Do You Know of a Plotlands Railway Carriage at Borrowdale Road Thundersley?

In this 1937-1955 OS Map, Borrowdale Road runs down from the "U" of Thundersley
'Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland' See

Ages Archaeological and Historical Association, as the local community archaeology group, had this question put to us, among others, by the owner of local scrubland. 

Today, if you enter Borrowdale Road from its southern Church Road end, you will pass modern housing and where the normal road ends and dips suddenly down over the edge of the Thundersley ridge, the line of the road is blocked by the metal gate to the compound of a water company pumping station.  

There is no obvious right of way, road or track to the north of this and no footpath until the road can be picked up again to the north of its junction with Thirlmere Road and Grandview Drive where Borrowdale Road then reappears as an unmade road eventually turning east into Crossfell Road which runs up the ridge again towards The Common.  

On earlier Ordnance Survey maps, there appears to be a track between the two separate ends of the road, although there now seems to be little trace that the whole of this middle section ever existed.  

One clue, near to the pumping station, may be the existence, on what may have been the eastern edge of an old track, of two mature wild black poplar trees. Ages AHA has estimated from the girth of the trees that they are about 150 to 250 years old.  

In 2012, Ages AHA surveyed the adjoining field to confirm the existence of a modern well about 15m to the east. This had apparently been backfilled for safety by a previous occupier using household refuse and soil from the surrounding ground.  

To go with this was a rumour of a man living in a converted railway carriage on the same site in the 20th century.  

It is known that the middle part (now disappeared) of Borrowdale Road was advertised in a sale document in the 1930s as a number of separate plots situated both east and west of the road, but there is no sign that they were ever developed.  

This is consistent with the development of the Dunton Plotlands in the 1930s and some that are believed to have been locally lived in on the west side of the hill below St Peters church.  

However, little further evidence could be found of any railway carriage ever being used on this site although it was interesting to speculate as how such a carriage could have been brought the 2 miles from the nearest railway and down the steep slope to put it in position.  

Maps from the 1930s and 1950s do show a rectangular structure on site which has since been removed, but one local resident remembers this as a brick built cottage in the late 1940s.  

Could this have been a brick plinth fitted around a railway carriage? If you have any memory of this dwelling or any other plotland use in this area, we would like to know.  

What we were able to find were the remains from nearby occupation debris from the 1950s or 1960s, including pieces of an Eiffel Tower Lemonade crystals bottle dating from the time when lemonade was made by adding water to the crystals rather than buying it ready made as we would these days.  

In 2013, we are hoping to survey the site further as there is one other unanswered question. What are all the chunky lumps of concrete and other masonry scattered over the field? They are so thick as to indicate a possible association with Second World War defences, but the lack of any apparent reinforcement appears to go against this theory and, so far, the Ministry of Defence has said that it has no record of any such installation in the locality.  

It may be that this is just dumped demolition waste from something like home made shelters from that period or perhaps from rough commercial buildings such as used in agriculture, but the enquiry goes on.  

Again, if you have any information in this respect, please send in your comments so that we can perhaps reveal a little more of the apparently “lost” history of this area of Thundersley.  

Terry Barclay Secretary of Ages Archaeological and Historical Association, 2013

In November 2016, Grace Baumann commented on another article, “Hi, do you remember an orchard in *Barrowdale Road (or similar name) [Ed: *probably “Borrowdale Road”]. My mum’s parents rented a 2 acre orchard from 1940 until 1943 after the street where they lived in Bow was bombed in the first night of the blitz. My Aunty remembers that it was a dirt road/track.” The map above shows the situation at 1937-1955 with the only trees shown roughly on the site where the railway carriage was thought to stand.


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  • I lived in Borrowdale Road from 1956 (when I was 2) until my marriage in 1973 and I used to visit an old man in what I thought at the time was a caravan. It had a set of very steep steps to get to the front door.  My mother used to get myself and friend to visit the old gentleman who lived there after his wife died and get odd items of shopping for him.  He was disabled with a ‘club foot’ and could not always negotiate the steps or the hill, we were paid by him with sugared almonds!  He was really nice to us and reminded me of my grandfather.  I don’t know how long he had lived there but I do remember my Mum telling me that he had died (but I can’t recall when).  What I thought was a caravan on reflection could well have been a train carriage as all the rooms ran off of a central kitchen area with the lounge to the left and his bedroom to the right.

    I used to spend most of my holidays playing in the woods at the bottom of Borrowdale Road and the surrounding area.  There was a well trodden pathway that gave access to Grandview Road to the left and to the right over a small brook along a very narrow path was access to a little row of cottages where I used to stop and chat with an old lady who used give me a drink, I have tried to find the cottages recently but things have changed so much it is difficult to even find the path. With regards to what Doug Mansfied was saying about the poplar trees I do remember vaguely a row of tall trees that used to rustle eerily behind the old mans ‘accommodation’!

    By Sue Cole


    By Sue Cole (21/07/2015)
  • Back in 1949, our family moved from Harrow Weald to Ullswater Road Thundersley. I was 7 at the time and over the next few years, my brother Dennis and I investigated every feasible track through Plotlands so I know the area quite well. Borrowdale Road was our way home from Thundersley Primary School. Even back then, the road “ended” at the dip. From there we used to cut diagonally across the hill face and pick up the track from Grassmere road, cut through the ‘woods’ and join Windermere Road.

    The hill face was always clear of trees and bushes but I don’t know why. It was possible to go straight ahead from Borrowdale Road and push your way through the Hawthorn bushes and join an equally overgrown track which was the extension of Windermere. Whilst I still have vivid memories of those days, I cannot remember either the poplar trees nor the carriage house.

    By Doug Mansfield (14/01/2014)
  • About 60 years ago we moved into No 2 Langford Crescent. Our children used to play in the waste land at the bottom corner of the Crescent to the south west.  They remember an old carriage of sorts there which they use to play in together with a concrete structure, which was assumed to be a war time pill box. There was a small barn or shed which was used by a tramp. One day it caught fire, do not remember if the tramp survived. Later a large bungalow was built on this site.

    By Ian Hawks (27/01/2013)

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