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Intrigue of railway station picture
3:42pm Wednesday 25th April 2012 in Letters to the Editor
I AM entirely in agreement with museum curator Jonathan Catton that the fine photograph reproduced (Gazette, April 13) in Down Memory Lane of Grays railway station cannot really be of the actual opening day.
On the opening of an important rail line, there would have been festive decoration at every stopping point as well as considerable crowds of sightseers.
The public, incidentally, did not use the trains on that first day – the railway company ranonly carriages for its own invited guests.
It’s interesting to note also the press report of 1854 makes mention that fares on this line were “so low as to be almost unprecedented in railway travelling”.
The photo also cannot have been taken in mid-April 1854, even though that year had been a mellow late winter and an early ploughing locally, because the very visible fieldscape is evidently burgeoning with leaf.
The comparative paleness of the field surface suggests a time of year not to, or beyond, harvest.
What places the picture firmly to a later date are the two Brentwood division policemen standing on the southern platform.
They are wearing the longish, eight-button, single breasted tunic with wide skirts which became regulation for the rural police in Essex during 1855.
The headdress they have on is clearly the original top hat of the 1840s. I have conflicting evidence of when this topper became replaced by the tallist blower patter hat – perhaps an expert can answer?
Jon Catton’s wry comment about these policemen being present to keep an eye on fare dodgers is pretty well on the mark, by the way.
Police duties in the 1850s included attendance on arriving trains, so as to watch criminals coming into the countryside from the East End for a day’s housebreaking.
Thank you for a superb picture – our earliest techno-image of the town – and a greatly enjoyable museum series. – RANDAL BINGLEY, Thurrock Local History Society.