Having been brought up in Wantage in the 50s and early 60s, I missed all but a few of the remaining traces of the Wantage Tramway. My family were members of the Baptist Church in Mill Street, Wantage, behind which was the Tramway Manager's house where for a while, many years later, a girlfriend of mine rented an upstairs flat.

Only a few years ago (1999-2000) there was a campaign to save the old train shed, used by Graham Benton who was running Magpie’s Emporium, an architectural reclaim business. He was heading a project to preserve what remained and turn it into a tourist attraction, even going as far as trying get the supermarket to sponsor a light rail link to Wantage Road Station, due to reopen as a commuter stop. I believe it all sadly fell through. I think he had previously been involved in a successful project to preserve Faringdon station.

We used to travel from Wantage on the bus to go shopping in Abingdon, the bus terminus was then in the Station Yard. There was a café/restaurant called “The Pied Piper” in Broad Street, opposite the Conservative Club (Stratton House). At the opposite end of Broad street from the Station yard was the Windsor Fish and Chip shop. Opposite the Station yard was a Co-op shop and the Salvation Army Citadel.

Moving to Abingdon in my mid teens was interesting for me as a railway enthusiast as they still had a railway in the town centre. By then (1965) there were of course no more regular passenger services. I do vaguely recall that, in the mid 50s, after a short double-decker bus trip from the Grove Street depot of the City of Oxford Motor Co (close to the place where the line of the tramway had crossed over the road and into a field, to continue to the terminus passing behind the houses and gardens, instead of alongside the road as it was between there and Wantage Road Station), via Grove Village to Wantage Road mainline station, then taking the Oxford train from Wantage Road Station, via Didcot and changing at Radley for Abingdon.

I also remember frequenting the old Station building in Abingdon a couple of evenings a week in it's incarnation as a boys club in the latter half of the 60s until some enthusiastic councillor (so rumour has it) arranged to get it bulldozed in the middle of the night – under threat of the imposition of a preservation order.

My younger brother was at Royce's (Abingdon School) and a founder member of the school's MRC. He tried unsuccessfully to find plans and relevant photos of the station so they could build a 4mm scale model of it for their club layout. In the end, he and a friend measured up what little remained of the building (I think the gents toilets was left standing for a short while after the demolition, probably until the water supply had been properly shut-off!) and they drew their plans based on the vestiges they found among the rubble. Unable to find any photographs of the front of the station, they guessed, pretty accurately in hindsight, at the shape of the pediment above the front entrance, based on people's vague and widely divergent recollections: some even claimed it had been triangular!! It cannot have been any later than 1971 when the station was demolished, in my opinion, or my brother would not have still been at school. Other buildings remained after that, but the goods shed came down soon afterwards and the stables, used by Langfords as a store, lasted quite a while longer.

In the late 60s early 70s a couple of friends lived in a first floor flat at 63 Stert Street (a continuation of the same building that housed the Railway Inn at the other end). They had a 'borrowed' firebucket as their kitchen waste-bin, and we often used to walk the lines at the weekend past Barton Court, Thrupp Farm and between the gravel pits and the river as far as Radley and back. The line was still in sporadic use during the week to ship MG cars from their works in Cemetery Road. Then we would all go back to the Stert Street flat and drink mugs of cheap Brazillian instant coffee and listen to Van Morrison, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, the Moody Blues, Grateful Dead and other such delights, interspersed with 'Steam over Shap' sound effects records on their then state-of-the-art but now relatively primeval stereo system! The railway was an integral part of our lives, an integral part, like MG’s as well, of everyone’s life in Abingdon.

 
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© 2006 Phil Jose.  All Rights Reserved.