Gorey and the railway
The magnificent sight of a train leaving Gorey Pier station en route for St Helier
The Jersey Eastern Railway began its service from St Helier to Grouville on 6 August 1873. A few weeks later on Wednesday, 27 August, the line was extended to Gorey Village. It was a further 18 years before it was extended to Gorey Pier, opening in May 1891.
This service from St Helier to Gorey continued for more than 50 years, until its closure in 1929. The people of Gorey and neighbouring areas were very keen for the railway to be built and had petitioned the States for its construction in 1870 to improve the economy and accessibility of this eastern part of the island.
When it opened, its impact upon the village was considerable: the track divided the common for the first time; a large stone station house was built opposite the National School, incorporating a waiting room, stationmaster’s house and a 225-foot platform. At the southern end of the platform a water tower was built, above a pump house, to fill up the trains with free water from the nearby brook.
The first stationmaster appears to have been George Biggins, who was recorded as the stationmaster in the 1881 census. Various villagers were also employed as labourers, porters, platelayers, and even engine drivers over the life of the railway.
A E Barratt took over the post of stationmaster after George Biggins and held the position up until 1902, when Francis Payn Saunders was appointed. Francis had previously been a policeman and a turnkey at the Newgate prison.
The railway was a great success in the early years, particularly at weekends and public holidays, when huge numbers made the excursion from St Helier to Gorey. Events held on the Common, such as the horse races, athletics meetings, military reviews and regattas, brought thousands of day-trippers to the village.
Large numbers of passengers
Just four days after the opening in 1873, 2,500 people passed through Gorey Station to attend a fete on the Common. These large numbers of passengers attending events often put the station staff at Gorey under huge pressure. The sheer volume of people, along with gangs of youths drinking in the nearby pubs, and making their return journey in a rather inebriated state, meant that there were often problems.
On 16 June 1889 it was reported that a gang of drunken lads were making a nuisance of themselves while waiting for the train to St Helier. Stationmaster Mr Biggins ordered the group to leave the station but was verbally abused and the porter, local boy James Arms, was assaulted by one of the group. The gang were quickly arrested at Grouville Station and were later fined for their unruly behaviour.
Considering the numbers using the station, there were relatively few accidents. In September 1881 J Beck, the village butcher, suffered injuries to his arm when the locomotive, driven by an inexperienced driver, backed on to the train at excessive speed and collided heavily with the carriages. In 1898 a young lad, employed by the railway to open and close carriage doors, slipped while trying to get back on to the train and fell between the platform and the train and was crushed by the carriages. His body was recovered and placed in the station waiting room, where an inquest also took place later that same day.
In the early 1920s the Jersey Motor Transport Company, better known as the JMT, commenced a bus service from the Weighbridge to Gorey. These buses were able to stop more frequently, offering a more popular, almost door-to-door service and thus the days of the railway were numbered.
When the Jersey Eastern Railway went into liquidation in 1929, work began almost immediately to remove the track and sell off the assets. In 1930 Gorey Village Station and the water tower were sold to Lindsay Barrington Jupp, who made the property his home, along with his wife, Frances Catherine and their two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, later known as Betty Reid.
During the German Occupation, Mr Jupp, who was born in London in 1881, and his family were deported to Germany on 29 September 1942 and interned in Bad Wurzach until the end of the war. Some time after the family returned from this ordeal, the property, called Old Station House, was converted into a guesthouse. Mr Jupp died in 1958, but his family continued to run the business and a small beach shop alongside the water tower for many years. The site has since been redeveloped.