Frederick Norris “Box Boy” 1913

Frederick John Norris “Box Boy”. When the Hayling Branch Line closed in 1963 one of the guards, Mr Frederick Norris, told The News that he had started work in 1913 as a “box boy” in the Havant signal box.

Havant signal box (left) circa 1900. Roger Nash collection

Havant signal box (left) circa 1900. Roger Nash collection

In the Havant Register of Appointments (1864 to 1917) he is described as a “signal lad”, born 24.12. 1898, and recommended to the position by Mr Matthews.

In the 1901 census the Norris family consisted of two adults and seven children. Fred’s brother Edward was a railway clerk, aged 15, and their father, John, was a signalman, They all lived at Railway Cottages, Havant, where Frederick John was born.

Between 1953 and 1963 Fred was a “Hayling Billy” guard. He recalled a memorable Whitsun in 1961 when apparently there were 568 passengers in three coaches for one trip. Sometimes Fred made at least a dozen trips a day to Hayling, where four of the staff were ex-Royal Marines; consequently the station became known as “The Barracks”.

Fred never tired of the journey and would often glance at the old windmill at Langstone, where his grandfather, Thomas Norris, had been the last miller. Further research confirms that Thomas (born 1831 at West Dean) was a tenant miller at “Wade Mills, Langstone” by 1897 and was still there in 1899. However, the 1901 census shows Thomas as a widowed miller at the “cottage and bakery” at Nyetimber.

The Hayling Branch Line closed in November 1963, which may have suited Fred quite well, as he would have been almost sixty-five.

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