The enquiry about the local Watford Gap sparked way more interest than I expected, to be honest, so this morning, I decided to test the theory postulated by Andy Dennis that the area really was in a ‘gap’ between the hills of north Sutton.
I threw the map at the contour model for the area, then amplified it for clarity. It’s abundantly clear that the Cross City rail line follows the valley out of Sutton, and traverses such a contour profile to Lichfield as far as possible.
Note that the stream that goes on to form the Footherley/Bourne/Black Brook crosses Blake Street at the railway, and I would agree with Andy that this spot may have been the original location of Watford Gap, before it was adopted for the junction.
This map also puts to bed the frankly bizarre assertion of a certain local ‘historian’ that Carisbrooke, the house near the corner of Ashcroft Lane and Raikes Lane in Chesterfield, just south of Wall, was built as a railway station but never used. I said at the time that taking a railway there would be ridiculous as it would hit the bluff of Harehust Hill in Wall, and this shows that would happen.
What it does illustrate is that I think the railway was built around the difficult side of Shenstone. I’ve always suspected that the natural route would be to the east of the village on the hill – and so it would. The curves and profile would be softer, but it’s also the side of the village where the upper classes lived; Shenstone Court and Shenstone Park were on the east, and I’ve always wondered if the occupants, in a fit of Harrison-esque nimbyism, caused the track to snake around Shenstone and cross the marsh to the north west, at the Little Holms.
There’s a little bit on speculation online, but I think we can say that Watford Gap is a very old name, and that Andy Dennis has, in all probability, nailed it.