6 RAILWAYS TO EAST GRINSTEAD
The first branch to serve East Grinstead was from Three Bridges on the LB&SCR London - Brighton main line. It opened on 9th July 1855 and was extended to Tunbridge Wells (West) opening on V, October 1866. A third arrival from the south started at a junction near Barcombe Mills on the Lewes Tunbridge Wells branch commencing operations on 1st August 1882. The fourth line to this Sussex crossroads was from Oxted to the north opening on the 10th May 1884. British Railways planned to close the East Grinstead - Lewes line in June 1955 but a local resident, a Miss Bessemer of
Chailey, discovered that closure required Government authority and a service lingered on until16th March 1958. In December 1959 the fledgling Bluebell Railway took over part of the line and the rest, as they say, is history. The final west to east service ran on 1st January 1967 leaving East Grinstead, the home town of Dr. Richard
Beeching, architect of the closure of most of the rural lines, at the end of a single but still operational branch from London via
The branch from Three Bridges commenced in a bay platform on the east side of the station now covered by the signalling centre. The alignment has been preserved, except where modem housing and roads have made some incursions, to East Grinstead as Worth Way a bridle and cycleway. In the undergrowth can be found reminders of railway use such as the small concrete posts to which were fitted pulleys for the signal wires. Rowfant station at TQ 325367
was the only intermediate station when the branch opened, the building remains in good condition with windows and doors boarded up. This attractive single storey structure had lattice windows, decorative bargeboards, and a shelter at the west end for the use of the coachman from Rowfant House when awaiting his employer. An adjacent notice board has photographs of the site in steam days. At TQ 335370 a brick bridge over the road survives. In 1860 a station with the lengthy name of Grange Road for Crawley Down and Turners Hill (latterly shortened to Grange Hill) opened at TQ 346374. The location, diagonally opposite the Royal Oak public house is now houses and shops. The line originally terminated in the centre of East Grinstead at M 392382 near the present road junction of London Road and Railway Approach. The stone station house although altered and extended can still be seen, A second station was built in 1866 when the line was extended to Tunbridge Wells (West) to the north of the original to allow the line to pass under London Road. Its site is now a part of the A22 and aptly named Beeching Way which follows the alignment out of East Grinstead. With the arrival of the line from Lewes in 1882 a new station 300 yards to the west was opened, this was in effect a double decker station with the Three Bridges - Tunbridge Wells West line above, the high level, crossing at right angles to the Lewes line and its later northward extension to
Oxted, the low level. In 1969170 the high level platforms were demolished along with the magnificent low-level buildings to be replaced with the present ghastly CLASP building. The point where the high level line crossed can still be discerned.
Outside East Grinstead the alignment takes to the country becoming the Forest Way a bridle way to
Groombridge. Forest Row station at
TQ 428352 was the first station eastward and remains of the platforms and the goods shed can be discerned in a mix of later light industrial buildings. An interesting survival at the head of Station Road is a coal mercharifs brick built office long disused. Hartfield Station at TQ 480361 survives in use as a nursery school as does the stone built bridge taking the B2026 over the line. Here the goods shed is occupied by a coal merchant. Withyham Station at TQ 499364 is now a private house. All three stations were brick built with a two-storey station house and single storey booking office with canopy. This simple style was favoured in the 1860's by the cash strapped LB&SCR and can be compared with opulent style of the East Grinstead-Lewes line of the 1880's surveyed in number 3 of this series in October 2000. From Withyam the line continued to Groombridge before terminating at Tunbridge Wells (West) described in number 2 of the series.