William Hillyard

Station Master

The position of Station Master was an important one for most of the history of the railways in this country. For most of the last quarter of the 19th century the man who held the position at Bridge Street station was William Hillyard.

Early Family Life

William was born on December 12th 1847 in Lidlington, Bedfordshire and he started his long career with the London and North Western Railway at the age of twelve on September 1st 1860. His parents were William Hillyard (it was not unusual for at least one of the sons to be named after his father) who was from Roade in Northamptonshire and had worked as a platelayer on the railway. His mother (Elizabeth) was also from Roade. He had an elder sister whose place of birth was Balcombe in Sussex. She was two years his senior.

Early Career

William began his service with the London and North Western Railway on September 1st 1860 at the age of 12. By 1861, William Sr. and Elizabeth had moved to Cross Hill, Brixworth where William senior continued to work as a platelayer and William junior was an under-clerk on the railway that ran between Northampton and Market Harborough. He was transferred from Brixworth on September 13th 1863 to Higham Ferrers where he worked as an Office Boy. He remained there for fourteen months until November 1864 when he transferred to Sandy in Huntingdonshire where he worked as a clerk. After 18 months, on April 1st 1866, he was transferred to Northampton where he continued to work as a clerk. The management had noticed the young William as being someone with potential and on September 3rd 1870 he was promoted to the position of Station Master at Potton station. His tenure there was short-lived because within about 6 months he was transferred to Higham Ferrers as Station Master. He remained there until January 15th 1874 when he moved to Thrapston and started his long tenure there as Station Master.

In the Census taken in 1871, William junior and his wife, Sarah (née INGYSON) were living at the railway station at Higham Ferrers (called Chelveston cum Caldecott in the Census). Sarah was from Irthlingborough. They had married in the Wellingborough area in the autumn of 1870.

Thrapston Bridge Street Station

With William’s move to Thrapston, the family took residence at Number 35, L N W Station in Bridge Street in Thrapston. William and Sarah had two children,  both born in Chelveston; Sarah Emma who was born in 1872 and William Ingyon who was born 1873.

When his wife, Sarah, died in  it is clear from the newspaper report that the family was close and much loved in Thrapston. The Northampton Mercury of Friday February 5th 1903 reported on the funeral:

Funeral of Mrs Sarah Hillyard

The funeral of the late Mrs. Hillyard, whose sudden death occurred on Friday morning last, took place Monday afternoon, amidst signs of the deepest sympathy. All along the main street blinds were drawn, and business suspended until after the funeral. The body was encased in an oak coffin, with massive brass furniture, and placed in a glass shillibier and covered with handsome wreaths. The hearse was followed by two mourning coaches, conveying Mr. W. (husband), Miss Lizzie Hillyard (only daughter), Mr. W. J. Hillyard (only son) and Mrs. W. J. Hillyard (daughter-in-law). Messrs. T. and J. Ingyon (brothers of the deceased), and Mr Faulkner Payne (cousin).

The Rev Kingsford (Rector of Thrapston) read the first part the Burial Service at the church, after which the funeral cortege reformed, and wended its way slowly to the quiet little cemetery, where the remaining portion of the service was concluded by the Rector. On the breast- plate was: – Sarah Hillyard, born November 23rd, 1845, died 30th January, 1903.

” The wreaths were many, and included:—” From husband, in loving memory of a dear wife and mother.”; “In loving remembrance of my dear mother, from her sorrowing Lizzie”: “In loving remembrance of our dear mother, from Will and Floss”: “From her sorrowing father and brothers”; ” In memory and sincere sympathy, from the Rector, Choir, and Ringers “: “From Mr. Collins, loving sympathy” ; “In loving memory of a dear friend, from Mr. and Mrs. J. Leonard, Aldwinckle”; “With deepest sympathy, from Annie” : “With Mr J.  T. Faulkner’s and Mrs. S. A. Faulkner’s deep sympathy”; “With kind sympathy, from Mrs. and Miss Papworth “; Mr. and Mrs. Chatteris, “with deepest sympathy”; “In loving memory, from Doris and Maud.”

William’s Retirement

William retired on June 30th 1908. He moved to a house named “Lyndhurst” on Bridge Street and he lived there until the end of his life. He died on September 11th 1932. His death was reported in the Northampton Mercury dated September 16th 1932:

William’s Death

The death occurred early on Sunday at his home in Bridge-street, of Mr. William Hillyard, for many years stationmaster at Thrapston under the London and North-Western Railway Company. He had been member of the Parish Council, a churchwarden, and manager the Church of England Schools.

