What has happened to Suffolk's lost railway stations?

Station buildings at Clare Country Park

Clare station was the only one in Britain built inside a castle - and has a new use at the heart of the country park. - Credit: Paul Geater

During the third quarter of the 20th century Suffolk, like most other parts of the country, lost several rail lines and stations served by them - but some survived, with different uses that continue today.

There are plenty of options for new uses for railway stations where the last train has long since departed - conversion to homes and businesses, or even becoming a tourist attraction in their own right.

In a few cases, new uses have been found and then the trains return - leaving two worlds existing beside each other.

One of the best-known disused railway stations in Suffolk is Clare, between Long Melford and Haverhill. 

Clare old stration

Clare railway station is now a cafe at the town's country park. - Credit: Paul Geater

When it was open to passengers, this had its own claim to fame - it was the only British railway station built inside the grounds of a ruined castle.

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The Stour Valley line from Sudbury to Shelford, just south of Cambridge, closed in March 1967 and Clare was one of the stations that shut. But today, it is a popular spot for tourists.

The station buildings have been restored as part of the Clare Castle Country Park and operate as a cafe and takeaway for visitors.

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There may no longer be any tracks through the station - but it remains a popular destination.

Several stations have been converted into homes. Small country stations can become attractive detached homes with bags of character, especially for rail enthusiasts, while some larger stations have been split up into equally characterful homes.

Leiston old station

Trains still pass through Leiston railway station occasionally - but special passenger trips are very rare. - Credit: Paul Geater

Leiston station closed to passengers in 1966 (although the occasional freight train to Sizewell siding still comes past) and was turned into a group of terraced houses in the 1970s.

There have been a small number of special passenger trains passing through the station since closure - but the doors are kept locked and no-one is allowed on to the platform again!

Felixstowe Beach Station in the 1960s.

Felixstowe Beach Station in the 1960s. - Credit: Archant

Demolition of Felixstowe Beach Station.

The sad end to Felixstowe Beach station in 2004. - Credit: Owen Hines

Felixstowe Beach station is another where freight trains continue to run - but it has had a less happy post-passenger life than Leiston.

It was demolished in 2004, despite a significant local campaign by supporters who felt its distinctive architecture was worth saving.

Two disused terminus stations in the east of the county had differing fates.

The station at Aldeburgh

The station at Aldeburgh was opened in 1860 by the East Suffolk Railway. It later came part of the Great Eastern Railway. It was the terminus of an eight and a half mile branch line from Saxmundham, the station and line closed in 1966. (Photo from Russell Whipps collection) - Credit: Dave Kindred

Aldeburgh was the end of the short line that ran from Saxmundham, through Leiston to the coast. Its station was demolished within a few years of the line's closure.

Framlingham Station

Framlingham Station opened in June 1859 and closed to passengers in 1952, and to freight in 1963. - Credit: Dave Kindred

But Framlingham station building survives as a commercial site - it lost its passenger trains in 1952 and its freight 11 years later.

What both towns have in common is that the pubs built to serve thirsty passengers survive.

The station Hotel Framlingham

The Station Hotel at Framlingham remains a popular local landmark. - Credit: Lucy Taylor

In fact, Framlingham has both the Station and the Railway pubs - and a certain global megastar is known to be a fan of the Framlingham Station Hotel!

Two closed stations in Suffolk subsequently reopened to passengers - Needham Market and Melton.

Needham Market railway station.

Needham Market railway station was only closed for four years before it reopened to passengers. - Credit: Mark Langford

Needham Market station closed in 1967, when the Beeching cuts axed most of the stations between Ipswich and Norwich.

However, it reopened in 1971 to serve trains on the cross-country line from Ipswich to Cambridge.

Melton station was one of the county's pre-Beeching closures - it ceased to be served by East Suffolk Line trains in 1955.

But in 1984, it reopened after a local campaign and major housebuilding in the area - it was needed to take the pressure off Woodbridge station and restricted parking there.

Melton railway station, Suffolk.

Melton station was closed for nearly 30 years. While the platform is now being used for its original purpose again, the building is home to a popular butcher and farm shop. - Credit: Archant

During its closure, Melton station building had been sold - and today, while the platform is used by passengers again, the station building is the highly-successful Five Winds Farm Butchers' and Farm Shop which attracts customers from a wide area. How many reach it by train is not clear!

And one other site where passengers have returned - albeit not every day - is Brockford and Wetheringsett Station on the Mid Suffolk Light Railway, at present the county's only heritage railway station.

Brockford Station

Brockford Station was closed for nearly half a century after the Mid Suffolk Light Railway closed in 1952 - but it is now the headquarters of the museum that is bringing the line back to life. - Credit: Paul Geater

However, that should change in the next few years when the Middy extends to its new terminus at Aspall and a new rail halt is built.

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