Bexhill West

 

 

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4 BEXHILL WEST BRANCH
The Crowhurst, Sidley and Bexhill Railway was a late arrival on the Sussex rail scene being promoted in 1896 and opened on 1st June 1902. Although nominally independent it was constructed under the patronage of the South Eastern Railway (SER), which became the South Eastern and Chatham Railway in 1899 (SECR). The resort of Bexhill had developed rapidly between 1880 and 1900 and the hope of the promoters was to poach some of the lucrative traffic from the LB&SCR by providing a quicker route from London. The line had an authorised capital of 180,000, a very high figure for a four and a half mile branch, and this was later increased due to the high cost of land purchase in Bexhill. Double tracked throughout and with lavish station and goods facilities, it reduced the distance from London, Charing Cross to 62 miles compared to the LB&SCR of 72 miles from Victoria via Keymer Junction (78 via Eastbourne). However conservative Bexhill remained loyal to the LB&SCR, which had a more central station, and the branch soon became a white elephant. Closure came on the 15'h June 1964; it had been operational for less than an average life span.

Crowhurst (Junction) was a new station on the 1851 line from Tonbridge to Hastings at TQ 760129. It consisted of two platforms with four tracks between, the central pair being for fast Hastings trains, and bays on both platforms for the branch. The station buildings were demolished in 1984 with the exception of the lamp room, which now serves as a peak hour booking office, and the footbridge. Standing on the long platforms one can visualise the expectations of the promoters. Nearby is the station masters house and an attractive terrace of four railway cottages. An outbuilding is all that remains of the Railway Hotel, which was also built by the railway company, as was the half-mile approach road from Crowhurst Church.

The branch diverged to the east of the station and traversed what is still open country to the north of Bexhill. A road bridge at TQ 762112 remains, built in red brick with Staffordshire blue coping bricks topping the parapet and spanning what was the double track. Several other identical road bridges can be found spanning the original track bed in northern Bexhill. South of this bridge was the main engineering feature of the branch, the Crowhurst or Combe Haven viaduct at TQ 763104. At 67 feet high with 17 arches it used nine million bricks and took two years to build due to treacherous subsoil. Piles driven into the ground would not form a stable base and concrete blocks were then used as foundations. Half the viaduct was blown up on 23d May 1969 with the other half a week later.

Sidley was the only intermediate station on the branch at TQ 743090. The road level buildings were to the southeast of the road bridge over the track on the site of the present petrol station, curiously the original building was used as the Sidley Service Station in the 1960s. The railway company also built the Pelham Arms Hotel opposite. A footbridge led to the platforms in the cutting below which have been concreted over to form a now disused lorry park. The position of the platform shelter, which was set back into the cutting and resembled a wooden sports pavilion, can still be discerned. The goods site was extensive and looks ready for new development; the goods shed remains but as early as 1929 had been sold to Pepper and Sons builders merchants and lime manufacturers (of Amberley?) whose painted name is still visible on the walls.

Bexhill Station (later Bexhill West) was sited on the then new Terminus Road at TQ 735074. The station building, now in use as auction rooms, is constructed in red brick with bath stone dressings. It had a central entrance arch leading to a beamed booking hall, which survives but is now illuminated by chandeliers from a London West End theatre. Part of the concourse is now enclosed and the somewhat plain cast iron columns remain but the platforms and canopies have been swept away. Returning to the facade above the entrance was a richly decorated windowed gable, sadly this has now been plastered over. The roof supports a small clock tower surmounted by a cupola. At the east side was a separate refreshment room managed by Spiers & Pond which also had a cupola on the roof, this is now a restaurant and a bar has been created by joining this to the station building. It is aptly named Doctor Beeching's. The immense size of the goods yard can be visualised, as the whole is now an industrial estate. Incorporated into one of the industrial units to the northwest of the station building is the former engine shed with a distinctive ridge and furrow roof.

Behind the houses on the opposite side of Terminus Road runs the ex LB&SCR line to Bexhill Central some three quarters of a mile further east. This was rebuilt in 1902 as the Brighton Company responded to the threat posed by the new branch.

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Last modified: December 27, 2004