In the same edition of the paper details of his funeral were given:

William’s Funeral

There were many Mourners at Thrapston for the funeral of Mr. William Hillyard of Thrapston, who for years was Station Master at Thrapston Bridge-street Station, and also a churchwarden and a parish councillor.  The service at the parish church was conducted by the Rector, the Rev. W. H. T. Russell followed by the burial at Thrapston cemetery.

The family mourners were: Mr. and Mrs. William Hillyard (son and daughter-in-law), St. Ives; Miss Hillyard (daughter) Thrapston; Mr. D. Horne (friend), Wellingborough; Mr. Stanley Hillyard (grandson), St. Ives; Mrs. Harry Childs, Chatteris,, and Mrs. Sidney Manning, Elsworth (granddaughters). Among those at the church were Mr- A. G. Brown (chairman the parish council), Mr. H. Touch (vice-chairman), Mr. F. A. Cheney (churchwarden). Mr. F. Shrubsole (manager, National Provincial Bank), Mr. B. Cawdell, and many parishioners. Reference to Mr. Hillyard’s death was made at a meeting of the parish council on Wednesday. Mr. Hillyard retired at the last election. On the suggestion of the chairman it was decided to send a letter of condolence to the relatives.

Last Will & Testament

William’s Will read as follows:

Hillyard,  William of Lyndhurst, Thrapston, Northamptonshire died on 11 September 1932. Probate was awarded in Peterborough on18 February to William Ingyon Hillyard, forage merchant’s agent, Sarah Eliza Hillyard spinster and John Prentice solicitor. Effects £2305 12s 5d.

Railway Salaries

It is interesting to look at how William’s salary changed over the years. His salary when he started working for the London and North Western Railway is not known but the salary increases were as follows (The prices in brackets are the equivalent in the year 2000):

1/10/1863                   £32 (£15,000)

1/11/1863                   £45 (£21,000)

1/4/1868                     £65 (£28,500)

1/9/1870                     £80 (£34,700)

1/4/1871                     £90 (£37,800)

15/1/1874                   £100 (£38,000)

1/1/1877                     £110 (£42,000)

1/1/1888                     £120 (£46,000)

1/1/1898                     £140 (£47,000)

Many Roles as Station Master

As Station Master, William was concerned about local affairs, especially the perennial problem of flooding:


A petition was laid before the Council, through Mr. Hillyard, senior, asking the Council to take some steps to abate the serious nuisance of floods getting into the town. The petition was signed by a large number of the West End, praying for the assistance of the Parish Council.— After some discussion the difficult (sic) was felt that they had no power. Mr. Grant proposed that a committee be formed to consider the matter, and. if necessary, to lay the complaint before the District Council and ask for their assistance. This was carried unanimously. (Northampton Mercury – Friday 13 April 1900)


He had to deal with accidents involving his own staff:

—On Tuesday evening a somewhat serious accident occurred to a man named Edward Crawley, employed as a temporary porter at the L. and N. W. Station. Whilst unloading a trolley, a large barrel, weighing about 5cwt., broke the ladder attached for the purpose of sliding down, and fell on and crushed the whole of his toes, cutting his boot through. He was conveyed to his home at lslip. The man is under the care of Dr. Bird, and is progressing favourably. (Northampton Mercury – Friday 13 April 1900)

Fare Dodgers

… and people trying to get away without paying their fare:

PETTY SESSIONS, TUESDAY, OCT. 17th.—Before S. G. Stopford-Sackville, Esq. (chairman), H. W. Beauford, Esq., and the Rev. Sir F. L. Robinson.—William Frisby, Thrapston, was charged with travelling on the London and North-Western Railway without having previously paid his fare, at Thrapston, on the 22nd September last. Mr. William Hillyard, stationmaster at Thrapston, attended to prosecute on behalf of the company, as did also Inspector Farnborough, of the detective department at Euston. Mr. Hillyard deposed that the defendant alighted from the down train, due at Thrapston, on the night of the 22nd September. He got out of a third-class carriage. He came from Wellingborough. On being asked for his ticket he said he had not travelled by the train. On being confronted, however, with witnesses who saw him alight, he acknowledged that he had travelled, and offered to pay the fare from Wellingborough. In consequence, however, of the attempted fraud, the present proceedings were taken. The defendant now pleaded guilty, and was fined 20s., with 9s. 6d. Costs. (From the Northampton Mercury – Saturday 20 October 1883)

