6 Eastbourne to Rye



John Blackwell

Firstly, a correction to the previous article, which was spotted by keen-eyed geographers. Chalk not clay was extracted from Caburn pit TQ447089. A tramway ran from this pit under Ranscombe Lane and across the river, terminating at the Iimekilns at the western end of Glynde Station. It is believed to have been a rope worked system, which closed in 1927. The Telpher system ran from the clay pit east of Decoy Wood at TQ469098 to exchange sidings at the eastern end of Glynde station. After a few years this was replaced with a tramway following the same alignment, which can still be traced. It is believed to have closed about 1915.
The present Eastbourne station dates from 1886 and much of the original elegance can be seen after a recent refurbishment. On the fine brick and stone clock tower can be seen a heraldic shield displaying the quartered arms of London, Brighton, Portsmouth, and Hastings representing the area covered by the London Brighton & South Coast Railway (LB&SCR). Note also the magnificent lantern roof that sur-mounts the original booking hall. The entrance canopy stanchions show superb examples of cast iron tracery and the incised keystones of the window arches are worth examination. Compared with the exterior, the concourse, platform canopies and cab road are rather ponderous. Platform five and a siding, to the south of the cab road, have been swept away for road improvements. The signal box of 1886 is the finest remaining in Sussex. On the northern side of the station was a large goods shed; many assume the present Enterprise Centre to be a skilful conversion, actually it is a new building, an excellent example of design complementing the surroundings. Leaving the station one passes the erstwhile Corporation Waterworks at Bedfordwell, opposite to which is the start of the Crumbles Siding (see Newsletter 113). Passing once again through Hampden Park Station the line diverges northeast and at TQ 613040 passes the site of Stone Cross junction where the line from Polegate joined, creating a direct route to Hastings without the need to reverse at Eastbourne. (This was of course the 1846 line to Hastings before the branches to Hailsham and Eastbourne were opened in 1849). As a boy in the fifties one always tried to catch the direct train thereby saving about thirty minutes. However this short avoiding line was closed to passenger traffic in 1969 and lifted in 1984. The alignment is still there but access to it is now difficult. All traces of the wooden platforms of Stone Cross Halt at TQ 618040 have disappeared. It was open from 1905 to 1935.

Pevensey & Westham opened with the line in 1846; the buildings standing today date from a rebuild in 1892/3. Over the past twenty five years the up platform shelter, the signal box, and the attractive lock up goods store have disappeared, leaving a bland appearance. Pevensey Bay and Norman's Bay were opened as wooden platforms in 1905 for a rail motor service between St Leonard's West Marina and Eastbourne. They were reconstructed on electrification in 1935 using precast concrete components from the Southern Railway's Exmouth Works. Whether any original pieces survive is debatable but those used for the present structure are very similar.

Cooden Golf Halt was identical but with the opening of a tram service from Hastings in 1906, which terminated a few yards south, urban development slowly arrived. In 1935 the Halt was rebuilt as Cooden Beach in the moderne style then in vogue, The ramps leading to the platforms still have Crittall windows and the subway sports decorative tiling in the art deco style. A turning circle (now a roundabout) for trolley buses which replaced the trams in 1928, can be seen at the end of Cooden Drive to the south of the station.

Collington was another 1905 halt and here one finds an early concrete footbridge, dating from 1921, which appears to have been cast in-situ, rather than the later precast design.

Bexhill station is the third to serve the town. The 1846 building was erected on what became the goods yard, now Sainsbury's car park. This was replaced in 1892 by a wooden structure fronting what is now Devonshire Square. During the decade to 1901 the town's population more than doubled with land from the sea front to the railway being developed and the present Edwardian extravaganza was opened in 1902. No doubt the LB&SCR also cast a wary eye towards the West where a fine new SER (South Eastern Railway) terminus was being constructed (see Newsletter 109). The station embodied the confidence in both the future of the town and rail travel, as well as demonstrating the commercial success of the railway company, the LB&SCR. However in that same year Earl De La Warr persuaded the RAC to hold the nations first international motor trials on De La Warr Parade, then his Lordship's private cycle track. The booking hall with its fine lantern roof and front canopy has been restored; the interior with a wooden W. H. Smith bookstall is better than the exterior; which is marred by a large and unnecessary notice board and the lack of the edge beading to the entrance canopy valance. The brick walls with flint panels which surmount both sides of the cutting in which the platforms were constructed is a superb piece of restoration but the platforms and ramps are looking decidedly shabby with broken windows and peeling paint. The glazed ramps, and the exceptional length, nearly 200 yards, and width of both platforms and canopies, plus a separate parcels ramp to the down platform were the key factors in listing the building in 1999. A current planning application has been made by Railtrack to demolish the portions of canopy beyond the public footbridge some fifty feet and replace the wooden window frames of the ramps with plastic coated aluminium. Why is this even being considered? It should be rejected immediately otherwise there is no point in listing. Note the looping canopy valance in the later style used by the LB&SCR and the columns, which are also used as rainwater down pipes.In front of the recently completed gasworks at Glyne Gap another of the wooden halts was erected in 1905. This succumbed to competition from the trams in 1915 but the gasworks remained in production until the mid sixties. The site is now a retail and leisure complex. The line from Lewes ran to a temporary station at Bulverhythe, (near the Bull Inn in Bexhill Road, at TQ769051), and opened on 27th June 1846.

