As we’ve had rather a lot of flooding at The Arches Theatre recently, we thought it fitting that we share this photograph with you of the great flood of 1951 and give you some fascinating history about the Arches and the railway line that used to run above ...
I've seen The Arches Theatre flood many times over they years!
The railway arches that make up The Arches Theatre were part of the Midland Railway's Bedford to Northampton line, which opened on 10th June 1872. The line began in Bedford and served Turvey station, also in Bedfordshire, Olney in Buckinghamshire and both Horton and Northampton.
"Initially, there were five trains that ran in both directions each day!"
However, by the 1950s there were only four running. The line was never very busy with passengers as the towns and villages the line served were small, and there was no significant uptake in train travel. In later years, fewer people were moving to these areas, so there was no real need for this line anymore. The railway closed to passengers on 5th March 1962 and two years later goods facilities were withdrawn.
It appears that the lines busiest years were during the war when a MoD depot was opened in 1939 in Piddington. The line was closed between Olney and Turvey around 1940 so that that part of the railway could be used as a siding to store war materials.
I've always known that the venue is on a flood plain. We've seen it flooded many a time as we have shared with you in recent weeks, but it was a real shock seeing The Arches Theatre under so much water in this photograph from 1951.
Do you know any more about the history of the railway line? Have you got any old photographs that you can share? It would be fantastic to see them. I'm hoping that we won't have any flooding like this at The Arches Theatre this summer. But as we always say, "the show must go on ... whatever the weather".
Just come prepared ... dinghy and all.
Until next time ...
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David is the owner and Artistic Director of The Arches Theatre in Clifton Reynes near Milton Keynes. Productions are underneath some flood arches on the disused Midland railway line (Bedford to Northampton). It is equidistant from Bedford, Northampton and Milton Keynes. You bring your food, drink and chairs and enjoy the varied shows that are produced. This year - 2022 - there are 12 productions on throughout the season, from Shakespeare to Ripping Yarns plus a music weekend.
David has been involved in 'Light Ent' for many years, working with Ray Galton and Alan Simpson adapting the scripts of 'Steptoe and Son' and those of Tony Hancock to the stage. He has produced shows for Norman Wisdom (which makes him feel old), Al Murray, and Joe Pasquale amongst others, and also worked in the music business promoting and producing shows with Chas and Dave, Neil Inness, Kenny Ball, Acker Bilk and others of that ilk.
He is also the director of a film school for young people in his home town of Olney as well as supporting many local events.
He recently negotiated permission from Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais to stage a short run of 'Porridge' on stage which proved a success.
This year the annual charity performance at The Arches Theatre will be the last of 'Ripping Yarns' by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, with the profits being donated to The National Brain Appeal' for research into dementia as David's father and uncle died of it, as did Michael Palin's friend and writing partner Terry Jones. Last year they raised an astonishing £10,000 and are hoping to get somewhere close again with the support of audiences and sponsors.
David also has a stage hire company and his wife Julie runs a livery yard, so they are surrounded by horses, dogs, light entertainment and and a 17 year old daughter.
He plays in a comedy jazz band and collects strange props such as the Spitting Image puppets of Denis Thatcher and Alan Bennett, the child catchers bike from the stage show of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and various other 'things' all of which he sells to raise money for the Arches Theatre, although he always finds it hard to part from these props. However as the theatre receives no funding at all, he is always devising ways to keep it going! Sponsors are always welcome!
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