The Didcot, Newbury and Southampton railway was originally intended to run from Didcot to just north of Micheldever, with trains running over the LSWR to Southampton.
After persuasion by the people of Winchester and Southampton, the owners attempted an independent line for the entire route instead, but only reached as far as Winchester Chesil, due to a lack of funds.
Eventually the LSWR agreed to a link at Shawford and the DNSR’s line to Southampton was abandoned.
13th April 1882: Didcot-Newbury opened
4th May 1885: Newbury-Winchester opened
1st October 1891: Winchester-Shawford opened
1st February 1909: King’s Worthy Station opened
4th August 1942: Closed for wartime upgrade
8th March 1943: Re-opened to passengers
7th March 1960: Newbury-Shawford closed to passengers
10th September 1962: Didcot-Newbury closed to passengers
8th August 1964: Last through goods train.
4th April 1966: Gradual closure to goods ends with final section, Winchester-Shawford, closing.
In the 1880s, work started on a new railway between Winchester and Southampton, to rival the existing line.
Land was bought, houses along the route were demolished, an embankment was built, and a viaduct was half way to being finished — and then, work stopped.
Nothing happened for several years, and then the line was abandoned and the land sold off. The land for the goods yard was bought by Southampton Football Club, who used it to build their new ground, The Dell, and the site which was intended for Southampton Town station is now part of WestQuay shopping centre.
The original plan for the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway was to run from Didcot to a junction with the London and South Western Railway just north of Micheldever station. Trains would then have run on the LSWR into Southampton.
However, the citizens of Southampton were dissatisfied with the LSWR and were keen for a rival railway company in the town, so they persuaded the DNSR to start work on an independent route.
Maps of the line, planned by DNSR engineer John Fowler (also chief engineer for the Forth Railway Bridge) are now kept in the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester, and show the line from Winchester Chesil station, south through Twyford, Colden Common, Allbrook, Chandler’s Ford, through a tunnel under Chilworth Common, under Winchester Road in Shirley, under Hill Lane, over a viaduct crossing the existing railway at Southampton West/Southampton Central station, and then down to the pier.
In his book The Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway (Oakwood Press, 1971), T. B. Sands writes that there would have been stations at Twyford, Allbrook, Chilworth, Shirley, Southampton Town and Southampton Pier.
On March 24, 1883, the Hampshire Chronicle reported: “At Southampton the contractors have begun to excavate in the neighbourhood of Hill Lane, some 50 yards of roadway having already been levelled for ballasting near Bedford Road, and on a portion of the grounds of Spring Hill School. The ground is also being secured and fenced on land extending from Hill Lane towards Whitedswood Park, Shirley, some fifty men being employed in the work.” The Chronicle of April 28 that year said: “The works for the construction of the Didcot and Southampton line are being carried forward near Hill Lane, by gangs of workmen, and a steam navvy is also in use. The direction of the line on the mudlands has also been staked out.” The case of two claims for compensation was covered in the Hampshire Chronicle on July 28. Five houses in Hill Lane and Charlton Road had been pulled down to make way for the new railway, and the jury ordered the DNSR to pay the owners, a Mrs. Cross and a Mr. Slade, £1,125 and £3,900 respectively.
In August 1883, the DNSR appointed James Staats Forbes as a director. T. B. Sands writes that Forbes had previously worked for the LSWR and GWR, and that his real purpose in joining the DNSR was to stop the Southampton extension, in the interests of the two big companies.
By October 1883, work on the Winchester to Southampton section of the DNSR had been suspended.
The Chronicle of December 29, explained that it was due to a shortage of money: “The Directors found they had no alternative but to stay the progress being made at that end, and concentrate all their strength, financially and otherwise, in completing the Winchester section at the earliest possible moment. If the line is to be continued to Southampton, a very large amount of additional capital, estimated at £350,000, must be raised”.
However, on January 19, 1884, the paper reported: “Some surprise was caused at a dinner of the employees of the South Western Railway at the hotel of that name on Thursday, when Mr Symons, the representative of the Great Northern Railway at the port in Southampton, congratulated the officials ‘that it had been decided that another railway (the Didcot) was not to come to Southampton, as an arrangement had been made to cut short the new railway at Winchester.’ The matter has since been brought before the board of directors, and it was declared that their intention was to carry out the line in its integrity.” In February 1884 the DNSR Chairman, Sir Robert Lloyd-Lindsay, who had given up his position because of poor health, was replaced by Forbes.
At the DNSR proprietors’ half-yearly meeting in March 1884, mention was made of the suspended works in Southampton: “Referring to the works between Hill Lane and the Mudlands, Southampton, Mr Fowler (DNSR engineer) says that on this length 45,000 cubic yards of excavation have been carried to embankment. The viaduct is completed for half its length, and the piers and abutment of the remainder are ready for the arching. The further progress of the works has been stopped since last October, but care is taken to maintain the property of the company until instructions are given for the resumption of the works in this party of the railway.”
The DNSR was unable to raise the funds to finish the line to Southampton, and as the railway terminated at Winchester it could not make money from through trains. So, after a few years, an agreement was made with the LSWR for a link to their line at Shawford. In return, the DNSR agreed to give up plans for their independent route to Southampton.
On October 3, 1891, the Chronicle carried an article on the opening of the line between Winchester and Shawford: “The new junction railway connecting the Didcot line with the South Western system was informally opened on Thursday. There are four trains on weekdays from this city to Southampton and back, all in connection with those running on the Didcot line. The line is worked by the Great Western Company from Didcot to Winchester, but between here and Southampton it is worked by the South Western Company.”
In 1900 a new company was formed which planned to construct the DNSR’s abandoned Winchester-Southampton line. The Southampton and Winchester Great Western Junction Railway obtained an Act of Parliament in 1901, but due to lack of money they had to give up their plans in 1905.
The embankment parallel to Hill Lane can still be found, hidden in the trees, 130 years later, and at the southern end is a wall – probably the last remains of the viaduct.
As well as the unfinished railway from Winchester to Southampton, the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway even had a plan to extend their line to Bournemouth and Poole. Detailed plans were drawn up, but the scheme was not approved by parliament. From a junction at Shirley, the line would have travelled south west through Totton, then continued in a nearly straight line through the New Forest, just to the north of Emery Down, then to Burley Street. Here there would have been a short branch to Ringwood, and the main line would have turned towards Sopley, and then on to Bournemouth.