A permanent station at St Leonard's, West Marina, was apparently opened in November 1846 following completion of bridges and cuttings in the area. This was the easternmost station on the LB&SCR. This station was rebuilt, and possibly resited a little to the east, at TQ 787089, in 1882 in the same style as at Polegate and closed to passengers on 10th July 1967. It is now demolished and the site used for warehousing and is opposite the Bo Peep Inn. However from the bridge in St Vincent's Road the outline of the platforms can still be made out but the steam loco shed and goods yard have gone. Two hundred yards to the east, at Bo Peep junction, the line made an end on connection with the SER line from Ashford which allowed the LB&SCR running powers into Hastings from 13th February 1851.

The route from here to Hastings is almost continuous tunnel (vertical shafts were sunk along the alignment which allowed the miners to work on several faces at once; one, now a ventilation shaft, can be seen at the west end of Pevensey Road) except for a gap where St Leonard's Warrior Square Station was constructed. This station was originally named Gensing and was sited in that ancient manor. It was renamed in 1870. The building was designed in an attractive red brick Italianate style by the architect William Tress. Following a recent refurbishment the platform canopy has been reduced, but as it was a later addition the appearance of the building has been enhanced (it even has a poet in residence). The short section remaining and the entrance canopy have had their very decorative, SER style, valances reinstated. The down platform buildings and canopies have been demolished. There is an interesting coal office by the footbridge steps with a sandstone base (excavated from the tunnel) and ringed with granite setts which originated from the early days of the line. Hastings Station is a Southern Railway rebuild of 1931 in brick with stone dressings. From an enormous booking hall access to the platforms was via a large and ugly footbridge that spanned the tracks; totally unsuitable for modern day operations. Plans are in hand for a rebuild. Note the signal box and semaphore signals at the east end and in the former goods yard a prefabricated concrete goods store on staddles, complete with inscription "Designed by British Railways made at Exeter 1957". Also a converted timber store, formerly used as a depository for Plummer Roddis a local department store, and a range of workshops await demolition. At the corner of Earl Street is the former municipal electricity generating station and at the end of this road was the site of the gas works. A superb late Victorian bridge takes Linton Road across both the railway and Braybrooke Road. At nearby 21 Linton Crescent John Logie Baird displayed the first television images in 1923. In Queens Road at TQ819101 is a fine steel bridge with tall fluted columns that replaced in 1898 a brick cattle tunnel 120 feet long, which pierced the embankment carrying the line to Ore and had by then become a notorious bottleneck. Ore station opened in 1888 in response to the expansion of the town but even today it has poor access and is prone to vandalism, every pane of toughened glass was broken in the new bus stop type shelters. The pleasant weatherboarded original station has gone within the last five years, as has the large corrugated asbestos carriage shed erected after electrification in 1935 because of a lack of storage space at Hastings. In 1925, a new power station, to replace that at Earl Street, was built to the north of the station, and the coal siding to it can still be traced. This in turn was replaced in the early 1970s; powered by gas turbines it could be quickly started up to meet peak demand, however it was not a success and was demolished in 2002. To the east of Ore Station the electrification stopped and diesel traction took over to Ashford, the line being singled in 1979. In 1907 railmotor halts were constructed at Three Oaks, Doleham, and Snailham. The first two survive but with one platform only, Snailham at TQ858175 closed in 1959.

Winchelsea station is one of Tress's less attractive designs and had platforms which were staggered, on the assumption that it was safer for passengers to cross the line behind a departing train. With the line being singled the station house, now a private dwelling, is strangely isolated from the remaining up platform and little of railway interest remains at this isolated location. Before arriving at Rye Station a goods only branch diverged and ran along the west side of the River Rother to Rye Harbour. Operations commenced and closure came at the beginning of 1960; in the intervening forty years all but a few traces have been obliterated. Rye Station is a splendid Italianate building, again by Tress, with a recessed entrance under three arches. It has a central pagoda type roof that complements the symmetrical building. The single storey building to the east was not part of the original design being added by the Southern Railway.

Rye was a much-visited station by your scribe in the 1950s, as it was eastern limit of a 12/6 (62p) Holiday Runabout Ticket, which was valid for one week and used for the family's annual holiday excursions. The staggered platforms remain operational as trains pass here. At the eastern end of the station area a delightful crossing keeper's cottage survives now as a residence. Unfortunately security fencing mars it attractiveness. Some three miles after crossing the River Rother, at TQ924209, by a fixed span steel bridge that replaced the original swing bridge in 1903, the line crosses into Kent.

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