Queen Victoria's Railway (10th birthday submission)

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This is the story of a local railway with Royal connections, it is not clear how much use Queen Victoria made of the line. It would appear that she did not ever use the line, or the station at Stokes Bay to access her home on the Isle of Wight.

To explain, local folklore has said for many years that the line to the pier at Stokes Bay in Gosport Hampshire, was constructed to provide the Queen and her family easy access to the Isle of Wight. The story states that the Queen was a poor sailor and would only take the shortest route. From the Stokes Bay pier Ryde was a little over 3 miles, almost half the distance of the Portsmouth route.

The only clear thing about the line and its use was that it was built to rival the connection between Portsmouth and Ryde. However owing to commercial pressures it failed to thrive against its Portsmouth rival and failed.

The Routes

The main line was opened on November 29 1841, and ran between the following stations. A total distance of 4.9 miles.

  1. Fareham -
  2. Fort Brockhurst -
  3. Gosport

The branch line to Stokes Bay Pier was opened in 1863, ran between the following stations. A total distance of 6.1 miles.

  1. Fareham -
  2. Fort Brockhurst -
  3. Gosport Road -
  4. Stokes Bay Pier

To aid travellers from Portsmouth there was a connection from the Gosport terminus to Stokes Bay Pier, this was constructed and operated by the Gosport Pier and Branch Railway, and ran between the following stations. A total distance of 1.2 miles.

  1. Gosport -
  2. Gosport Road -
  3. Stokes Bay Pier

Fort Brockhurst station also had a branch line to Lee-on-the-Solent near the Lee pier head. The pier was not a ferry terminal, Lee-on-the-Solent was a small refined holiday resort. A total distance of 3.7 miles.

  1. Fort Brockhurst -
  2. Gomer Halt -
  3. Browndown Halt -
  4. Elmore Halt -
  5. Lee-on-the-Solent Pier

The main line to London was via the station at Fareham, this network of lines was owned and operated by the London And South Western Railway Company and was constructed to compete with the connection to Portsmouth. This was owned and operated by the London Brighton And South Coast Railway Company, the main line of this company went to London via Guildford.

The Start Of The Royal Connection

In 1841, Queen Victoria purchased a house on the Isle of Wight from Lady Isobel Blanchford. Osborne house was intended as a family home for the Queen and her new husband Prince Albert. Albert found the original house too small and soon had it rebuilt in the Italian style, the renovation was finished in 1846, and left the house as it is today. Osborne House rapidly became the Queen's favourite family home. It is at this time that the confusion over Royal rail travel began.

The Start Of The Royal Railway

The Gosport terminus was used by the Royal family on October 8th 1843 when Prince Albert met and welcomed King Louis Philippe of France there, upon his arrival for a State visit. On October 14th 1843 Queen Victoria traveled to Gosport with the Royal visitor on his return to France.

The Royal railway was constructed at the request of Prince Albert. The Prince approached the commander of the Royal Navy’s Royal Clarence Victualing yard at Gosport, to gain his consent to construct a station at the dockside. This station was to be built within the yard and connected by a 500 yard (457.2 metre) stretch of line to the Gosport terminus. The line was connected via a short tunnel that was excavated through the earth works of the towns defences. The request was made to the commander to breech the defences to allow the passage of the line via a gated tunnel. The walls still had to retain a field of fire over Gosport station and the surrounding approaches.

The choice of The Royal Clarence yard was made because this was the berth of the Royal vessals the HMY Victoria and Albert and the royal tender Fairy. It was these vessels that transported the Royal family and their supplies to and from the Isle of Wight. And it was from The Royal Clarence yard that a safe and secure point of departure was created. The Queen's private station and waiting rooms were constructed in September 1845, and when the Queen used the station a carpet was laid from the train to the Royal Yacht.

This became the Queen's main route to London. So it would appear that neither the Queen or any other member of the royal family ever used the line to the station at Stokes Bay Pier. This line was not constructed until 1863, just 38 years prior to the Queen's death in 1901. This was despite the hopes and the plans of the Gosport Pier and Branch Railway company; whilst they stated at the time that the line was to be constructed for a Royal purpose, this might only to have been to encourage investment. Perhaps this seemed a lot of fuss to go through, but it must be remembered that the entire Royal household spent a total of five months on the Isle of Wight each year. Two holidays were taken, the summer break was from mid July to late August and the Christmas holiday was from mid December to late February.

The only time that the Stokes Bay line was used by the Royal household was to supply the needs of Queen and her family. Large quantities of luggage and supplies were transported during the Queen's two annual visits to Osborne House.

What Queen Victoria did achieve, for the railway, was to make the Isle of Wight such a popular holiday destination that thousands of people visited each year. Initially the crossing to the island was completed on the ferry the Gareloch, however by late 1863, it was replaced by the paddle steamer Her Majesty. Both ships were small - the largest of them was less than 100 tons - as they had to work close to the shore.

Queen Victoria’s last trip on the line was after her death, she was taken from Osborne House to the Royal Clarence Station, to Victoria station in London via the Fareham main line. She was accompanied by her son Edward VII and Kaiser Wilhelm her grandson and many mourners on her last journey.

The Stations Today

  1. Fareham - Is still in use as a BR main line station.
  2. Fort Brockhurst - Converted into a private home.
  3. Gosport - Is preserved in its ruined state as a listed building.
  4. Royal Clarence Station - Was demolished and built over.
  5. Gosport Road - Was demolished and the site is now occupied by the White Hart public house.
  6. Stokes Bay Pier - This was demolished by army engineers when it partly collapsed.
  7. Gomer Halt - Demolished (the site was near the junction of the B3333, Privett Road and Military Road Gosport).
  8. Browndown Halt - Demolished after closure.
  9. Elmore Halt - Demolished after closure.
  10. Lee on the Solent - The station is located near the Lee pier head, the building is now an amusement arcade.

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