RICCARTON JUNCTION - THE VILLAGE TODAY
So having arrived at the village by walking along the forestry road from Whitrope this is the sight that greets us. Or, at least, it did in July 2008 when I arrived here.
At first glance, there's not very much left at all. But to give you a clue as to where you are and what you are looking at, against each photo I'll be putting two links. One will link to an Ordnance Survey map where it is appropriate to do so. If you click on the link, the map will open in a new window and you'll see the spot from where the picture was taken and in which direction you'll be looking. The second will link to an ancient photo where one is available, and show you what you might have seen when there was something worth seeing.
The copyright of the Ordnance Survey for the map is gratefully acknowledged, and grateful thanks again to Frank Rutherford of Copshaw Pictures and the Waverley Route Heritage Association for allowing me to use the historic photos. If you have any historic photos of the village or the railway here that might enhance this page, please .
But what we are actually looking at is the school house on the left edge of the photo. You wouldn't have seen it from here in the olden days because the houses were in the way. If you notice the embankment where the line of trees is just to the left of centre and which continues to the right of the track, that embankment is the remains of the houses that were demolished in 1967
From where I'm standing to take this photo, I'm looking downhill towards the railway line. I think that the rubble might be the remains of the rear wall of the gardens of the Store Brae houses. It is the Store Brae houses that I think were the original houses here and which were the first to be demolished - in 1965 or 1966.
It was just about here - at the rear of house no9 - that the forestry road originally stopped.
The houses all had gardens, and the growing of vegetables was quite a pastime for some. There wasn't much else to do, especially after the Refresh - the Railway Refreshment Room which was used as the village pub - closed in 1951 and the Village Hall closed down during the winter of 1962-3. This stone wall in the background would seem to me to be the back wall of the garden, with the fells beyond.
This is the Station House, formerly the home of the stationmaster. From its zenith as a hive of activity employing 50 or 60 people, the station reached its nadir on 27th March 1967 when it became an unstaffed railway halt. After the stationmaster left, a signalman and his family moved in. They left in December 1968 just prior to the closure of the line, as none of the family could drive. The house was abandoned, I suppose the argument being that all the other railway houses had been demolished so it wasn't worth sending in a wrecking crew just for the one house.
Some while later, so the story goes, a couple of lorries arrived bringing scaffolding and workers. In a very professional manner they removed the slates from the roof. The concerned inhabitant of the schoolhouse was told by the gang that the Forestry Commission, who now owned the house, would be re-roofing it for a new tenant in early course.
When, after a period of a few weeks there had been no further movement, the resident telephoned the Forestry Commission to enquire after the re-roofing, only to be told that the Forestry Commission knew nothing about the removal of the roof, its replacement, or any future tenant. History does not record whether the thieves were ever captured, but from that day on the fate of the Station House was unfortunately assured.
Purely by chance I did hear that the Forestry Commission is to consider any proposal relating to the future of the Station House. Even demolition.
An even more brazen group were those "custodians" of the hikers' bothy, formerly the Leesburnfoot shepherd's cottage. One of their number, totally oblivious of the possible consequences, proudly recounted how they had demolished the porch of the station house, dragged it with a Landrover all the way to the hikers' bothy, and erected it over the entrance.
The near building is the schoolhouse, and the far building was the one-roomed village school. I said elsewhere that all of the houses here at Riccarton Junction had a direct connection with the railway. Even the schoolhouse, as the teacher was married to one of the railway guards.
In the image in Link Two you can't see the school and schoolhouse because the houses of the village are in the way. All that remains of the houses today is the rubble from the demolition, which is the heap that goes horizontally across the centre of the photograph.
This is a view of the school building and the school house taken from down on the old track bed of the Waverley Line.
It should be emphasised that despite the legend surrounding the village, the village was not abandoned and demolished following the closure of the railway. Although it is true that the last family moved away just prior to the closure of the line, everyone else had long gone. The final demolition of residential property here took place in 1967, some 18 months prior to the closure of the line.
It should also be quite clearly noted that by the time that the village was abandoned, there had been a road here for some four and a half years and in fact the major part of the desertion took place after the road was built. Some desertion of the village had indeed taken place prior to the building of the road, but this was due to the closure of the Border Counties Line that ran into here from Hexham. When this line was closed, on 1st September 1958, many of the interchange sidings were uplifted and the engine shed and some other facilities were closed. The employees of those facilities were transferred elsewhere to work. The school attendance register is heavily anotated with "moved to Hawick" or "moved to Carlisle" or even "moved to Ayr".
The schoolhouse was not owned by the railway company but by the local education authority and for this reason it escaped demolition. It was sold into private hands in 1969 (so I have been informed by one of the inhabitants of the house) and it is written into the deeds of the property that there shall be unrestricted right of access on the forestry road for the owner and his guests.
And this reminds me - I welcome all contributions from readers of this site. If you have anything to add, or that you wish to correct, or merely engage in idle chit-chat, please feel free to .
