“the curious question of why Barnes was singled out”

Leslie Freeman wrote in the Barnes and Mortlake History Society Newsletter (June 1996):

“Arguably the most important event in the history of Barnes and Mortlake was the opening of the Richmond Railway. In little more than 50 years, it was to change our locality from small villages surrounded by fields and farms with a few large estates to the teeming suburbs of today.
In 1836 the prospectus of the City of London & Richmond Railway was published. This was two years after the Act for what later became the London & South Western Railway (LSWR) had received Royal Assent, but two years before the first part of that line was opened. The projected capital of the company was £1 million and the line proposed ran on the south side of the river from a terminus near Southwark Bridge to Richmond. The deposited plans in the Public Record Office show the intended line following a rather more southerly course than the present railway, with the terminus in Richmond adjacent to the northern end of Waterloo Place. From there it was to follow a straight course almost parallel with the Upper Richmond Road through Mortlake and Barnes. It was intended to be in a shallow cutting, with Green Lane (now Manor Road), Sheen Lane and White Hart Lane carried over it on bridges, thus avoiding the inconvenience of level crossings. It would have run a little to the south of St Leonard’s Road, passed under Sheen Lane where Nelson Terrace now stands, entered Barnes at the junction of White Hart Lane and Priests Bridge and run along the southern border of Barnes Common…

…Of the five original stations, Richmond, Mortlake, Barnes, Putney and Wandsworth Town, only the station house at Barnes survives and there is little in the minutes concerning them. They were excluded from the contract with Henry Knill and all the minutes tell us are that in April 1846 a payment of £11,075 was approved to John Tombs for building the stations at Barnes and Putney, and that in January 1847 he received a final payment of £500. The lack of detail is remarkable because the surviving station house at Barnes is architecturally notable. “Tudoresque gothicism” is how Charles Hailstone has described it, and with its tall chimneys rising above the steeply pitched roof, mullioned windows and red brick walls stone-quoined and diapered with blue bricks, it is unlike any other surviving wayside station. The architect is unknown, although Charles Hailstone asserts it was almost certainly Sir William Tite. Tite certainly built stations for the LSWR, but there is nothing in the minutes of either the LSWR or the Richmond Railway to suggest he had anything to do with the Richmond Railway. The station is mentioned twice in the minutes. In March 1846 it was suggested it be roofed with tiles rather than slates, have chimney pots in character and a small room in the roof, and in May 1846 the Barnes copyholders complained the company had trespassed on Barnes Common by building the station outside of the land allotted. The original stations at Putney and Mortlake stations are said to have been similar, but much smaller. The office at Mortlake is described by Anderson as very small, with a very small entrance room and a small inner room for the ladies’ waiting-room. At the time the railway opened it was incomplete, as was the terminus at Richmond (the result of another delay in obtaining land)…

…It can be safely said that the Richmond was a railway that more than justified the highest hopes of its promoters. It is obvious the primary interest of the LSWR was not in Richmond. Chaplin’s sights were set firmly on a far more glittering prize, Windsor, and within two years the Richmond line was being extended to Datchet, reaching Windsor in 1849. Traffic increased to such an extent that the line, built as double track, had to be quadrupled between Clapham Junction and Barnes in 1885. This is undoubtedly the reason so little of the original railway of 1846 remains. The small stations at Putney and Mortlake soon proved inadequate and had to be rebuilt. There remains the curious question of why Barnes was singled out for the Richmond’s grandest station (the original terminus at Richmond became the goods yard after 1848 but the buildings never rivalled Barnes). Of one thing we can be certain. Chadwick and his fellow directors and shareholders, like John Hibbert of St Ann’s, could hardly have realised that their little railway would form part of one of the busiest sections of railway in this country, the Windsor Lines.”

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