Looking at this third class train ticket, as one does on a wet Monday morning, I fell to musing about exactly how old it was. 'Third class' tells me it was bought before 1956; 'Southern Railway' puts it between 1923 and 1947. The departure station name 'Boxhill & Burford Bridge' doesn't help at all. Can any station in England have had more names? Opened in 1867 as West Humble for Box Hill it changed in 1870 to Box Hill & Burford Bridge, in 1896 to just Box Hill, and then back to Box Hill & Burford Bridge in 1904. Then someone decided to change it again in 1958 to Boxhill and Westhumble, presumably to save space on a platform sign. Finally, phew, in 2006 local residents insisted it should be Box Hill & Westhumble.
Still with me? Well, I thought there has to be another clue as to when a passenger went to Ashtead for seven pence ha'penny from a station that appeared to have adopted a name on its tickets it never officially had. So I went and had a coffee, stared at the rain for five minutes and then for the first time turned the ticket over to see it stamped '8th April 1939'. Which was a Saturday.
Sorry about that, you could have watched some paint dry. (Drums fingers on desk.) But last night's BBC1 classic An Inspector Calls was simply superb. Everything an adaptation (in this case from a play by J.B.Priestley) from stage to screen should be. Anyway, no more obscure railway tickets for a bit, I promise.
PS: Even the hotel at the foot of Box Hill can't keep out of the game. It's now the Mercure Box Hill Burford Bridge Hotel.
Derek Birdsall: Birdseye view
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