A path for the use of the villagers ran in front of houses 11 to 34, and continued through a swing gate up to the school and school house.
The gate must have been quite impressive if the gateposts were anything to go by. One of them can be seen in the image on the left, lying in the undergrowth. It seems to have escaped the attention of the looting party that was organised by members of the Bothy Association.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE SCHOOL BUILDING AND SCHOOL HOUSE ARE PRIVATE PROPERTY AND SHOULD NOT BE VISITED WITHOUT THE EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE OWNER
The inhabitants of the school house were clearly expected to be of a different social class than the railwaymen and their families who lived in the houses lower down the hill. The school house had the luxury of a bathroom and an inside toilet. Even despite the lack of attention over the past 40 years, the quality of the woodwork in the house cannot be mistaken. It is very doubtful if such a quality existed in the railwaymen's houses.
There is also a glass screen inside the house made of coloured glass and depicting musical symbols. It was said to me that this was done to impress a teacher who took great pleasure in music.
I was able to see the school building from the outside. After its closure the school building was abandoned and humus and detritus to some depth accumulated around the building. A damp-mark on one of the walls gave an indication that there could have been a depth of between one and two feet - all of which had to be shovelled away by hand.
The staining on the end wall here seems to indicate that the building was at one time much lower and was raised at a later date. I am not convinced by this explanation. It seems to me that with the school house being at this end of the school building and the fells rising steeply to the left of this image, this wall of the school was well-protected from the violent winds and the overhanging roof kept off the rain from the upper part of the walls, hence the darker damp-staining on the lower.
An attempt had been made to do something with the building in the past and it had been stripped of all its fittings, most of which were cast away outside. This is one of the cast-iron radiators, lying where it had been abandoned and you can see some idea of the depth of detritus. The radiator has been damaged as you can see.
In many senses it's tragic that the school building has been treated in this way. It's quite true that the equipment of the 19th Century isn't up to modern-day standards of economy and efficiency, but if "brutality" is the answer, then it must have been a very silly question.
Isolation was said by many villagers to be the reason for abandoning the village. It's a long way to go to the pub, the cinema or to the shops. But isolation is just that which has attracted several recent owners of the schoolhouse. Pressure of urban living has been such that many people have fled to the countryside.
But one of the residents here in the past seems to have had another reason for coming here. It was mentioned to me that a gentleman from Southern Africa came to live here with a wife and child, and they lived here in splendid isolation for a while. One fateful evening however, the wife and child were intercepted by the police and refused permission to return. Shortly after, the husband was beseiged by a gang of police, who arrested him on a warrant from his native country where he was wanted for crimes of extreme gravity.
This story had been told to me (varying in some of the details) by several different people, hence the reason why I am recording it. However, another person to whom I spoke refutes the story in its entirety, and it is quite right that I record this rebuttal too. You will have to make up your own minds as to the validity or otherwise of this account, but next time I'm in the area I shall research the matter thoroughly to establish the facts to my own satisfaction. If in the meantime you wish to comment on the above, please and I'll note your comments.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE SCHOOL BUILDING AND SCHOOL HOUSE ARE PRIVATE PROPERTY AND SHOULD NOT BE VISITED WITHOUT THE EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE OWNER
This stream that runs by underneath here in a culvert - I think that this is the central stream of the village and if so, I'm looking at the site of the former village hall. This was a lean-to structure that was against the end of house no26. The hall closed down some time during the severe winter of 1962-3 and was dismantled and sold to an agricultural mechanic near Canonbie.
The houses in the village were simply flattened, and no attempt was made to move the rubble. It lies where it fell. But despite the rough-and-ready nature of workmen's houses in the 19th Century, some of the masonry was exquisite.
This nicely squared-off piece of solid stone was presumably a lintel for a door or a window and its bulk is impressive. It is in some way reminiscent of "long and short work" - the alternating large and small stone blocks that form the corners of Saxon church towers.
The houses were almost entirely built of stone, and local stone at that - presumably what is known as "Dent stone", and the stones were joined with mortar. Here in this photograph can be seen the stone coursework, giving an indication of how the houses were constructed.
It also gives an indication of how the houses were demolished - they were simply pushed over in situ and the rubble was left to lie around. I was told that in several instances there were possessions abandoned inside the houses and amateur local archaeologists had been along and removed them over the years.
Without digging down to excavate this stone, I would hazard a guess that it is of slab formation. The material used for flooring in the houses has not been specified, but stone slabs on the ground floor would be a good possibility. Concrete was in its infancy at the time that these houses were built, but I reckon they had gone beyond the stage of terre battu.
If these are in fact stone slabs, another possibility is that it might be paving for a path that led to the outside toilet. Only 3 of the houses (the station house, the school house and for some inexplicable reason one of the railwaymen's houses) had an inside toilet.
Some primitive attempt at damp-proofing had been applied to the houses. Here in these ruins I was able to identify what looks like a course of bitumen inlaid between a couple of courses of stonework. This layer would be just above ground-level but hopefully just below the level of the floor.
