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 The railway closed to passengers on 5th March 1962 and two years later goods facilities were withdrawn.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 of David Pibworth Productions who provides entertainment for theatre and corporate events. This ties in very well with The Arches Theatre, an outside venue that David owns underneath a disused railway line, equidistant from Bedford, Northampton and Milton Keynes. This was one of the few venues that could operate with social distancing in place during the summer of 2020 and where they ran everything from Shakespeare to Richard Digance through the summer months.
David has been involved in light entertainment for many years, even going back as far as working on a production with Norman Wisdom in London. He has a knack of keeping in touch with everyone he's worked with and would bring such people as Chas and Dave, Kenny Ball and Acker Bilk round to play locally when the chance arose.
His company also represent the stage rights for Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, the writers of Steptoe and Son and Hancock's Half Hour. He has recently negotiated permission with Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais to produce Porridge on stage although this is all hampered by the current situation and the availability of theatres.
Next year, at the Arches Theatre, he will produce Ripping Yarns, written by Michael Palin and Terry Jones. This will be an interesting production as not only does one episode involve playing a football match, but also with the agreement of Michael Palin and the wife of the late Terry Jones, it has been decided that all the profits on this production will go to a dementia charity as Terry Jones died as a result of dementia, as did David's father and uncle.
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