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Radstock, Shaftesbury & Poole Railway


The Radstock, Shaftesbury & Poole Railway was a proposal to build an ‘expeditious and cheap inland communication’ between Bath & Bristol and Poole Harbour. Its route would also have connected the Somerset coalfields to the county of Dorset – a distance of some 80 miles.

The planned route would be via Frome, Warminster, Salisbury, Shaftesbury, Blandford & Dorchester. It was claimed the new line would reduce the price of coal sold in Blackmoor Vale by a half.

A first meeting of the ‘Gentlemen concerned’ was held at the Old Down Inn between Bath and Wells on the 9th November 1825. Chaired by Hon. Captain William Waldegrave RN some sixty such respected gentlemen were present. Using steam locomotives, it was announced that goods would be carried ‘at no less than 6mph by day or night’ and it might also be possible to carry passengers at 8mph. It was estimated the construction costs would be £250,000 to be raised by the issue of 2,500 shares of £100 each. On completion of the line it was forecast that profits would enable a dividend of more than 10% to be paid.  It was reckoned to be beneficial to the public at large and the poorer classes in particular. Overoptimistically, the Sherborne Mercury on the 14th November 1825 reported:

‘The line also appeared to meet with general approbation…there is reason to believe little opposition is to be anticipated.

Further meetings were held in support of this railway project at the Grosvenor Arms Inn, Shaftesbury, the Crown Inn, Sturminster Newton and at the Red Lion Inn in Wareham.

Inevitably, the Radstock, Shaftesbury & Poole Railway would have competed against another proposal, the Dorset & Somerset Canal – particularly in the transportation of coal. Sadly, neither project ever came to full fruition. The country had just entered into recession, so the required capital for the railway line could not be raised. The Bath Chronicle described this national economic downturn as ‘unpropitious to capital.’ There had been an unprecedented collapse of small banks particularly in the West of England.

There was also strong opposition from Dorset landowners James Frampton and General Michel as the proposed route would have passed through their land. At the Wareham meeting, chaired by local MP John Calcroft, Frampton had said he would decidedly oppose the railway with every means in his power. He was later to be responsible for the prosecution of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. The General claimed that the best Newcastle coal could be bought in Weymouth for only eleven old pence (5p) per bushel and just for a little extra elsewhere. So the Radstock, Shaftesbury & Poole Railway became a line that never was!

(Illustration: James Frampton - opponent of the Radstock, Shaftesbury & Poole Railway.)


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