Lewes to Uckfield & E. Grinstead

 

 

3 LEWES TO UCKFIELD AND EAST GRINSTEAD

A branch line line from Lewes to Uckfield opened in October 1858 and was extended in 1868 to join the East Grinstead - Tunbridge Wells line at Groombridge, via Buxted and Crowborough. Closure of the Lewes - Uckfield section came in February 1969 but the 1868 extension remains operational. The 1858 Uckfield branch line line left the Lewes - Haywards Heath line immediately south of Hamsey crossing at TQ405121, where the alignment can still be easily traced. Regrettably the crossing keeper's cottage, where the line crossed Nobles Lane at TQ408124, has recently been converted and although retaining the name Old Line Cottage there is little evidence of railway architecture. Prior to alteration, the building had a slate hung wall facing the former track, a wooden porch, and decorative bargeboards, features typical of the period. Barcombe Mills Station at TQ429149 is now nicely restored and in use as a tea room and restaurant. It comprises the 1858 station house, 1901 single storey offices, and a wooden shelter on the down platform. Isfield Station at TQ452172 is a mirror image of Barcombe Mills and the whole has been lovingly restored in Southern Railway cream, green and white paintwork as the headquarters for a preserved line which runs about a mile northwards. It is known as the Lavender Line, after a coal merchant A E Lavender who occupied the yard. Much remains of interest including the attractive Saxby & Farmer signal box with sliding casement windows and hipped roof on a brick lower half, (a design once so common but now almost extinct) and a crane which came from Christ's Hospital goods shed. A small wooden lockup goods shed, typical of country stations where goods traffic could not justify a brick one, was latterly used as the aforementioned coal merchant's office.

Uckfield, the original terminus of the branch line line remains operational but a new station has been constructed on the opposite side of the road to avoid the inconvenience of a level crossing. The 1901 station buildings and the brick goods shed at TQ472209 survive, although boarded up and overgrown, but the iron footbridge has gone. The signal box, now in commercial use, is a wooden version of that at Isfield. Two days after my visit on the 5th September the station was damaged by fire.

In 1868, when the branch line line was extended, the junction at Hamsey was abandoned and a new line was constructed which climbed on a brick viaduct from Lewes Station and crossed Cliffe High Street on an iron bridge before joining the 1858 line north of Hamsey church at TQ414127. All traces of the viaduct and bridge have been swept away. Over the years there have been suggestions of re-opening the branch line line using the original alignment and there is currently a firm proposal to do so from one of the railway franchise bidders.

The Lewes - East Grinstead Line opened in August 1882 and closed in March 1958. The line left the Lewes - Uckfield line at Culver Junction at TQ425143. The facilities were lavish with seven stations costing 17,000 each and eleven signal boxes over the seventeen miles. At Barcombe Station at TQ417157 the station house remains as a private residence and cannot easily be viewed. All that marks the site of Newick and Chailey station at TQ401209 is the name Station Road. Sheffield Park Station at TQ404237 is the headquarters of the Bluebell Railway, now in its fortieth year of operation. A rail journey on this is thoroughly recommended to inspect the stations at Horsted Keynes at TQ371292, where the canopies on platforms 1 and 2 have been reinstated using materials from Hassocks and Lavant Stations, and Kingscote at TQ357365, where it should be noted there is no vehicular access. There was an intermediate station at West Hoathly at TQ371328, which was sited immediately after Sharpthome Tunnel, but this was demolished in about 1965 before the Bluebell Railway extended operations to Kingscote. The station houses are all designed in the country house style for which the architect was T. H. Myres. These fine buildings are tile hung on the upper storey and incorporate decorative plasterwork motifs, company monograms and dates of construction. The extensive glazed and boarded canopies are sup-ported on both cast iron and wooden brackets with cast iron columns that also perform the function of rainwater down pipes. From Horsted Keynes a branch line line to Haywards Heath was opened in September 1883 and closed in October 1963. There was one station at Ardingly at TQ340276, built to serve the nearby public school, of which the station house and booking office survive. The platforms and canopies were cleared and a road stone depot established. For many years stone from Somerset was delivered, using the branch line line from Haywards Heath, but I believe this traffic has now ceased although the plant remains as part of Hanson Industries. From Kingscote the Bluebell Railway is reinstating the branch line line across Imberhorne Viaduct at TQ384378 a fine nine - arch red brick structure and into a new, as yet unbuilt, terminus at East Grinstead. The attractive original East Grinstead (low level) Station at TQ387382 was replaced by a ghastly CLASP building in the 1970s that currently serves as the terminus of the branch line line from Oxted.

 

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Last modified: December 27, 2004