Throughout the history of the Midland & Great Northern Line there are countless stories of family connections within the line. Part of this was due to the affect the line had on Melton Constable, once a tiny village that drastically grew with the introduction of the railway. William Marriott had an extraordinary effect on Melton Constable. He introduced houses for those that worked on the line as well as apprenticeships for their sons. This meant that the railway had a strong family feel with families often being connected by the railway. Reginald Gamble was a man who celebrated this familial nature of the railway, with a connection to the line going back to his great-grandfather.
In the late 19th century William Miller was a railway construction worker at Huntingdon where he married Harriet Hodge. The couple and Harriet’s father, Isaac, moved to North Norfolk in order to work on the construction of the new line between Melton Constable and North Walsham. It was in 1879 at Aylsham that Alice Miller, Reg’s mother, was born. In 1883 the family moved to Melton Constable and Reg’s grandfather, William became a guard. In Melton Constable they lived in one of William Marriott’s company houses, no. 20 Melton Street, until the death of William Miller in 1925.
The children of William and Harriet were greatly influenced by growing up in Melton Constable. Three of the boys had 7-year apprenticeships with the railway. Isaac, who was born 1884, became a fitter’s apprentice, James who was born in 1885, became a painter’s apprentice and Charles, born in 1887, became a lock smith’s apprentice. They all benefitted from Marriott’s policy introducing apprenticeships for sons of workers for the railway, gaining experience but also showing how life in the railway was easily kept within families. Women also had some level of opportunities within the railway, with one of Reg’s aunts becoming a Chief Telegraphist at Melton Constable.
The railway also brought connections between families. Martha Miller married William Robert Watson in 1904. Watson was a Chief Booking Clerk at Melton Constable who later moved to become Station Master at East Rudham and North Walsham. This shows how the railway was able to introduce and bring families increasing the family feel of the railway. This is also seen in how Reg’s parents met.
In 1894 Alice Miller worked in the Station Refreshment Room at Melton Constable and by 1900 she was Manageress at the station. This is where she met Walter Gamble. In 1902 Walter had become the Station Inspector at Melton Constable, meeting Alice Miller. In 1904 they were married at Lord Hastings Church in Melton Park and a year later Isaac Reginald Gamble was born. In 1905, also, Walter Gamble was appointed the Traffic Inspector T.M.O. at Kings Lynn. On 17th April 1922 Reg joined the line as a junior in Despatch & Telegraph Office T.M.O. King’s Lynn. Throughout this training he spent four years working under his uncle, William Watson.
Reg has often commented fondly on the M&GN and the importance of it being a family railway. The Millers and the Gambles are just one example of a family and the railway being intertwined with each other. The unique nature of Melton Constable played a huge part in making this railway particularly family-orientated. It had a huge influence in the community leading to families joining together through the railways as well as sons taking after their previous generations in keeping up the railway tradition. Overall, it becomes clear that the impact of William Marriott created the feeling of the family railway.