Why, I don't know, but from the first time I heard the name, " Uddens
Crossing " this place has fascinated me! The railways of Britain were
littered with these crossings where men (often assisted by their wives / family
- unpaid) would monitor and control the traffic, both on the railway and the
road, and live close-by. There were several on this stretch of railway - to the
west there were two before Wimborne (at Canford Crossing [ S & D No. 22 ]
& Hayes Lane [ S & D No. 23 ]), and to the east, the crossings at
Ameysford [S & D No. 20] (known as Dolmans Lane Crossing) & West Moors
[ S&D No. 19 ] itself.
When the railway first came to this part of Dorset, Uddens House was owned by the Greathed (or Greathead) family, in particular the 'military' branch of same. Edward Greathead is listed as one of the principal shareholders of the Southampton & Dorchester Railway - see more on the family below.
| This is an extract from the Ordnance Survey map of the 1920s that
shows the site of Uddens Crossing in the days when it would have been a truly
busy place! Note that on this map, Uddens House is still marked: it was
apparently demolished in 1955.
Other interesting bits and pieces: Fern Down (note two words) is but a shadow of things to come, and the station at Wimborne Minster lies on the outskirts of the town.
|In this extract from the modern 'Landranger' series of maps, Uddens Crossing is circled (red), and the site of Uddens House is shown by the red letters: " UH ". Note the huge swathes of 'plantation' trees (mainly coniferous) compared with the 1920s version - then much of this area would have consisted of scrubby heathland: much as present-day New Forest looks as you cross it via the A31.|
| This photograph (1964) is taken looking towards Wimborne
(i.e. westward), showing the level-crossing box. This crossing was roughly
half-way between West Moors Junction & Wimborne Minster. As well as the
siding serving the adjacent abbatoir (left-hand side in this picture .. you can
just see the 'switch' rail in the foreground), there was an 'estate' siding [
see right-hand side ], to service the Uddens Estate. The abattoir siding was
originally laid out in 1943 (enabled 8th June that year, when the 'estate'
siding was sealed off) to serve a War Department depot, and was then used for
the abattoir (FMC) between 1953 & 1965.
Uddens Crossing Box controlled its own 'block' working on the railway until 10th April, 1938: to the east, it worked with West Moors (Junction) Box; to the west with Wimborne (Station) Box, though there was a 'block cutout' at Canford Crossing to the west which could be switched in or out as required to shorten that block. In 1938, the signal box was taken out of use and it reverted to being controlled, as it had been on the line's opening in 1847, by a crossing keeper; however, during the Second World War, the War Department traffic (see above) meant that a roster of signalmen was once more required and this continued until the closure of the abattoir in 1965.
I believe that the frame, levers & gatewheel from this box were recovered and used on a preserved miniature railway.
|The diagram on the left indicates, schematically, the layout of Uddens Crossing in the period from the construction of the 1943 WD sidings until withdrawal of goods facilities on the 'Old Road' in 1965; in January 1967, the line was 'singled-out', with all remaining traffic (to West Moors military depot) using the 'up' line. This remaining line was eventually closed-down in October 1974 and the line lifted completely. (Information based on SRS documents & OS maps)|
| Uddens House was built in 1747 by (instruction from) Nathaniel
Gundry (a leading member of the judiciary, an M.P., and eventually, a knight of
the realm!). 1747 is also listed as the birth-year of his son, also named
The elder Nathaniel (born ~1701) died in 1754, so he only had a few years to enjoy the house and estate but in fact it is thought that he did not spend more than very short periods there; his son though did spend some time there, before the estate was sold to (some texts have leased to) Edward Greathed in 1795, and the house was remodelled [ as so many were at this time ], in 1810.
The estate must have been extensive, as there are records of 'shoots' on same. The Greatheds were one of the significant 'military' families of the country - Edward's son, also called Edward, was a significant figure in the Army of India, before coming home to command the eastern district of England in the mid-to-late 1870s. He was eventually knighted (Commander of the Order of the Bath being conferred in 1858, then knighted within the same order in 1865), and was also a deputy Chancellor of the University of Oxford from 1859. The house was eventually demolished in 1955.
