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  • Andrew P.M. Wright

Former Dorset High Sheriff appointed a Patron of The Swanage Railway Trust

A former High Sheriff of Dorset – whose Victorian ancestors helped to bring and build the first railway line into the county from Hampshire during the 1840s – has been appointed a Patron of the Swanage Railway Trust.

Living in Littlebredy near Dorchester, Sir Philip Williams has been given the honour by the registered charity that plans and governs the award-winning Swanage Railway which has been rebuilt from nothing since 1976.

Sir Philip's great-grandfather was the longest-serving director of the London and South Western Railway Company until the company was merged into the new Southern Railway Company in 1923.

Sir Philip said: "It was with great pride and pleasure that I accepted the invitation to become a Patron of the Swanage Railway Trust. I am full of admiration for those dedicated people who have achieved so much, against the odds, in rebuilding the Swanage Railway from nothing since 1976."

Currently a Deputy Lieutenant for Dorset, Sir Philip was the High Sheriff of Dorset for a year from March, 2016, in a post created during the 16th century.

In October, 2016, Sir Philip had the honour of officially opening the Swanage Railway's Norden Gates level crossing and its three-mile section of restored and upgraded line between Norden and Network Rail near Worgret Junction.

The Swanage Railway Trust has more than 4,000 members with some 450 of those members regularly volunteering on the award-winning heritage railway which last year carried more than 211,000 passengers on its steam trains.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: "Sir Philip is very enthusiastic about the work that the Swanage Railway does and we are delighted that he is happy to help the Trust as an honorary Patron.

"He is a committed railway enthusiast so it's a great pleasure to welcome Sir Philip to the role of Swanage Railway Trust Patron and we thank him for his support in our endeavours.

"Sir Philip's family is steeped in Dorset railway history and his ancestors have lived in the county since 1797. During the 1840s, his family campaigned and promoted the building of the first railway into the county.

"The Southampton to Dorchester railway – which ran via Totton, Brockenhurst, Lymington Junction, Ringwood, West Moors Wimborne, Broadstone, Hamworthy, Wareham, Wool and Moreton – opened in 1847 and the line to Lymington Junction and onwards from Hamworthy is still in use today.

"Sir Philip's great-grandfather joined the London and South Western Railway Company's board of directors in 1892 just before becoming the Member of Parliament for West Dorset.

"Being ambassadors for the Swanage Railway – and enhancing its standing and activities – the Trust's four Patrons are individuals of distinction with an affinity for the Swanage Railway and a notable interest in heritage railways as well as the county of Dorset," added Gavin who is a volunteer signalman on the Swanage Railway.

Giving the benefit of their varied experience to the heritage line, in addition to Sir Philip Williams, the Swanage Railway Trust's other Patrons are Sir William McAlpine, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and Alan Moore CBE.

The Swanage Railway Trust focuses on development of the Swanage Railway by recruiting the members and volunteers on which this progress depends as well as the appeals and fundraising needed to support their efforts.

The Trust's website provides information for members and supporters, updates on appeals, details of the Trust's aims and background information.

To find out more about the Swanage Railway Trust, visit for details about becoming a member, making a donation and volunteering.

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