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The first record of Witham was in AD 912 Saxon Chronicles. The Danes had ruled over run much of this country. King Edward the Elder, continuing the campaigns of his father, Alfred the Great, to drive the Danish army out, "went with part of his forces to Maldon in Essex and encamped there whilst the earthwork at Witham was being built and stockaded; and a good number of people who earlier had been under the Danes submitted to him". On this mound were already the remains of an Iron Age hillfort perhaps already 1,500 years old.

 

It was through this mound (or Burgh) that the original railway line was cut through. The embankment to the south of the station was built from the soil removed and in 1841 contracts were let for the building of a ‘Witham Embankment: 40,000 cubic yards carried with 180,000 cubic yards to complete'. Considering all these works were carried out by hand, including all the excavations and embankments, it was truly a massive undertaking and a remarkable achievement.

 

The Eastern Counties Railway (ECR) completed the line from Bishopsgate to Colchester through Romford, Chelmsford and Witham in 1843. In 1848 it became the junction of the Maldon, Witham & Braintree Railway, providing branches to Braintree and Maldon. In 1869 the branch to Braintree joined up with the railway to Bishop’s Stortford, although it was closed in ****. The Maldon branch was closed in 1966.

The ECR became part of the Great Eastern Railway (GER) in 1862. In 1905 a serious accident occurred when an express train to Cromer crashed and claimed the lives of 9 people. Although a decision was made earlier that year to replace the old temporary wooden buildings, as the accident caused considerable damage to the station and the opportunity was taken to rebuild the station. As a part of this building work the entrance to the station was changed from Easton Road to Albert Road building a new booking office on the footbridge. Very detailed Tender documents were prepared in 1906.

The station is largely intact from this rebuild completed in 1907, and is a fine example of a Great Eastern Railway station built with the highest quality construction methods of the time using local companies such as Crittalls for the ironwork. Many stations of this period have been lost - most recently Kelvedon.

 

The GER was absorbed into the LNER in 1923, and the LNER was nationalsed, with the rest of the railway network in 1948. The first section from Liverpool Street to Shenfield was electrified in 1948, but it was not until 1961 when the platforms were extended to accomodate 12 coach trains, that electric services reached Witham. The Braintree branch was elctrified in 1977.

 

This station still serves its original purpose with great effect. Since 1907 the station has been fitted with electric lighting and many refurbishments, the latest being in 2014. Planning permission was granted on 24th October 2007 for an extension to the footbridge to the station car park in Easton Road. However, the new footbridge was not installed until March 2011. New planning permission has just been sought to transfer the booking office to the 2007 car park entrance, entailing a new entrance building and car park works.

The photograph below shows the original temporary station booking office.

Sources: Witham & Countryside Society, Great Eastern Railway Society.

Text and Photographs: John Palombi and Cyril Taylor unless otherwise accredited. Illustrations: John Finch and Julie & John Denney. Translations: Google.com. Original Concept: Joy Vaughan, Witham Town Centre Strategy Group. Narration: John Rhodes
 

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