In the middle of empty fields, a long way from London can be found the remains of a disused London Underground station.
This was Waddesdon Manor Station, opened by the Metropolitan Railway on 1st January 1897 as part of a branch line that ran deep into rural Buckinghamshire.
Although the Metropolitan Railway owed its origins to the first Underground railway between Paddington and Farringdon, its later expansions did not focus on expanding the railway in London, but on driving northwards out into the countryside. This was partly as the railway could earn more money from the commuters it lured to the rural countryside that it was turning into housing as “Metroland”, but also because the railway thought of itself as a mainline service that happened to reach into London, not a London specific service.
So they were constantly looking for routes to expand northwards, and in the 1880s, the Met line was looking at how to extend its railway further into the countryside when the Duke of Buckingham, who owned a short railway in Buckinghamshire secured permission to extend his railway towards London.
In 1874 a deal was struck to link this new railway with the Met line at Harrow, although progress was slow due to issues raising money, and in the end, the Metropolitan Railway took over the entire line in July 1891, linking central London with Aylesbury in 1892, and a shuttle service running over the older existing railway to Verney Junction.
In 1896 the older railway was upgraded to full mainline specifications, and on 1st January 1897, the upgraded line opened, with the new station at Waddesdon Manor.
The Met line railway now ran services along the entire line from Verney Junction to Aldgate.
The new station, opened as Waddesdon Manor, later plain Waddesdon had two platforms and a small siding for a cattle pen. Although the station stood right next to a road bridge, rather than putting the ticket office above the railway with stairs down to each platform, they put the ticket office on the northbound platform side, and passengers heading south towards London would have to cross over the railway using a footbridge.
Although little used, the station did have a single moment of fame. When he died, the body of Baron Ferdinand De Rothchild, builder of nearby Waddesdon Manor, was taken to Waddesdon Manor Station and carried by train to Baker Street for his funeral.
Planned property developments never occurred, and to give an idea of how rural the area remained, the Metropolitan Railway ran special services for people attending the local annual sheep sale.
After the Metropolitan Railway was absorbed into the London Passenger Transport Board, a number of its rural outposts were reviewed, and the London Underground service was cut back to nearby Aylesbury.
It was always going to be a struggle for the station to make sense, as while the Metropolitan Railway developed the land around its lines into housing, the Aylesbury to Verney Junction stretch of railway line it acquired had managed to run just far enough away from all the nearby towns as to make the railway a bit too inconvenient to use, and any property developments would likely have been too small to link up with them as well.
Although technically closed on the Monday 6th July 1936, the final passenger train to run was the 8:42pm on Saturday 4th July from Aylesbury to Verney Junction, returning at 9:37pm to Aylesbury.
Today there’s little remaining other than the northbound platform that can be seen under the bushes that have taken over the site.
Off to one side, still used by Network Rail is the old access road that would have been used by passengers to get to the station ticket office.
The railway line itself still remains as a single-track line, as it’s used for freight and connects with the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre. There is talk of reopening the line as it would allow Chiltern Railways to run past Aylesbury Vale Parkway to the currently being upgraded East West Railway linking Oxford and Cambridge — but those talks seem to be on hold at the moment pending funding being secured.
If it does happen, then trains will once again pass through Waddesdon Manor station, although the station itself won’t be reopening.
(Before you say it, yes I do know about the Brill tramway)