This month is the 150th anniversary of the opening of St Botolph’s Railway Station and the 25th since the name was changed to Colchester Town.

St Botolph’s became Colchester’s third station in 1866. The first was where today’s station is on the mainline from London. The first steam train from the Capital arrived on March 29 1843.

Next, four years later, was Hythe Station when the line from Colchester was extended eastwards to serve the town’s port with tracks on both sides of the River Colne. It opened for goods on April 1 1847 and for passengers on May 8 1863 – the same day as the extended line to Wivenhoe opened.

Three years later the St Botolph’s branch (single track) was constructed to link with the mainline station to the west and Hythe to the east. The first train to St Botolph’s was on March 1 1866. The second track was laid in 1886.

Colchester’s main station was the terminus for three years until June 15 1846 when the line to Ipswich opened. At Manningtree, the branch line to Harwich (via Parkeston Quay) opened on August 15 1854.

In terms of expansion, 1866 was a significant year in the history of railways in north Essex. In addition to St Botolph’s, 150 years ago six more new stations opened as the line was extended eastwards from Wivenhoe – and in a separate development on April 17 the branch line from Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea opened.

On January 8, stations opened at Alresford, Thorrington, Great Bentley and Weeley and on July 28 at Thorpe-le-Soken and Kirby Cross.

In 1867, on May 17, the line continued to Frinton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze.

It was to be another 15 years before Clacton-on-Sea got a railway station when a branch was built from Thorpe-le-Soken. The first train was on July 4 1882.

My article today, however, is primarily about St Botolph’s (Colchester Town) as it marks 150 years of service including its role in two world wars.

In August 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, soldiers from Artillery Barracks, with their heavy guns and horses, marched to St Botolph’s Station to go by train around London to the English Channel and ferried to France before moving forward to face the Germans in what became the bloody battle of Le Cateau in one of the first clashes of the war.

As a result of this battle, at a later date Artillery Barracks was re-named Le Cateau Barracks.

Throughout the war, until the Armistice in November 1918, St Botolph’s regularly received troop trains carrying the wounded from the battle fields of the Western Front, in Belgium and France.

At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, St Botolph’s was the designated railhead to receive 14,000 evacuees from London, mostly children but including mothers with babies. The first trains arrived on the evening of September 1 1939, with the evacuees taken by Eastern National buses to be placed with families mainly in north Essex villages.

A year later, it was Colchester children who were evacuated with the growing prospect of a German invasion along the east coast. In September 1940 more than 13,000 left in special trains.

St Botolph’s was once a bustling station. There were extensive goods yards stretching a long distance behind properties on the northern side of Magdalen Street as far as Brook Street. The yards closed in June 1982. The site is now a wilderness with the prospect of being developed with houses if access issues are resolved. The new magistrates’ court is built on part of the former station site.

There was also a spur into the adjoining Britannia Works, now a car park.

A considerable amount of soil had to be manually removed for the railway track and to create the goods yards. This included the route of an ancient footpath between Priory Street and Magdalen Street. In its place the Victorians built a pedestrian bridge, which is still used by residents every day to cross the railway.

Such is the history of St Botolph’s Station I feel there should be a display there telling the story.

Colchester Town remains an important part of the transport system as it has been for the past 150 years, providing a rail connection with parts of the Tendring Hundred and significantly the coastal towns of Frinton, Walton and Clacton, and a service to London.

The 150th anniversary of the former grandly named St Botolph’s station should be recognised. Let’s hope those in charge of our railways can find ways to expand the services both to and from this central location.