Lemmington Hall Railway

The Evelyn Column, often referred to as the ‘Felbridge Monument’, is located in the grounds of Lemmington Hall to the west south west of Alnwick and to the north of the Alnwick to Rothbury road (B6341).  It was originally constructed in 1785 or 1786 in the grounds of Felbridge Place, Surrey.  It was commissioned in the autumn of 1785 from John Soane, who became architect to the Bank of England in 1788.  It was made of stone from Turners Hill in West Sussex.  Variously its height is recorded as ‘57 feet’, ‘75 feet’, ‘85 feet’ and ‘16 metres approx’!  It was erected for the owner of Felbridge Place, James Evelyn, in memory of his parents.

It was purchased in the mid-1920s by Sir Stephen Aitchison (1863-1942) who decided to move it to Lemmington Hall, Alnwick, which he had bought as a derelict shell in 1913.  The monument was dismantled in 1927 and moved to Northumberland. The dismantled column was transported north by rail.  It has been recorded that the stone was unloaded at Edlingham station and moved ‘on a light electric railway’ to its Lemmington Hall site.  This could not have been possible for a number of reasons: the shortness of the loop at Edlingham station, the steep railway gradients nearby, the absence of a suitable crane there and the difficult terrain between the station and the site where the statue was to be erected.

Fortunately the events of 1920 were recalled and related by an elderly gentleman and retired farmer whose family had farmed nearby in the 1920s.  His account is very different and more plausible!  He related that the train of stone was taken to Whittingham station, the next along the branch from Edlingham.  That station site is level and there were longer sidings for facilitating unloading.  The yard possessed a crane and there was easy access to the Whittingham to Alnwick road.  The loads of stone were hauled from the station yard to Lemmington by a traction engine.  From the roadside a line of temporary rails were laid.  Individual stones were transferred to a small wagon which was lowered down the gentle gradient to the site chosen for the erection of the monument, the winch on the back of the traction engine controlling the speed of the wagon by means of a steel cable.  The very short-lived line was less than 200 yards long and traversed even ground.   No earthworks were involved and no remains of the line have survived.

The Felbridge Monument in 2015; the temporary rails ran from the trees in the background to the monument.