Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre

Often described as a ‘hidden gem’ at Ridgmont Railway Station, Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre and Tea Room is a place you’ll be glad you discovered once you’ve visited. A unique mix of tea room, museum and gift shop all found inside what was previously the Station Master’s house, it’s a centre seeped with history. 

The museum is free to visit, and you’re likely to find a volunteer or two willing to give you a guided tour. The volunteers are part of the Friends of Ridgmont Station, which is a Station Adoption group run as part of the Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership (MVCRP). MVCRP work to engage communities and help people get the most from their railways, promoting social inclusion and sustainable travel.

The lessons in the centre’s history start even before you enter the museum’s doors. Nods to the past are all around the main entrance of the Heritage Centre, including a collection of photographs which shows how this is a working railway station, but also a family home. In the collection are four generations of Stationmaster Ernest Bateman’s family pictured along with family friends. Not only do the photos reflect a personal side to the Heritage Centre, but they also provide an insight into some of the features now lost, including the coal yard, platform furniture and signage.

Restored in a 1950’s style, the museum is a glimpse into the building’s past: from the line opening in 1846, to the closing of the ticket office in the 1960’s, and then the redundancy of the crossing keeper in 2006. Money raised mainly by the Railway Heritage Fund allowed the building to reopen as a museum in 2013 after changes in technology and budgets meant it was no longer needed as a ticket office.

Window that people bought their train tickets through
PHOTOGRAPH BY Hannah Penwright

The museum might be small, but the history behind it is far from it. As soon as I walked through the door, I’m greeted with the window that people would have bought their train tickets through before boarding their train. The walls surrounding the window are filled with memorabilia, including historic photographs, railway notices and a poster advertising day trips to Cambridge and Oxford.

The other side of the ticket window
PHOTOGRAPH BY Hannah Penwright
Passenger tickets book of routes
PHOTOGRAPH BY Hannah Penwright

To my right, an LMS Telephone has recently been installed which allows you to listen to interviews from an audio journey by rail of the Marston Vale Line ‘On Track in Greensand Country’, as well as Mick Child’s ‘Marston Vale line 175th Anniversary poem'. Getting to speak into the telephone to hear about the past was a fun interactive addition to my visit.

Listening into the past
PHOTOGRAPH BY Hannah Penwright

One of my favourite parts of the museum was seeing the floor plan for the centre for when it was the Station Master’s house. This fascinated me in particular because I loved comparing the rooms and their uses now compared to what they would have been in the past. Just metres away through the glass door, I could see people enjoying their Afternoon Teas in the tea rooms opposite me as I took in the history of the rooms.

The Heritage Centre's floor plan and other memorabilia
PHOTOGRAPH BY Hannah Penwright

To get in and out of the museum you walk through the gift shop, which is filled with souvenirs, railway memorabilia and other items from local small businesses. And, it would be a crime not to visit the tea rooms too for their delicious tea and cake. With one room decorated with train enthusiasts in mind, and the other in the traditional delicate tea room style, there’s something for everyone to enjoy regardless of what motivated them to visit in the first place.

It’s no surprise for a centre based at a Railway Station that it’s recommended to travel by train, and it’s not exactly a long walk into the Heritage Centre. Although the train services are currently suspended, a full Rail Replacement Bus Service is operating. It’s easy to get to by car too, and there is good disabled access. It’ll be an even better visit once the trains are up and running again, because from the courtyard area you can see the train tracks, making it a lovely place to watch the trains go by.

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Hannah Penwright

Hannah Penwright studied English and Journalism at Cardiff University and now works in communications in the charity sector. Her work sparked her interest in keeping Heritage Centres and local businesses alive, and she loves seeing the positive impact they have on her local community.