Edwin James Deverell

This postcard view was taken during Edwin Deverell’s time at Woodlesford and can be dated before 1910 when the Down line home signal was moved back towards Methley to protect the newly installed junction from Water Haigh colliery. The card is part of a collection by John Alsop of the whole of the Midland Railway system.

Edwin James Deverell was a railwayman for over 40 years and the station master at Woodlesford in the early years of the 20th century in what was generally regarded as a “golden age” for the railways. Conditions in the village would have been gradually improving too with more work at the brewery, the brickworks, and the new colliery at Water Haigh where shaft sinking started in 1908.

Edwin was born in 1863 at Twerton-on-Avon near Bath in Somerset. At the age of 17 he started work for the Midland Railway as a goods clerk at Clay Cross in Derbyshire. A year later, when the 1881 census was taken, he had been promoted to be a passenger booking clerk and was lodging with another railwayman. His elder brother Arthur was a station master nearby, at Darley Dale near Matlock, and may have helped Edwin obtain his first job on the railway. Their father was a licensed victualler in Bath by then, having originally been a linen cloth weaver. Unlike his brother Arthur didn’t last very long in railway service and appears to have committed some sort of offence because after Darley, in November 1880, he was demoted to be a goods porter at Appleby on the Settle and Carlisle line. He resigned a few weeks later.

After five years at Clay Cross Edwin Deverell moved a few miles north to Chesterfield where he also worked as a booking clerk. In about 1887 he was transferred into the parcel office at Bradford. There he met Florence Amelia Archer from Baildon and they were married in 1888. Their first daughter Gladys was born a year later. 

By the late 1880s the Midland Railway was one of the top companies in the country with ample opportunities for an intelligent and ambitious railwayman so Edwin’s next move comes as no surprise. It was to be part of the relief staff in the Superintendent’s Office at the Midland’s headquarters in Derby. The job would have involved a fair deal of travelling providing holiday and sickness cover and also extended periods living away from home. The Deverell’s second daughter, May Doris, was born in Derby in December 1890 but when she was baptised on 5 April 1891 in Baildon, the same date the census was taken, her father was 200 miles away fullfilling his duties as a relief clerk at St. Pancras station in London.

A third child, William Archer Deverell, was born at Derby in 1896. Later that year Edwin’s hard work paid off and he was promoted to be Woodlesford’s station master taking up his new posting on 17 December. His starting salary was £120 and gradually over the next ten years it increased to £150.

From the census and staff records it’s possible to get a glimpse of some of the other men who worked at Woodlesford during Deverell’s time. For instance in 1901 one of the signalmen was Kirby Bryant, a 35 year old widower who was a lodger at the home of widowed Jane Hobkinson on Prince’s Street (now Church Street). Two of the station clerks, Frank Ferrett, 26, and Henry Tombs, 23, also lived in the same house. Interestingly all three came from towns or villages close to the Midland Railway’s line to the West of England – Bryant from Bristol, Ferrett from Slimbridge, and Tombs from Evesham.

It’s believed the postcard view of the station above was taken during Edwin Deverell’s time in charge. It shows six station staff and a child posing for the photographer who was standing in the siding next to the Up Line which ran from the end of the platform to the Pottery Lane bridge. In the goods yard there are vans and wagons.

The tall “home” signal in the background would have been used to stop trains on the Down line when shunting was taking place and would have been visible from Methley. Its position indicates that the picture was taken before the opening of the branch to Water Haigh colliery in 1910 when it was moved back to protect the junction.

The coal gas lighting was initially supplied from a gasworks at Bentley’s Yorkshire Breweries and survived into the 1960s.

It’s not clear from the position of the camera but during Edwin Deverell’s tenure the quality of the station gardens earned Woodlesford at least one prize in the Midland Railway’s annual competition. It came in 1907 when the station was one of the Yorkshire runners up along with Wombwell, Elsecar, Bell Busk and Ingrow.

The competitions had started back in the early 1890s with the directors initially setting aside a prize fund of £150 which had doubled to £300 by 1899. The district superintendent was responsible for the judging and could make allowances for the local climate and soil as well as the operational conditions at each station.

The Railway News said: “The success of the scheme has consisted mainly in the attractiveness of the results, and for these the men employed merit the hearty gratitude of the travelling public.”

On the platform there are several coin operated machines. One was for dispensing chocolate. Another of the slot machines could have been for postcards which were often used in the same way we use email today, with a reply sometimes possible by return of post on the same day. Penny packets of cigarettes could also be bought and it seems that the machines, which were hidden round a corner from the door to the booking office, were the target of local petty thieves.

