History of the Walnut Tree Inn
Blisworth Hotel and Gardens
Originally built in around 1850 by Thomas Shaw and Richard Dunkley, the building was first used as an hotel to accommodate railway travellers on overnight stopovers.
Blisworth Station and the Railways
In 1833 Robert Stephenson was appointed chief engineer of the the first railway into London, the London & Birmingham line. One of the most difficult sections was to be at Blisworth. Stephenson had to cut his way through1.5 miles of rock. Underneath the top layer of stone was a layer of clay, under which was found large amounts of water. Steam engines were used to pump out the water While this was going on, 800 men were busy digging and blasting and by the time the cutting was finished, over 3,000 barrels of gunpowder had been used. It was calculated that over a million cubic yards of material was dug out at Blisworth Cutting.
The London and Birmingham Railway, under Robert Stephenson, bypassed Northamptonshire’s capital town, Northampton due to the limitations of the technology of the day over the counties inclines.
The company first opened a station at Blisworth in 1839. In 1842, a new "first class" station was planned. 'First Class' meant, ‘all trains would stop there’, Ford Lane, Blisworth became Station Road and the location of Blisworth station. Blisworth became a junction station when in 1845 a branch line on to Peterborough was completed via Northampton, and in 1866 a single-track, 4 mile branch line was built to Towcester with grand ideas to run onto South Wales. Starting as the Northampton and Banbury Junction Railway, this short branch was to become the SMJ.
Blisworth station closed in January 1960 and today both branches lines have also long since gone. The main railway line is now part of the West Coast Main Line from Euston to Manchester, having been electrified in the 60s.
The Blisworth Hotel, left, circa 1980s and right, 1930s
The function room, or ballroom as it was then known was used between 1960's and 1980's as a popular dance venue and promoted artists such as Gary Moore, Hawkwind, Deep Purple and Van der Graaf Generator playing here in the early 70's it was established as one of Northamptonshire's popular night spots.
John Peel, used to hold sessions at the old Hotel and notes in his biography that at one of these sessions featuring the band: Delivery, a young drummer by the name of Ginger Baker was asked to curtail his unusually long drum solo, and an altercation followed between said drummer and the notable DJ!
A detailed history of the hotel and pleasure gardens can be found on the excellent Blisworth online archive:
History of the Blisworth Hotel and Gardens by George Freestone
Railway Station and Station Hotel in the early fifties by Doreen Blood
Some old adverts for the Hotel and Gardens including a visit from Blondin!
Historical images of the Hotel
Arial picture, taken in 1950, showing the hotel with the station opposite.