Cuckoo Line

 

 

2. POLEGATE TO TUNBRIDGE WELLS 

THE CUCKOO LINE 

Branches from Polegate, on the Brighton to Hastings line, to the seaside resort of Eastbourne and the market town of Hailsham opened in 1849. An extension northwards from Hailsham to Groombridge, on the Three Bridges to Tunbridge Wells line, opened in 1880. This section closed in June 1965 with the Hailsham branch following in September 1968.

The original station was located on the site of the present 1986 Polegate station in the High Street at TQ582048 with access to the Hailsham branch from the Brighton direction. With the 1880 extension a new station was built further east to allow through-running to and from Eastbourne. These station buildings at TQ585048 remain in use as a pub restaurant. Built in the LB&SCR house style of the period it is a fine two storey building with offices on the ground floor and accommodation above similar to those still operational at London Road (Brighton) and Portslade. The two island platforms have been removed. Almost opposite in School Lane a bridle path/cycleway named the Cuckoo Trail commences, which follows the
alignment of the branch all the way to Heathfield.

At Hailsham all that remains of the station site, at TQ 590 093 in Station Road, is a typical railway cottage the remainder of the site being covered by housing. Nearby is the Terminus Hotel a pub reminding one that Hailsham was indeed the terminus of the branch for thirty years.

The next station was Hellingly at TQ 584 120 constructed in the opulent style used by the LB&SCR in the 1880s and designed by the architect T.H. Myres in the country house style with a tile hung upper storey and incised plasterwork. The same style was used for all the 1880 extension stations. Now a private residence it can be viewed from the bridle path and one can only wonder why such facilities were approved for what is still an isolated area. At Horam TQ 578 175 all that remains is a 1930s Southern Railway concrete platform extension with concrete lamp standard and concrete 'name board'. The station house and booking office at Heathfield TQ 581 213 survive in retail use but the magnificent wooden footbridge to the platform buildings and canopies, have long been swept away. Viewing from the industrial estate, which now covers them and the goods yard, gives an indication how far below the station buildings the platforms were. Just to the north of the road over bridge was the site of the natural gas borehole and storage tanks used to light the station from 1898 to 1963.

At Mayfield the station building survives at TQ 578 267 without the platform canopies. It is in domestic use though at present looking the worse for wear. Housing covers the site of the goods shed and yard. At Rotherfield TQ 565 303 the station building has been incorporated into a housing development.

The next station is at Eridge where the Hailsham extension joined the line from Uckfield to Tunbridge Wells, which had opened in 1868. A new station at TQ 542 345 was provided in 1880 which was single-storied and much plainer than those situated on the extension. It is still operational though looking somewhat tired, and has some fine ironwork supporting the canopies. An unusual and still surviving feature is a mailbag chute under the up-platform staircase.

At Groombridge the Three Bridges to Tunbridge Wells line is joined and the station at TQ 533 371 is an 1897 rebuild in polychrome brickwork. Although devoid of canopies the station building is in excellent condition with the two-storey station house being used for residential purposes and the single storey offices in commercial use. The island platform and goods yard are now the site of housing.

A rudimentary halt at High Rocks (1907 - 1952) of which nothing remains was the final stop before Tunbridge Wells LB&SCR was reached. In Southern Railway days this was renamed Tunbridge Wells West to distinguish from the SER station. A single line track connected both stations but was little used until the formation of the Southern in 1923. The magnificent station at TQ 578 384 was built in 1866 in the Victorian Gothic style and is now a listed building. Although not now within the county, the
boundaries changed in 1901, this outpost of the LB&SCR empire should not be missed. A splendid approach road with tall cast iron lamp standards leads to a pleasingly proportioned 10 bay two storied central section flanked by the station master's house at the western end and a clock tower with a spire at the eastern end. Built in polychrome brickwork it retains most of its original features. The upper storey was originally a hotel and the whole building is now a pub restaurant. To the rear the island platforms and goods yard are now a supermarket. The motive power depot to the west is now the headquarters of the Spa Valley Railway a preservation group which runs trains as far as Groombridge.

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Last modified: December 27, 2004