Under the headline “Juvenile Ingenuity” the Rothwell Express in 1901 reported Edwin Deverell’s role in a court case against two schoolboys who were caught using a piece of tin to try and get some chocolate. The station master had asked Samuel Taylor, an inspector from the Automatic Sweets Delivery Company, to watch the machines. He told the court in Leeds that he saw John Gill and John Rowlands come onto the station. One of them worked a piece of tin with his teeth in order to get it into the slot to release a packet of chocolate. Both boys pleaded guilty and the paper reported that since the boys had been “soundly thrashed” by their parents they were set free on payment of costs.

Deverell was also in charge when ten years later Harry Fisher, the 14 year old son of miner Thomas Fisher from nearby Alma Street, was arrested by the police for stealing a packet of cigarettes from the station on a Sunday afternoon at the end of January 1911. Harry who was already working as a brick presser at Armitage’s seems to have got off fairly lightly, with just a ticking off, because it was his mother, Hellen, who was bound over in the sum of 40 shillings for his good behaviour for 12 months.

A major incident which Edwin Deverell had to deal with was in 1910 when a carriage overshot the buffers in the station yard sidings and crashed into Aberford Road, but the most serious mishap during his tenure appears to have been the derailment of a goods train at Waterloo Sidings on Wednesday 15 October 1902. Luckily nobody was hurt but there was a good deal of damage and trains were badly disrupted into the following day.

This photo shows a Midland Railway 0-6-0 locomotive and goods train similar to the one involved in the Waterloo Siding accident in 1902. The photo was taken at Rothwell Haigh before 1925 when the loco received a different type of boiler. 3016 was built in 1876 and originally numbered 1248. For many years it was based at Carlisle but by 1908 had moved to Leeds. After being renumbered 23016 it was withdrawn from service in 1948.

The accident happened at about 1 p.m. when the goods train of 40 wagons, from Derby to Leeds, was crossing the points from the Down main line onto the Goods line at Waterloo. The engine and about 20 wagons were derailed and caused a pile up which blocked the Up and Down passenger lines leaving only the Up goods line clear.

A dozen of the wagons were smashed to pieces and their contents strewn across the tracks. Two of the trucks were carrying barrels of beer from a brewery at Burton-on-Trent. One was on its way to Aberdeen, the other to Barrow. “Many casks, which were of various sizes, came to grief and some apparently excellent liquor was wasted,” noted an obviously dismayed reporter from the Yorkshire Post.

The engine was embedded in the ballast and an eyewitnesses, fearing for the lives of the crew, rushed to help, but the driver, his fireman, and the guard were unhurt. One eyewitness said the footplate men were extremely fortunate “as at the moment of the mishap the entire train appeared as though it would have instantly overwhelmed the engine.”

After stopping all trains in the vicinity the Waterloo signalman called Edwin Deverell whose job it was to put a plan into place to keep services running. All trains in the both directions had to use the Up line through Woodlesford and the Up goods between Waterloo and Rothwell Haigh. It was known as “single line working.” The signalmen and drivers would have been familiar with the procedure as it was used during engineering works. It was in place within an hour of the accident but there were long delays to both passenger and goods trains as they had to wait for their turn to use the line.

The breakdown crane from Holbeck was sent for and it arrived in the charge of Locomotive Superintendent John Thomas Weatherburn. Three inspectors – Cleaver, Mounsey and Whatley – also came from Leeds to help Edwin Deverell keep the traffic moving.

Despite their best efforts there were, by the standards of the time, serious delays to the long distance express trains through Woodlesford. The 3pm departure from London St. Pancras due in Leeds at 7.33pm, was “cleared out” for Bradford at 9.16pm and the 10.55pm Carnforth express was delayed by just over an hour.

Midland Railway plan showing the site of the 1902 accident. (Courtesy Midland Railway Study Centre). 

The stopping passenger train, timed to leave Leeds at 4.50pm, was two hours late causing some consternation in Woodlesford and Rothwell, and along the line in Methley, Altofts and Normanton, as rumours of the accident spread. At that time children over the age of 13 who had won scholarships, or whose families could afford it, went to secondary schools in Leeds, and their parents were naturally concerned when they failed to arrive home at the usual time.

Between 40 and 50 men worked under the glare of lights into the night to clear the wreckage although they were hindered by rain and driving winds. Filing his report for the late editions of his paper the Yorkshire Post reporter gave an estimate of 5am for all the affected lines to be returned to working order. A similar occurence today would probably take a week to clear.

