Oral history workshop

Fig 1: Nottingham bound train about to leave Kirkby-in-Ashfield station at Station Street in the early 1960s. Photo Credit – SB2K archive

Why is it called Station Street?  Part 1: Kirkby-in-Ashfield Midland Station

Station Street at Kirkby-in-Ashfield runs from the Nags Head crossroads to the traffic lights where Portland Street branches off towards Ashfield Community Hospital. This area was originally known as East Kirkby and developed industrially in the late 1890’s / early 1900’s period with the opening of Kirkby (Summit) Colliery and Kirkby Loco Sheds and Sidings. The other staple industry in addition to coalmining and railways was textiles (hosiery).

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1960’s Kirkby-in-Ashfield street map (Modern day locations marked in blue). 

Key to map

1 Nags Head pub (The Folly) 4 Festival Hall
2 The Regent (former cinema) 5 Spring Factory
3 Station Street Shops 6 Kirkby-in-Ashfield Midland station

A census taken every ten years determines how many people live in a region. The population of East Kirkby grew significantly with the arrival of Kirkby Colliery and the Loco Sheds and quadrupled between 1881 and 1921. In 1881 the population was 4,212 and in 1921 it was 17,540.

East Kirkby and Old Kirkby, around St Wilfrid’s church, combined into one postal district of Kirkby-in-Ashfield in the 1950’s. Kirkby Colliery closed in 1968 and Kirkby Loco Sheds in 1970.

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Fig 2: Kirkby-in-Ashfield Midland railway station just after closure in 1965. Photo Credit: David K Dykes

Kirkby-in-Ashfield Midland Station (1848 – 1965)

The Midland Railway line from Nottingham arrived at East Kirkby in October 1848, the first trains started running on Goose Fair weekend that year. The station remained open for regular passenger trains until 10th October 1964 when the Nottingham to Worksop trains finished running following the 1963 Beeching Report which rationalised the railways in Britain.

Steam locos pulled the passenger trains throughout the stations 116-year history. In 1964 the first main line diesel locos arrived at Kirkby Loco Sheds. Cars were becoming more popular than trains as a means of travel in the 1960’s which caused the demise of travel by rail. An unadvertised Chilwell Depot worker’s train, one each way, continued to use Kirkby station until early September 1965

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Fig 3: Traffic congestion on Station Street in the early 1960s as a steam train passes through . Photo Credit: SB2K archive

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Fig 4: Level crossing open on Station Street, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, in the early 1970’s. Photo Credit: Notts Free Press collection

Coal trains from local collieries continued to use the line through Station Street until early April 1972 after regular passenger trains finished in October 1964. As traffic congestion (Fig 3) started to increase with the level crossing gates (Fig 4) on Station Street, it was decided to deviate the Kirkby railway lane in early April 1972 to its present route near the former Kirkby police station, where it goes under a road bridge instead of a level crossing.


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Fig 5: Leaflet for the new Kirkby-in-Ashfield railway station on the Robin Hood line, which opened in November 1996.

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Fig 6: Kirkby-in-Ashfield station on the Robin Hood Line when it opened in November 1996. Photo Credit – SB2K archive

The Robin Hood Line

In November 1995, Stage 2 of the Robin Hood line opened from Nottingham to Mansfield Woodhouse and a year later, on 18th November 1996, Kirkby-in-Ashfield station opened and restored regular rail passenger services to the town after a gap of thirty-two years. Rail passenger services were reinstated to help local people find work further afield after the decline in local industries of coalmining and textiles. In 1998, rail services between Nottingham and Worksop were reinstated after thirty-four years.

Station Street Stories: The Railway Station 

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Fig 1a: Steam passenger train waiting to depart Kirkby-in-Ashfield Midland station (Station Street) for Nottingham in the 1950’s. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

1. Kirkby-in-Ashfield East railway station (Station Street)

Kirkby-in-Ashfield Midland station on Station Street opened in October 1848 and closed in September 1965. From 1849 to 1964 regular steam hauled passenger trains ran between Nottingham (Midland) and Mansfield.

John Smith was a Kirkby railwayman and wrote a poem about Kirkby-in-Ashfield Station.


Kirkby Station

Kirkby Station, alas no longer there,

So my childhood memories with you I’ll share,

Of long gone days when I was a lad,

I’d catch the train with Mum and Dad.

Dad would get the tickets from the Booking Hall,

Whilst I looked at the posters on the wall,

Views of the seaside and countryside as well,

Wonderous places with their own special smell.


