Mortehoe & Woolacombe Station

The London and South Western railway line was extended from Barnstaple to Ilfracombe in July 1874, when the Mortehoe railway station was opened. On Tuesday 9th January 1894 the station saw a fire that very nearly destroyed it. The local newspaper reported it the following day: “Yesterday the officials were able to work the signals at Mortehoe Railway Station from the signal-box which was destroyed by fire early on Sunday morning. Karslake, the signalman, left the box quite safe on Saturday night. Mr Loader, the stationmaster, was also there at half past nine, and, as the fire was not discovered until nearly 5 o’clock the next morning it must have been smouldering all night. Fortunately the wind was not in the direction of the station house, or the whole block would have come down.”

The railway became a busy line and the orginal single track line was doubled between 1889 and 1891. On the northbound platform, stood the station masters house, waiting room and ticket office. There also stood a small, 20 lever, signal box and the entrance to a small goods yard. On the southbound platform stood a simple shelter. The name of the station was known as Mortehoe until it was changed to Mortehoe & Woolacombe on the 13th May 1902, and Woolacombe was not added until the 5th June 1950. Michael Karslake worked at the station for 40 years, prior to this he worked as a railway porter. When he moved to Mortehoe he and his family lived in the Railway Cottages, Mortehoe. Michael would retire from the station work, after 48 years of service, 40 of which had been spent in Mortehoe “After 40 years service with the London and South Western Railway, which have been spent Morte-Hoe Station, Mr. Michael Karslake has retired, carrying with him the respect and esteem his colleagues and the public generally. Of cheerful and obliging disposition, and ever ready to help in any good cause, religious and social, Mr Karslake will much misted by the community. It is proposed make public presentation appreciation of his services

Mortehoe and Woolacombe Railway station in 1908 appeared in the London and South Western Railway Guides: “Although the railway does not penetrate into this delightful seaside village, the line of the London and South Western Railway, on its way to Ilfracombe, passes through Morte-Hoe, whence a descending road among the hills takes the traveller the famous Woolacombe Sands, which extend round the curve of Morte Bay for a distance of three miles, and constitute one of “the finest in the county. The little creek that runs under to the forbidding headland of Morte Point well known as shell-gathering ground, and many types of sea birds are found the numeroua of Baggy Point. This year Woolacombe will be more attractive to visitors than ever, inasmuch as it now possesses marine drive extending from one end of the sands to the other. Golfers have the use excellent 15-hole course; and during the summer months tennis and cricket” The station was eventually closed to passengers in October 1970. The North Devon Railway company tried to reopen the line in the early 1970s but were unable to raise the asking price. The tracks were removed in 1974, following its closure the station remained derelict until the mid 1980’s when it was opened as the theme park ‘Once upon a time.’ Once upon a time became a railway themed park, where it was enjoyed by many children until its closure in 2005, when it was put up for sale for £800,000. Designed to be ‘fun’, it was run for a time by the same people who operate nearby Watermouth Castle. The theme park included a number of old train coaches, and railway stock which were used to create displays and interactive attractions. Following it’s closure in 2006 the land was approved for a housing development consisting of seven units located where the orginal platforms had been and thirty seven holiday let units. The signal box became a reception area and a shop for the holiday accommodation.

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