The Eastern Counties Railway (ECR) completed and opened the railway 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 subsequently it was closed to passengers in 1952. The Maldon branch was closed in 1966.
The railway line was cut through the site of the Saxon Burh and Iron Age Fort and the embankment to the south of the station was built from the soil removed. 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 ECR became part of the Great Eastern Railway (GER) in 1862. In 1905 a serious accident occurred when the Cromer express came off the rails and claimed the lives of 9 people. Although a decision was made earlier that year to replace the old temporary wooden station buildings, as the accident caused considerable damage to the station the opportunity was taken to act on existing plans to rebuild the station. As a part of this building work the main entrance to the station was moved 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 London North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1923, and then the LNER was nationalised, 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 accommodate 12 coach trains, that electric services reached Witham. The Braintree branch was electrified in 1977.
The service was marketed as Network Southeast in 1986, and on privatisation in 1997 the franchise went to First Great Eastern, then National Express East Anglia in 2004, rebranded NXEA in 2008, and Abellio Greater Anglia in 2012.
This station still serves its original purpose with great effect. Since 1907 the station has been fitted with electric lighting and then 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 was granted in 2019 to transfer the booking office back to the 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.