Other protective work was done on some of the houses. Those in the Store Brae that were exposed to the biting westerly winds had a layer of slate tiling down the western sides to keep out the weather. The winds up here can be noted for their cruelty, especially in winter.
In this rather blurred photograph (I'm not quite sure what happened here) there is a much better perspective of the remains of the demolished houses heaped up in a pile. The track on which I'm standing and looking towards the schoolhouse would seem to be the original track used by the residents and is reflected in the photograph at Link Two.
The extension of the forestry road (which formerly terminated at the back on house no9 - the end one of the Store Brae houses) in the background would seem to cut right through the site of the houses.
I've mentioned the Store Brae on several occasions in my account. This ran from the north of the village south-westwards down to the railway line at the western edge of the station. Although only 6 houses lining the brae are depicted on the Ordnance Survey map of the time as depicted in Link One, all the other evidence is that there were 8, and all 8 can clearly be seen in the photograph at Link Two. The rubble heap at the side of the path is by my reckoning the remains of the houses
Here is another view of the Store Brae taken from down on the railway track bed. The previous photograph was taken from on the path just underneath the trees.
It has been suggested that 6 houses were built by the contractors who built the railway line, and that they were taken over by the North British Railway and used as accommodation for railway staff at Riccarton Junction, with the other houses being built later. The houses at Store Brae were certainly the most primitive of the village, and I am wondering (on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, I have to say) whether there might have been 8 houses built by the contractors, these being the Store Brae houses, and the figure of 6 houses is a confusion caused by just 6 houses in this position being depicted on the Ordnance Survey map. I can see me also making a series of visits to the railway archives next time I'm over here.
The Store Brae houses were also the first to be demolished - some time between late 1964 and early 1967. Even if one assumes the latter date, the railway station was still staffed at this time and the Waverley Line still had another 20 months to go before its dramatic closure. It is a mis-statement of the facts to suggest that it was the closure of the line that led to the abandonment and demolition of the village. As I have said earlier, there was only one railway house still standing - the Stationmaster's House - at the time of the closure of the line. All of the others had been abandoned and demolished some while previously.
I don't have much of any idea of the former nature of these remains. Thet are almost certainly those of a railway building. As I have said, I've not been able to locate a labelled ground plan of the railway junction and station site, so if you can help me out with one, I would be extremely grateful. Please if you can, or if you would like to add anything to whatever I have written.
And it wasn't simply the scrap dealers who cleaned up following the closure of the railway lines. When a railway preservation society applied to buy the fixtures and fittings of a railway line somewhere (I forget where exactly) British Rail wanted a sum of £5250 per mile. The society declined, and the fixtures and fittings were then sold to a scrap dealer. He offered to sell them to the society for £3000 per mile, having presumably taken a healthy profit on that.
British Rail profiteering from these preservation societies? Perish the thought!
There is a stream that flows down from the fells bisecting the site and passing underneath the railway line. It is culverted to pass under the village hall and roadway, and emerges impressively in a leafy glade with an interesting cascade of steps.
A close examination of the steps in the stream here reveals that they are in fact old wooden railway sleepers. They have probably been here in the stream for a hundred years at least, and just as probably been used to support the railway track for 30 years before that. Now wouldn't they have a tale to tell if ever they gained the power to speak?
And judging by the condition of them, they could be extracted and used elsewhere on another part of Europe's railway system. They are in far better condition than some that I have recently seen.
Here in the stream are several broken roofing slates. It's not likely that they came from the de-roofing of the Stationmaster's House as this is some 20 yards away and level with this site. It's more than likely that they came from some of the houses that formerly stood close to the stream - nos23-26 maybe - and fell into the stream when the houses were pushed over. Heavy rains probably washed them through the culvert.
During our walk to Riccarton Junction we followed for a short while the aquaduct that brought water down from the fells to the railway. It's still here, and we can see it passing over the stream. The cast-iron pipe that would be in here has been removed however. This would of course have some scrap value.
The aquaduct continues on inexorably towards the railway station, and this makes me think that it was not drinking water that was carried in the aquaduct. Drinking water came from a spring on the fells at the back of the school house and was filtered in a bed at the back of house no27. From there it ran down to the houses. It would be simple to continue it on to the station using the force of gravity (the site of the houses is a good 30 feet above the level of the station and only 50 yards away). The aquaduct would probably have conveyed industrial water for the engines and workshops.
There is quite an interesting layer of rubble here on the ground. It looked like it might be slate or slate-based but it was too difficult to clamber down to have a closer look at it. This is not the kind of thing that you do when you are alone and miles away from any kind of civilisation. When I come again, I'll bring a rope and a suitable colleague.
It wouldn't be a complete picture of the village without taking a photograph of the old village rubbish dump. This is situated to the north-west of the village just down the side of the railway embankment by the track down to the Leesburnfoot shepherd's cottage (now hikers' bothy). This has been well-excavated by many people in the recent past and all kinds of artefacts have been discovered and which adorn collections both public and private.
From here, we can turn out attention to the site of the railway station