The Parcels Office, lit by gas-light,

Where they would be sorted by day and night,

Some to go local, others far away,

Stacked on a barrow ready for the next train today.

Red fires buckets hung in rows so neat,

The name of the station fixed to the seat,


Platforms were lit by popping gas-lights,

Fires in Waiting Rooms for those cold dark nights.

With wooden benches around the the Waiting Room walls,

Where excited children sometimes play with balls,

The platform edge always painted white,

To help you see them even at night.


Trains to Skegness and Blackpool too,

Day trips to Matlock or even to Belle Vue,

Baskets of pigeons would coo and moan,

Ready for loading on the train today,

The Signalman winds open the crossing gate,

At last the train is coming, I just can’t wait.

And as she steams down the line,

The Porter says “She’s right on time”.


Carriage doors flung open as she stops with a grind,

We climb aboard, a seat next to the window to find.

The Guard waves his green flag steady,

To tell the Driver that the train is now ready.

The engine whistle sounds and we move away slow,

And now at last, to Nottingham we go.


J.A. Smith 1988.

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Fig 1b: Steam passenger train waiting to depart Kirkby-in-Ashfield Midland station (Station Street) for Worksop in the 1950’s. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

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Fig 1c: 1950’s 3rd class railway ticket from Kirkby-in-Ashfield to Mansfield.  Photo Credit: David Amos collection.

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Fig 8: Excursion train for Dudley Zoo at Kirkby-in-Ashfield station in 1963. Photo Credit: David Amos collection. 

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Fig 1d: Excursion train flyers for trains calling at Kirkby to Dudley Zoo in 1962 and Cleethorpes in 1959 Photo Credit: Graham Upchurch collection.

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Fig 2a: People crossing the Station Street footbridge in the early 1970’s after the railway station had closed. Photo Credit: Arthur Upchurch Jnr

2.    Kirkby Station footbridge

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, a local ritual when the Station Street level crossing gates started closing to let a train go through, was for people on foot to run for the footbridge. This would allow them to cross over the railway line as the train was passing through and get to work or school on time. This is why it was called a footbridge. Road vehicles would be held up as they had to wait until the train had passed and the level crossing gates opened again. Sometimes it would be a long wait as two trains passed in either direction.

For youngsters, it gave them a chance to stand on the footbridge directly over where the train would pass underneath. In the days of steam locos, they would get engulfed in smoke as the train passed under.

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Fig 2b: Kirkby-in-Ashfield Station Street footbridge in the early 1970’s. Photo Credit: Notts Free Press collection 

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Fig 3a: Mr Bernard Roe with one of his racing pigeons. Photo Credit: George Roe

3. Taking Mr Roe’s racing pigeons to Kirkby station.

Pigeon racing was a popular pastime in coalmining regions especially in towns like Kirkby-in-Ashfield and surrounding coalmining communities. It became popular by the advent of legislation, which limited the length of the working day and by the growth of the railway network in Britain, which opened up the possibility of affordable travel for the working classes.

As part of the 2022 ‘Steaming Back to Kirkby’ project, George Peat recalls as a boy helping to take Mr Roe’s racing pigeons from Portland Street to Kirkby-in-Ashfield East station in the early 1960’s.


“…The Roe family lived on Portland Street and in those days, the 1960’s, the pigeon society used to take them down to the station. We used to help Mr Roe…with a made up trolley and took them down to the platform and the train used to pick them up…”

Taking Mr Roe's racing pigeons to Kirkby-in-Ashfield station in the early 1960's

by George Peat | Steaming Back to Kirkby audio archive

John A Smith mentions pigeons in his iconic 1988 poem, Kirkby Station. The poem appears in the 2020 publication, Steaming Back to Kirkby Loco: Poetry and Motion.


‘Trains to Skegness and Blackpool too,

Day trips to Matlock and even Belle View,

Baskets of pigeons would coo and moan,

Ready for loading on the train today.’

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Fig 3b: ‘Race Birds’ rail ticket on pigeon basket at Starbeck railway station circa 1962,


Newstead and District Racing Club (Newstead West): 1960’s.

In the early to mid 1960’s. the Jayrich amateur-dramatic group, made up of Kirkby railwaymen and coalminers, filmed Newstead and District Flying Club on a race day in which the pigeons were taken to Starbeck railway station, near Harrogate, Yorkshire, for release.  Footage digitalised by the Media Archive for Central England (MACE), Full Circle Project (2010-2013).