It is 1968; over the last three years, ten stations on the main line between Salisbury and Exeter have closed to passenger traffic, the vast majority of the route downgraded from double to single track, and Paddington's route via Castle Cary is now British Rail's primary main line to the south west. However, amongst the lifeless remains of closed stations, one quickly rose from the ashes, twelve miles east of Exeter; that of Feniton.
A station by the name of "Feniton" had opened to public traffic with the Yeovil to Exeter route on 19th July 1860. Similar to those sites which came into use at the likes of Axminster and Honiton, Feniton was a grand affair, comprising two platforms and an ornate Gothic-style main building, the latter designed by Sir William Tite. After a plethora of name changes early on in its life, the station eventually settled down to become "Sidmouth Junction", reflecting that it was the interchange for the eight-mile-long branch line to that town which had come into use on 6th July 1874. The latter was recommended as a candidate for closure in Dr Beeching's March 1963 report on reshaping British Railways; it ceased operation from 6th March 1967, as did Sidmouth Junction station.
Sadly, in 1970, Tite's former station building at Sidmouth Junction was demolished, a similar loss being witnessed at the still-open Honiton. However, the platforms remained in place and, within the next twelve months, that on the "down" side - which was formerly host to Tite's station house - was prepared for a return to passenger use. The impending reopening of a station here was reported in the regional press:
New Life For Closed Station
A railway station at Feniton, Devon closed in March 1967 is to be reopened in May because of new housing development in the area.
The station was originally known as Sidmouth Junction. Local services will cater for commuter traffic between Feniton and Exeter. [Coventry Evening Telegraph, Wednesday, 6th January 1971]
The former "down" platform was reopened as "Feniton" station on 3rd May 1971. The style and finesse of the previous LSWR station had gone; just a basic platform surface was provided, although a traditional element remained in the form of manual level crossing gates. The latter were situated on the Exeter side of the station, being a feature of the erstwhile Sidmouth Junction, and were accompanied by a gate box that was also a source of tickets.
In 1974, the manual level crossing gates were replaced by automatic lifting barriers accompanied by flashing lights. This set-up came into use on 23rd June of that year, controlled from the ticket office in a then new prefabricated single-storey structure - little under 50-feet in length - upon the platform. Apart from colour changes made to the prefabricated structure, the station today remains much in the form it was in 1974. The line later saw similar small-scale revivals at Pinhoe and Templecombe in 1983, both stations having originally closed to passengers in March 1966.
26th August 2004
A south eastward view in the Salisbury direction shows the single-platform station largely as it was after commissioning of automatic lifting barriers at the level crossing in 1974. The station uses the former "down" platform of the long-closed Sidmouth Junction; the disused "up" platform of the latter can be seen on the left of this view, behind which is the housing development which prompted the reopening in 1971.
© David Glasspool
26th August 2004
Architecturally, the station is nothing to write home about. The glass waiting shelter and tree on the right are upon the former site of Sidmouth Junction's main station building.
© David Glasspool