Obstruction on the Railway

Besides people not paying their fare, he also had to deal with people who behaved in an irrational manner:

At a special sitting of the Divisional Magistrates, on Wednesday morning, Elizabeth Capell, married woman, of Twywell, was charged before Mr. T. W. Buckley with feloniously and maliciously putting upon the London and North Western branch from Northampton to Peterborough, two platform seats, a wheelbarrow, and a shunting stick, to obstruct or upset a train. Prisoner was brought in under remand from the previous day’s Petty Sessions, when she was charged with drunkenness. Inspector Butlin asked to have the charge of drunkenness withdrawn, and preferred the more serious charge.—- Detective H. Eady, of Northampton, was in attendance on behalf of the Railway Company.

Mr. W. Hillyard, station master on the L. and N.W. Railway at Thrapston, said that at about quarter to eleven on Monday night the prisoner went to the office door, and said she wanted to go to Northampton. Mr. Hillyard explained that there were no trains until the following morning, and requested her to leave. She said her name was Mrs. Capell, of Northampton. He closed the door, and went back into his office. Afterwards, about eleven, he heard a noise outside. He found the woman again, and ordered her off. Immediately he heard a wheelbarrow moving, and the woman said she would throw the train off the road. Witness went for a policeman. A man turned up and said he was the woman’s husband. Another came and said he was the husband’s friend. Witness found two platform seats, a wheelbarrow, and shunting stick thrown on the line. —By Inspector Butlin: The woman did not complain she had been upset by any men at the time. The Inspector applied for a remand until next Tuesday, which was granted. The prisoner was admitted to bail £10.

School Manager

William was involved with the National School in Thrapston, and also was involved in controversy as well:

SCHOOL MANAGERS, WEDNESDAY.—Present: Rev. S. Kingsford (chairman), Mr. John Pashler, Mr. William Hillyard, Mr. S. Orford and Mr. T. Pollard. The Chairman read letters from Mr. Geo. Smith (elected manager the County Council) and Mr. T. Pollard (elected to the Parochial Committee). Mr. Smith wrote that felt could not conscientiously take part in the special subject that was to brought before the meeting, viz., the alterations necessary to meet the requirements of the Education Authority in the denominational school, as it was not his intention to subscribe voluntarily towards the expenses that would be necessary to maintain the building as an elementary denominational school. He added: “As a representative manager of the Thrapston National School, I hereby give you notice that I do not recognise the other managers, individually or collectively, as my agents, to fine in respect to any building charges in connection with the above-mentioned schools.” A similar letter was also read from Mr. J. T. Pollard. The Chairman said he failed to see what use either these men were under the circumstances. It appeared to him most unfair, and thought it would be well for the other managers to do so on similar grounds. The Chairman (addressing Mr. Pollard): I suppose you had that advice from Mr. Wilkinson. Mr. Pollard: Yes. Sir we have. Mr. Pollard said sooner than he would be responsible for a penny he would resign forthwith.

The Chairman read a letter from the Rev. Canon Hodgson, stating that the committee hoped the managers would keep their schools. If they were determined, the common fund would give them help. The Chairman produced the architect’s report and plans for the alteration of the present National Schools to meet the requirements the Education Authority. Mr. Arnold, architect, Peterborough, reported that the total cost No. 1 scheme would be £1,350, and No. 2 scheme £560. To make the schools suitable for a mixed school and to have a new infant school would cost £600 exclusive [of] the purchase of the ground. The Chairman thought it would be far more suitable retain the National Schools at present, and have central Provided School for the three parishes. Mr. Pashler thought that was an excellent, idea. Mr. Orford proposed, and Mr. Hillyard seconded, that the meeting having heard the architect’s report and viewed the resolve that public meeting called forthwith for the consideration of the same, and the steps to taken. This was carried. (From the Northampton Mercury – Friday 06 May 1904).

Much loved member of the community

William, the son of a platelayer had advanced to a very high position in the town and clearly from the news reports above was a much loved member of the community.