New lease of life for town's railway station

The completion of work on a £2.3million project to renovate and redevelop Morpeth Railway Station was recognised at a plaque unveiling ceremony on Tuesday.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 11th September 2020, 6:31 pm
Karen Bower, interim chair of Greater Morpeth Development Trust, and Andy Savage at Morpeth Railway Station. Picture by Paul Stephenson.
Karen Bower, interim chair of Greater Morpeth Development Trust, and Andy Savage at Morpeth Railway Station. Picture by Paul Stephenson.

The man who did it, Railway Heritage Trust executive director Andy Savage, said he was very impressed with the scheme – which not only conserves the Grade II listed site, but equips it with the modern facilities needed by rail travellers and, at the same time, provides new office workspace for seven small businesses.

His organisation was one of the key partners that bought into the vision for the future of the station, which was first mooted seven years ago by the community-based Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) along with other funders such as the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Northumberland County Council, the North East Rural Growth Network, Northern Trains Limited and Network Rail.

Right from the outset when work began, the partners were anxious to retain as many of the features, along with the style and character of the main station building, as it was designed by the renowned railway architect Benjamin Green 174 years ago.

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For example, as many as possible of the original timber window frames have been repaired by hand, the elegant portico entrance to the building that had been boarded up has been re-opened and 15 very tall chimneys, which were reduced in size for safety reasons some years ago, have been re-instated using stone quarried in Northumberland.

Before unveiling a plaque, Mr Savage said that Morpeth Railway Station now looks “wonderful”.

“As the last surviving Benjamin Green station, it was vital that we retained its original feel and GMDT has done that with a vengeance,” he added.

In addition to the workspace, the station now has a new ticket office that will be open for longer hours and a cafeteria providing refreshments for travellers and local residents.

There is also a dedicated taxi office designed as a caboose-style guard’s van in the station forecourt.

Six of the seven offices in the station enterprise hub are already in the process of being let to local businesses, while operators have also been found for the café and the taxi office.

GMDT chief executive David Lodge said: “It has been a long – and at times a very challenging journey – to get to where we are now, but all along the partners in the railway station team have been determined to not only give travellers to and from Morpeth the best modern rail facilities they could wish for, but also preserve what is a magnificent example of Victorian railway history.

“What people using the station can now see is the successful outcome of a huge amount of work over the past few years, which could not have happened without the full commitment of our partnership team working together to deliver a quality project for Morpeth.

“At the same time, we have created much-needed workspace for seven small business in the town and between them, the café and the taxi office, it is estimated that part of the project could support nearly 20 jobs.

“Morpeth Railway Station has been a gateway into the town and the wider Northumberland for nearly 175 years and now that it has been restored to its original Victorian elegance, it will continue to make a decisive statement about what an important local amenity it is – as well as being a living reminder of a pioneering era of rail travel in Britain.”