Village focus: Still hanging on the line - the beauty spot that once had two train stations

Working the land on the wolds above Londesborough. Picture: James Hardisty
Working the land on the wolds above Londesborough. Picture: James Hardisty
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IT IS so far off the beaten track that its residents must still use dial-up modems to get on the internet, yet the beautiful East Riding estate village of Londesborough was once the beating heart of a technical revolution.

It was here that George Hudson, the Victorian “Railway King” who bought the estate at the height of his success, built a train line, viaduct and station to service his property. The foundations of the station can still be seen, though the nearest working line is now 13 miles away.

The village’s status on the Victorian transport map was such that it had not one station but two - Londesborough and Londesborough Park - nestling alongside Earswick, Fangfoss and Yapham Gate, on the country route from York to Market Weighton.

Hudson left Londesborough in disgrace, as allegations of fraud swirled around him, but it took Dr Beeching in the 1960s to finally sever the village’s link to the network.

Today, around 200 people live in Londesborough,nearly all in properties that are part of the estate established originally by Henry Clifford, a friend of Henry VIII. It remains in private ownership.

Despite its size and relative isolation, the place is a hive of activity. There is a thriving cricket club, and the Yorkshire Wolds Way, one of Britain’s 15 long distance national trails, runs right through it.

There is also a concert hall, at which weddings can be arranged, and where the annual produce show will be held on July 15. On the walls of the hall are preserved the murals of dancing scenes painted by PoWs during the Second World War.

“They would go in there while they were being put to work on the local farms, says Graeme Stephenson, chairman of the parish council, and himself a farmer. His family has for three generations operated a mixed business, including a suckler herd, on 500 hectares, a couple of miles from the village.

But most of the inhabitants, he says, are commuters, travelling between there and York, Hull and Beverley.

Although it is an idyllic place to come home to, it is, in common with many a rural outpost, less than ideal for those who want to work from home.

“Broadband is a big problem,” says Mr Stephenson. “We can’t get it at all - we still have dial-up. I know of at least one person who had to leave the village because of it.”

Londesborough’s network of copper telephone lines dates back almost as far as George Hudson, and the nearest exchange is a good four miles away. Satellite broadband is being investigated as an alternative but for the moment, the fastest thing in the village remains the Kiplingcotes Derby, the annual and ancient horse race over open country from Etton to Londesborough Wold.