Retford Railways

Early Memories

Over the years the Retford Times newspaper has published various articles on people's reminiscences of life in Retford during the 19th century.

These articles usually range far and wide in their subject matter, but I am always interested in the bits that recall anything to do with early railways in Retford.  I've gathered some of these bits together and include them below:-


Before the Railways - Coaching around Retford

William Briggs was born in Retford in 1839, and was the son of William Camomile Briggs who drove the the last coach between retford and Newark until shortly after the opening of the Great Northern railway.

William Briggs jnr recalls the arrival of the first locomotive in the town:-

"The speculation and guesses as to what a steam train would be like, when it began to be talked about, was general.  The first locomotive came on a heavy lorry.  It arrived on a Saturday, and going down Dixon's Bridge, the weight sunk the wheels on one side to the axle, and it had to remain till Monday.  On Sunday hundreds visited the spot".

"On one occasion when passing over the bridge on the road to Welham I noticed a very long passenger train approaching.  It was not going fast so the number of carriages was easily counted.  There were 64, all full, and many of them without roofs.  It was drawn by four engines.  I learnt afterwards it was an excursion to Cleethorpes from Manchester and Sheffield".

[From the Retford Times c.1913 - precise date unknown]

Nobilty at Retford Station

Another memory of early times at Retford station is recorded by Mr Frank George who was born in Retford in 1879:-

"At 15 I [began work at] W.H. Smith & Sons railway station bookstall [at Retford], and then, to me, life became real.

"In those days.... Retford Sation from morn to night was very busy.  Main line express trains from London to Scotland and return and stopping trains with bookings to manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, Lincoln, Sheffield, etc., but the exciting part to me was the nobility who used the station.

"... the exciting part to me was the nobility who used the station".

"The Duke and Duchess of Portland, Duke and Duchess of Newcastle, Earl and Countess manvers, Earl and Countess of Yarborough, the Earl and Countess of Galway, the Foljambes, Laycocks, Denisons, Huntsmans etc etc.

"The Duchess of Newcastle would change at retford accompanied with her fleet of Russian Borzoi hounds, magnificent dogs. 

"If any special guests were staying at Welbeck Abbey, a magnificent equipage would bring them to Retford station, cockaded footmen and coachmen and occasionally postillion riders, a wonderful experience for any lad.

"The Porters were almost run off their feet

This page was added by Rewind Retford on 20/08/2013.

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