkerne Flyer. Crewkerne & District Museum are also currently running a pop-up exhibition of 160 years of the railway station’s history. Opening days are Fridays and Saturdays, 11 am – 1 pm, free entry and social distancing measures are in place.