Uddens House - picture taken circa 1938: as published in "Ferndown, A Pictorial History", by Roger Guttridge & Audrey Greenhalgh: published by Phillimore, West Sussex.
| This picture of the lodge house at the Wimborne Road entrance to the
Estate is undated, but it looks as if it could date from before the Great War
(1914-1918) to judge by the state of the road. As well as controlling access to
the Estate (and therefore the house), there are a number of small hamlets
within the Estate bounds, and farms, whose access to the main Wimborne -
Ringwood turnpike would be through this gate. It is interesting, however, to
note that on some early maps I have seen, the main access to the House is from
the north, not via this gate: was this effectively the 'tradesmens' entrance?
The Gundry Connection:
Sir Nathaniel Gundry (~ 1701 - 1754), was a lawyer and politician. Born at Lyme Regis (Dorset), entered the Middle Temple in 1720. In 1725 he was called to the bar, attached to Lincoln's Inn. He was sometime member of parliament for Dorchester. He bought or leased (it's unclear which) the extensive agricultural estate at Uddens: at this time (until later in the 19th century), the Uddens estate was a detached part of the parish of Chalbury - itself a sparsely populated part of Dorset to the north of Wimborne and west of Verwood. As noted earlier, it was he who built Uddens House, which passed to his son Nathaniel who later (1795) sold/leased the estate to the Greatheads [see below: note that the Greatheads also bought/leased the Hampreston Estate at the same time - which is logical; many of the family are buried in Hampreston churchyard]. The Gundry name is preserved in connection with 'Gundry's Inclosure' to the northwest of West Moors - which land the family owned.
The Greathed (or Greathead)
At the time of the building of the Southampton & Dorchester railway [ which brought about the building of Uddens Crossing - on the estate ], the house / estate was owned by the Greathed (alt.sp. Greathead) family, though it isn't clear if they were actually living there in 1847. The eldest male relative was one Edward Harris Greathed. I have found a reference to it being occupied, presumably rented / leased, to a G. T. Sullivan in 1853. It may be that, as Edward Harris Greathed was a serving Army officer in India, and his mother (the joint executor of his father's will) was living in London, that at this date at least the house was let out). The Greatheds were a military family, with three brothers of the same name being in India - Uddens House was their family seat. The most notable of the name was Edward Harris Greathed, who played a significant part in the events surround the Indian Mutiny: you can read more here:-
The last member of the family resident of Uddens House was Mrs Charles Oldfield; born Charlotte Elisabeth (or Elizabeth), she was the eldest daughter of the aforementioned Gen. Sir Edward Harris Greathed, K.C.B., J.P., who died in 1881. Her mother was the third wife of Sir Edward, Charlotte Frederica Caroline Osborn, who died in 1908.
Sir Edward's heir was his son (and Charlotte's brother), Edward Wilberforce Osborn Greathed, Esq., , but he died in 1893, aged 23 and there being no sons to inherit (Charlotte was the eldest of three daughters), Charlotte inherited the house and considerable estate: in 1905, at the age of 33, she married Charles ('Charley') Bayley Oldfield, Esq., Capt. and Hon. Major Territorial Force Reserve, late temporary Major 5th Batt. Devonshire Regt., and previously Capt. 6th Batt. Middlesex Regt.
Mrs Oldfield died in 1952, and Uddens was demolished in 1955 - presumably the family could no longer sustain its upkeep.
For more on the Greathed / Greathead family, see this site:- http://www.greathead.org/
The house and grounds (heavily wooded, presumably planted) were said to form a "pleasant contrast with the barren heath beyond." Presumably a condition of the railway being allowed to intersect the main access to the estate was that a fully-functioning crossing-box was provided to control traffic.
I find it interesting that the railway line tends to 'bow away' from the site of Uddens House - offline from a natural route between West Moors and Wimborne Minster; was this to take the railway away from the 'home park' of the estate? However, it could easily be argued that the alignment was simply the easiest passage taking into account the terrain, also avoiding Colehill &c. It's tempting to speculate whether in the early days (i.e. mid-19th century) the trains were stopped at the Crossing for the convenience of the family; it would have been a simple enough procedure given that the Crossing was fully manned.
Uddens! Where does that come from?
It is thought that the name derives from a Saxon family, possibly by name
'Udda' (i.e., "Udda's place"), which through time has become such as
... 'Udding' (956 A.D.) and 'Uddyng' (1331). I have seen old maps dated as
recent as the early 19th century with reference to 'Uddings'.
[Ref: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names, auth: E. Ekwall, 4th ed., 1960]