Regards, Clive Smith.
Many many thanks Clive.
Michael L. Roach
Regular readers will know that it is sometimes necessary to show photographs taken in years other than 1962 to complete a story. Such is the case here where the photos of Devonport Kings Road Station were taken in 1970, which was the year of the “Mayflower 350” celebrations in Plymouth. The two photos were taken on Saturday 7 March 1970 because the station buildings were “soon to be demolished” as my notebook records. Both views were taken looking east towards Plymouth Station and the platforms are trackless after the rails from St. Budeaux had been lifted. Although the passenger service had been withdrawn on and from Monday 7 September 1964 in fact on 7 March 1970 the station was still open for freight which continued for another 12 months to 7 March 1971 when it was withdawn and the station closed completely. Why didn't I walk to the other (east) end of the station and look over the wall to photograph that end of the station – I don't think I ever did which is quite strange in view of what I am about to write. At the east end the line passed under Paradise Road with the road carried over the line on a low multi-arched viaduct constructed of Plymouth limestone, as were the station buildings. I passed over that viaduct hundreds of times on my way to school in the nineteen fifties.
My secondary school was located immediately to the east of Devonport Kings Road railway station and is called Devonport High School for Boys, known to all as DHS; and I studied there from 1953 to 1959. The school was founded in Devonport in 1896 and during World War Two was evacuated to Penzance. When the school returned to Devonport in 1945 it was not to its pre-war buildings but to the historic buildings still in use to this day. There are five main blocks in a straight line linked on the south side by a colonnade with a walkway on the top for when the weather is dry and to keep pedestrians dry underneath when it rains. The four original blocks were built in 1797 as a military hospital and would have dealt with casualties returning from wars such as the Napoleonic and the First Crimean War of 1853 to 1856. In their first term new boys were regaled with gory stories of the amputations of limbs that had taken place in the hospital in the days before anaesthetics. At the time I lived some 1½ miles away to the east but for the first three years I arrived by bus from the west as it described a horsehoe shaped route around Plymouth. Morning and afternoon I passed along Paradise Road and over the railway at the east end of Kings Road station. However occasionally I would walk home to save the bus fare and even less frequently catch the 4.19pm train from Kings Road station to North Road station which took me about half way home..
In September 1956 my parents bought me a bicycle for my birthday and for the next three years I cycled to school each day. The bicycle allowed me to explore the railway infrastructure of Plymouth, and one of my particular interests was sketching track layouts of stations and yards in addition to taking photos. The bicycle also allowed me to go further afield to places like Wadebridge and St. Blazey. One of my regular rides, done dozens of times between 1956 and 1959, was to Sparkwell Bridge, which crosses the main line at the top of Hemerdon Bank. It was a marvellous place to see steam engines working hard to surmount the two miles of 1 in 42, and I felt lucky to live a mere 7 miles away from that wonderful location. It took me about 35 minutes to cycle from home to Sparkwell Bridge.
DHS now has about 1150 pupils but in my day the number was around half that at 600 pupils from a much smaller catchment area because there was a second boys grammar school in Plymouth which has since closed. As I passed through the school there were several railway enthusiasts in every class, and it was natural that most of my friends were enthusiasts too. I found watching trains far more interesting than chasing a ball around a field. Directly opposite the main school entrance was the fifteenth century Stoke Damerel Church which originally was the parish church for the whole of Devonport. In Plymouth the L&SWR and the Southern Railway were seen by many enthusiasts as the other railway, and the poor relation to the Western, and treated as such which is quite sad. I should have visited and photographed the Southern infrastructure a lot more than I did.
RECOMMENDED READING: The Okehampton Line by Irwell Press. ISBN 978-1-911262-03-9
MLR / 03 December 2023