Lords, VIPs, celebrities and villagers turn out to celebrate Ingatestone station’s 175th anniversary

A tight-knit local community celebrated the 175th anniversary of its railway station – described as a “taste of the kingdom of heaven” by the Bishop of Chelmsford.

VIPs, celebrities, civic dignitaries and over 100 residents took part in the special event at Ingatestone railway station on Sunday 12 May.

Amongst the attendees were former Olympic gold medallist, Fatima Whitbread, former England cricketer Graham Gooch, Brentwood MP Alex Burghart, Lord John Petre, Lord Eric Pickles and the Bishop of Chelmsford.

Ingatestone railway station, on the Greater Anglia network, first opened in 1844, after Lord William Petre, the 11th Baron, allowed the Eastern Counties Railway to run through his land.

He insisted that the station was built in the current location to his design – in a style that mirrored his Tudor ancestral home, Ingatestone Hall.

From 1844 to 1846, when the current station was finished, a cottage near the railway served as the station building.

Now, 175 years later, the 18th Baron, Lord John Petre, who frequently pops into the station, was one of the guests of honour at the anniversary celebrations.

Speeches were given by Greater Anglia engineering director Martin Beable, the acting chair of Ingatestone and Fryerning Parish Council, Cllr Paul Jeater, Lord John Petre and Alex Burghart.

Presentations were given to two of the station team, Steve Wills and Dave Moody, by The Railway Heritage Trust executive director Andy Savage, Network Rail head of communications Kate Snowden, and Martin Beable.

The Bishop of Chelmsford blessed the station and one of the parish council’s longest serving members, former Cllr David Abrey, unveiled a commemorative plaque donated by the council.

Greater Anglia’s station volunteer adopter Robert Fletcher put on an exhibition with fascinating facts and photos from the station’s history.

Musical entertainment was provided by the Anglo European school, where many pupils use the station on their journey to and from school.

Martin Beable, said: “It’s tremendous to see how fond the Ingatestone community is of our station and the people who work there. I think the fact that so many people celebrated is testament to how much the community appreciates them.”

Lord Petre said: “We locals greatly value our railway station and the succession of friendly and helpful staff who, over many years, have run it – a tradition that Steve Wills and his team continue excellently to maintain.

“I feel particularly honoured to be included in the celebrations as, by all accounts, relations between my great-great-great-grandfather, who provided the land on which the station stands, and the Great Eastern Railway Company were not of the warmest.”

Paul Jeater, acting chair of Ingatestone and Fryerning Parish Council, said: “Ingatestone and Fryerning Parish Council is honoured to be a part of the station’s 175th anniversary celebrations and will unveil a new plaque that will hang in the main ticket hall.

“We are proud of our station’s heritage and would like to thank the hardworking station staff for their invaluable service to our community.”

The Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, said: “Even though I only travel from Ingatestone Station to London once or twice a week, the staff at the station know me by name. They are unfailingly courteous, helpful, diplomatic and friendly.

“I can think of few other places where the customer service is of such a high standard. Who would have thought it? You get a taste of the kingdom of heaven at the ticket office of a railway station.”

Kate Snowden said: “Celebrating Ingatestone’s 175th birthday with so many residents, staff and rail supporters was very special. It’s such an exciting time for the railway in Anglia with new trains and a record level of investment over the next five years, but we must never forget that we are also custodians of our railway heritage. It’s obvious that Ingatestone has a special place in people’s hearts and it was a real pleasure to be part of that community spirit.”

Andy Savage said: “It has been a pleasure to be involved in restoring this fine Victorian station and bringing previously redundant buildings back to life.”

Last year there were about 780,000 passenger journeys to and from Ingatestone station, which is on the mainline to London and is served by at least two trains an hour during the day, every day except for Sundays, when it’s one an hour.