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Exploring Belton's history

Belton Pleasure Gardens in the 1890'sA “miracle birth” beside a rural railway track is part of the hidden history of a Norfolk village to be revealed in a new heritage walk.

During the steam heydays of the Great Yarmouth to London line, back in October 1889, market garden labourer’s daughter, and mum-to-be, Rose Burrage threw herself in front of an early morning mail train in her home village of Belton.

She was just 22, unmarried, and afraid to tell her father she was pregnant when she stepped on to the rails to commit “suicide while in a state of temporary insanity” according to the coroner’s inquest.

Amazingly as she lay dying, her baby was born. A railway worker found the woman – and discovered the baby hidden under her skirts.

The tot, Reginald Burrage, was raised by a village couple and grew up to live a full life as a trawlerman, drapery shop worker, bus conductor, chimney sweep and window cleaner. He died aged 88 in 1978.

The poignant tale links two important, and intertwined, strands of Belton’s past – the railways and market gardening. They will be recalled in the new walk being held on April 4, as part of the season of guided strolls exploring local history.

The walk – The Last Train from Belton - was researched by villager Sue Skoyles, who moved there in 1974, and was keen to learn more about its past. “People will be surprised about how much history there is here – and how much the railways changed the lives of local people,” she said.

Trains transformed a previously quiet rural village into a busy market gardening hub – by providing access to the lucrative markets in London. They also brought in trippers to visit the popular Pleasure Gardens. The line was closed on November 2 1959 despite local protests.

The walk starts at Belton village sign near the Bell Lane car park (NR31 9LD) at 11am.
Booking is essential (tickets £6.50 adults, £4.50 children 7-16, under-7s free, no unaccompanied children) via the Tourist information Centre on 01493 846346/7.

See details of more heritage walks in the series on our Guided Heritage Walks page.