2021 Travels – Stone, Staffordshire

Last year, when I visited Longton near Stoke-on-Trent, my train passed through Stone railway station. At the time, I said that I would quite like to visit Stone, and so I made it happen on Friday 12th November 2021.

I had originally planned to visit Stone at the end of July this year, but a cancelled train put an end to that plan. This time, there were no cancelled trains to worry about, just delayed trains (five of the six trains I travelled on were late by a few minutes).

The journey, like most of them, began at Burton on Trent station. I took an earlier train than I had planned to Tamworth, because I would have had six minutes to get from the high level to the low level, and I am still not 100% confident that I could get to the right platform, so I played it safe.

It takes three trains to get to Stone from Burton, and the next stopping off point was Stafford. I still shudder at the memory of having to wait an hour in the cold and rain for a train there in 2018 after my train had been cancelled. Happily, there were no long waits for the last train of the morning, which took me to Stone.

Stone railway station is a magnificent-looking Grade II listed building. The town’s first station opened in April 1848 at a different location, and closed after just over a year when the present station was opened. The station building is no longer in use by the railways, but is now a community hub run by the local council. The station has a few facilities, such as a ticket machine and help points. There is a waiting shelter on one of the platforms which is decorated with artwork by local children, celebrating the station’s 170th anniversary in 2018.

Stone station actually closed in 2004 while upgrades were carried out on the line, and buses replaced the trains. It wasn’t re-opened until 2008, and services have increased since then. It still only gets under 200,000 annual passengers, which is not a lot for a town the size of Stone, although numbers are increasing annually.

I left the station to have a wander around Stone. The weather was cloudy and dull, seeing as it’s November. I crossed a level crossing near the station and had a walk to a local park, Stonefield Park.

Stonefield Park

After a stroll around the park, I headed for the town centre. The name “Stone” comes from the old English word stān, which means “stone”. Stone has a very good town centre, with the usual chain stores sitting alongside many local businesses, and surprisingly few empty shops. The town’s library is a particularly fine looking building.

Stone library. “If you think reading is boring, you’re doing it wrong”, says the sign.

I left the town centre and headed for the riverside. The River Trent runs through Stone, and there is a small pathway which leads to the Trent & Mersey canal.

Along the canal towpath was a plaque with quite a grisly story on it. In 1839, a 37 year old woman called Christina Collins was travelling by canal boat from Liverpool to London to meet her husband, who was working in the capital. She had raised concerns that the boatmen on the canal boat would “meddle” with her, as they had been drinking excessively and had started behaving in an untoward manner towards her. She was raped and thrown overboard, and her body was discovered near Rugeley. A statue of Christina stands on the other side of the canal.

Like Burton-on-Trent, Stone was a centre for beer brewing in the past, with the John Joules brewery being the most prominent. It was taken over by Burton-based Bass Charrington in the 1960s, and closed in 1974. Most of the brewery’s buildings were demolished, but a bottling plant and stores remains a prominent building next to the canal, alongside some swanky new apartments.

John Joules’ former bottling plant and stores.

Famous people to come from Stone include the former footballer Stan Collymore and Olympians Lizzie Neave and Joe Clarke.

It was soon time for me to leave Stone for the gruelling three-train trip back to Burton. I elected to catch the train to Stoke-on-Trent, and then get the train from there to Derby, and finally catch the train to Burton. For some reason, the train from Stoke to Derby was packed with passengers, even at half past two in the afternoon. The fact it was only a two-carriage train didn’t help matters. The train from Stoke to Derby was running late, but happily so was the train from Derby to Burton, so I didn’t have to wait long to get home.

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