The first sod of the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway’s (MS&LR) London Extension was cut on 13 November 1894. To reflect the grandness of the scheme the directors of the MS&L approved a change of name to the Great Central railway Company on 1 August 1897.
Lutterworth station, along with the other Leicestershire GC station opened on 15 March 1899. Access to the platforms was from an arched entrance beneath the road underbridge. On the platform a glazed, flat roofed structure covered the stair well, whilst for the porters a separate block was provided on the north side of the road bridge opposite the platform. The bridge was built as a means of access to the station rather than to span an existing road.
The station was designed by the Great Central’s chief Engineer, Alexander Ross. It was built on the efficient island principle, saving the duplication of buildings and staff. This allowed for the easy quadrupling of the tracks, should it have been required. The main disadvantage, along with all of the other Great Central (GC) stations through Leicestershire, was that steps were necessary to reach the platforms – rather inconvenient with heavy luggage. A separate building was provided for the Station Master. The design being common across Leicestershire.
Different to the lines other small stations, the station approach was not used to access the goods yard. Instead there was a separate approach road further north.
A cycle shed was provided on the platform. In its early days the station was busy enough to support a WH Smith bookstall.
In its final years the GC was also joined by the M1 motorway, paralleling it to the east from Lutterworth to just south of Whetstone.
Lutterworth had 5 major sidings. One was used by the local coal merchants including Wm Sharp, Thomas King and Timson & Sons. A dedicated siding, accessed from Boundary Road, allowed access to the cattle siding. A third siding was used for general freight and Ellis’ feed and grain stores. Just north of the station, and Gilmorton Road, a siding was provided for the Wycliffe Foundry Company Ltd, for 11 wagons between 1906 and the late 1950’s. Acess was provided via a trailing connection controlled by a 2 lever ground frame electrically released from the signalbox.
Goods traffic on the line finished from 14 June 1965 with through trains to London being discontinued from 5 September 1966. Lutterworth, along with Ashby Magna, was reduced to an unstaffed halt from this date. During this period a much reduced service, operated by a diesel multiple unit, between Rugby and Arkwright Street, Nottingham.
For many years, before the opening of the Great Central Railway, Lutterworth was reliant on two remote stations – Ullesthorpe 3 miles distant and regularly served by horse bus for 60 years and Welford & Kilworth 5 miles to the east, for 50 years. Ullesthorpe closed on 1 January 1962, Welford & Kilworth, one time known as Welford & Lutterworth,on the Rugby to Market Harborough line closed on 6 June 1966.
Lutterworth is 90 miles from London (although the milepost in the station proclaimed 116 miles (from Manchester)) and in 1901 had a population of 3197. Of these 32 were listed with railway occupations. By 1911 this had reduced to 20. By 1938 the population was 2395, remaining more or less the same until the line closed just over 30 years later. It was only after closure that population began to increase to its present size of 9353 (2011 census), 9907 including Bitteswell.
The presence of the railway influenced the decision of two businesses to open new factories in the town – the dyeing and hsiery works of Vedonis and the Wycliffe foundry.
In 1932 Lutterworth was served by 6 trains a day to/from Marylebone with 3 on a Sunday. The cost of a single First class ticket was 29/2d, third class was17/5d. A monthly return was first class 39/2d and third class 26/1d.
The GC became part of the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1923. On nationalisation of the railways in 1948 the LNER became the Eastern Region of British Railways. The railway was transferred to the London Midland Region on 1 February 1958 and closed to passengers on 5th September 1966 south of Rugby.
The line finally closed throughout on 5th May 1969.
Wikipedia 24/2/19 Rugby to Loughborough, David Pearce, Middleton Press, 2016 Leicestershire’s Staions – An historical perspective, Andrew Moore, LavelHouse Publications, 1998 The Great Central Then & Now, Mac Hawkins, Grange Books, 1999 1952 ABC Railway Guide Arrivals & Departures, Lutterworth Museum, 2013