It would be good to think that Augustus Pugin (he of the Landmark Trust’s Oxenford Gatehouse, The Grange and St Edward’s Presbytery) approved of the North Staffordshire railway through the Churnet Valley.
Alton Station, when built (although not to Pugin’s design), brought profound change to the people of Alton and the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury whose estate, Alton Towers, adjoins it. And it was Pugin himself who kept up a punishing schedule using the railway system to visit churches and other places and to advise owners in person on how he could improve their property in the Gothic style he promoted.
There was no such punishing schedule for the seven Friends who enjoyed a long weekend at Alton Station recently. The railway line closed in 1965 and the Landmark Trust took on the Italianate-style station buildings in 1972, with the former waiting room later incorporated in 2008.
Firstly, it was a weekend of very warm weather. Secondly, when you have travelled by car from Tavistock in the far southwest of England, or had a broken gearing adventure by bicycle and train from Todmorden, or have stayed in over fifty Landmarks already or have just travelled along the road from a stay at Ingestre Pavilion, why not just take it easy with a glass or two of sparkling wine on the platform?
And indeed that is just what we did every evening on this house share, followed by a series of group dinners. During the daytime, the attractions of Pugin’s work locally at St Giles’ in Cheadle took the interest of some, whilst others visited Kedleston and Sudbury. Although no one visited Alton Towers, one of Pugin’s two gate lodges was visible across the road from the railway station, and his Castle in the village itself was open for tours during the Alton Beer and Classic Car Festival, held all weekend.