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David Pibworth | The Blog

Actor, Writer, Producer, Director

The Arches Theatre: The Great Flood Of 1951

Shocking to see ...

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Posted by David Pibworth on 10/03/2020 @ 8:00AM

Last week I shared a picture of The Arches Theatre during the floods in 1951 on social media. It got so many good reactions I thought I'd tell you some fascinating history about the Arches and the railway line that used to run above ...

I've always known that the venue is on a flood plain, but it was a real shock seeing The Arches Theatre under so much water!

I've always known that the venue is on a flood plain, but it was a real shock seeing The Arches Theatre under so much water!

copyright: the arches theatre / david pibworth productions

The Arches were part of 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 that number was reduced. 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The railway closed to passengers on 5th March 1962 and two years later goods facilities were withdrawn as well. 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, but it was a real shock seeing The Arches Theatre under so much water!"

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 we did in 1951 at The Arches Theatre this summer. But as we always say, 'the show will go on whatever the weather'. Just come prepared - dinghy and all!

For information of our summer productions and to purchase tickets, please visit

Until next time ...



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About David Pibworth ...


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.