When the 1911 census was taken the Deverell family were still together living in the station house at Woodlesford. Gladys was unmarried and appears not to have had a job whilst Maisie was the manageress at a typewriter machine company, probably in Hunslet or Leeds. On 1 December 1911 Edwin James Deverell was appointed to be the station master at the much larger station at Otley. To mark their appreciation of his 15 years at Woodlesford his friends in the area held a collection and a few weeks later he was presented with a “bureau and purse of gold” at a gathering in the parish room. 

Sadly Florence Deverell died at Otley in 1915. Ten years later, after 46 years of railway service, Edwin retired from there with a pension in July 1925. He went to live in East Finchley in North London to be nearer to his son who had served in the Navy during the First World War and who had become an inspector for London Transport. In about 1938 Edwin moved, for the last time, to Goring-By-Sea on the Sussex coast where he lived with his daughters who ran Macsims cafe and cake shop which also had a small lending library. He died there in 1942.

RETIREMENT OF OTLEY STATIONMASTER. Shipley Times and Express – Friday 03 July 1925.

Mr. E. J. Deverell, who has been station master at Otley for the past 14 years, will retire at the end of this month after 46 years of railway service. That his long record is appreciated is shown in the following extract from a letter he received this week Mr. J. H. Follows, Chief General Superintendent of the London, Midland and Scottish Company, who says, “I desire to express my appreciation of your long and faithful service, and I hope that your retirement will be attended with health and happiness.”

A native of Bath, Mr. Deverell entered the employment the Midland Railway Company at the age of 17 at Clay Cross, where he remained for five years. He then went to Chesterfield as booking clerk, and two years later was transferred into the parcel office at Bradford. His next promotion was two years afterwards, when he went to the Superintendent’s Relief Staff at Derby, where he remained for eight years, and was then appointed station master at Woodlesford, near Leeds. He held this position for l5 years, going to Otley in December, 1911.

During his 14 years at Otley, Mr. Deverell has justified his reputation in the railway world for efficiency, and among the travelling public he has gained popularity for genial and obliging courtesy. He has done a good deal to improve the town’s railway facilities, and under the new grading system station now ranks on a level with those at Skipton, Keighley and Morecambe.

During the war the camp at Farnley Park entailed a great deal of extra work, all of which was under Mr. Deverell’s direct supervision, and since the war he has done much to bring about cheaper travelling facilities between Otley and the cities of Leeds and Bradford.

At first, cheap fares were granted for only two days a week. Later, a third day was added, and commencing last Wednesday, the L. N. E. R. are now granting them every day in the week. Mr. Deverell advocated this three years ago. He has also endeavoured during the whole of the time he has been at Otley to induce the Company to construct a new cattle dock to improve the facilities for dealing with the large amount of stock handled weekly at Otley Auction Mart. This is a much-needed improvement, and whilst, unfortunately, the authorities have not yet seen their way to bring it about, there is satisfaction knowing that the matter has not been shelved altogether and that it is still under consideration.

Outside his duties as stationmaster Mr. Deverell has taken an interest in the affairs of the town. A staunch Churchman, his activities in this direction have been more particularly associated with the Parish Church. He has occupied office as Vicar’s sidesman nearly the whole of the time he has been at Otley.

At Woodlesford Mr. Deverell was churchwarden for a number of years. In his domestic life Mr. Deverell suffered a severe blow in 1915 by the death of his wife.

THE PRESENTATIONS TO MR. E. J. DEVERELL. Shipley Times and Express – Friday 02 October 1925.

In addition to the gifts mentioned in our columns last week which Mr. E. J. Deverell has received, retiring from the position stationmaster at Otley, is a handsome inlaid rosewood clock from Mr. J. Mawson, carting agent. To remove a possible misapprehension caused by our brief report of last week’s presentation ceremony, we are asked to say that in returning thanks to the subscribers Mr. Deverell said that during his 14 years at Otley he had met many tradespeople and business men the town, and had also visited many private houses in connection with claims for damage, etc., against the railway company, and that he had invariably found everybody willing to assist him in a very fair manner. In fact the people of the town had learnt to trust him as he trusted them, and in consequence equitable settlements had been reached, always bearing in mind his duty to the railway company. During the whole time had been Otley he could not recall a unpleasant interview in this connection. Mr. Deverell also wishes to emphasise the fact that be has at no time found it necessary to report any member of the staff to headquarters for dereliction of duty Nor had any member of the staff applied through him for a change to another station because he was dissatisfied with the conditions.

A 1901 letter to Mr Neale at the East and West Yorkshire Union Railway at Robin Hood signed by Edwin Deverell.