5. RAILWAYS TO MIDHURST
One hundred years ago branches served the town of Midhurst from Petersfield to the west, from Pulborough in the east and Chichester to the south. The first
to arrive was from Petersfield opening on the 1st September 1864 and closing on 5th
February 1955. It was built by the London & South Western Railway, LSWR, the only
incursion into Sussex by this company. The London Brighton & South Coast Railway,
LB&SCR, had completed a branch from Three Bridges on the main line to Horsharn
in 1848 and this was extended to Petworth via Pulborough opening on the 10th
October 1859. Following the opening of the Mid Sussex line from Pulborough to Ford
in 1863 the line to Petworth became a branch. An extension to Midhurst opened on
15th October 1866. Passenger operation finished in February 1955 but goods services lingered on until 1964 at Midhurst and 1966 at Petworth. The LB&SCR's line
from Chichester to Midhurst opened on 11th July 1881 with passenger services ceasing in 1935 and goods in 1953 other than a service for sugar beet from Lavant
that lingered on until 1970.
The branch diverged from the Mid Sussex Line at Hardharn Junction TQ 034175 where a pair of railway cottages remain. The first station, Fittleworth at TQ 007181, was a simple timber structure with brick chimneys stacks, opened in 1889, and now restored as a private residence, which can be seen from the entrance drive. The small wooden lockup goods shed also survives. Petworth station at SU 969191 is the second on this site being constructed in 1890. It is now bed and breakfast accommodation with a couple of Pullman carriages as extra sleeping quarters. The attractiveness of the wooden construction and detailing can once again be admired and the Victorian era evoked, if one forgets the two-mile trek to the town. The sole intermediate station on the extension to Midhurst was Selharn at SU 934205, which opened in 1872. The only nearby habitation is the oddly named, but unchanged, Three Moles Inn and a passenger at this stop must have been a rarity. Today the station is a private residence, which can be glimpsed from the road. The 1866 LB&SCR Midhurst Station was situated on the opposite side of Bepton Road to the LSWR station. Passengers for Petersfield had to change trains by using a footbridge across the road, the rail connection between the rival companies was for wagons only which were horse drawn or fly shunted over the road.
Midhurst LSWR station has been incorporated into a small office development at SU 878211 but little can be seen of railway origin. A pair of railway cottages survives and by walking westward through the present industrial estate one comes upon the remains of the Midhurst Whites Brickworks the subject of an article in the current
SIH, No.30. Journeying west to Elstead Station at SU 834206 all that remains is the road over bridge and the station name applied to post-railway industrial buildings. Rogate (& Harting) Station at SU 804218 was sited mid-way between the two villages at what has now developed into Nyewood. Here the station, which was identical to Elstead, has been incorporated into a factory conversion but the railway origins are more obvious with the distinctive bay window of the Ladies Waiting Room being retained. Although the Railway Tavern on the other side of the road has long closed, Ballards micro brewery is situated to the north of the line.
The branch from Chichester left the Portsmouth main line at the then Fishbourne level crossing at SU 847047.The track bed, which can be followed to Lavant, is now the Centurion Way cycle and bridleway. All stations on this branch were built in the ornate country house style to the designs of T. H. Myers, with lavish facilities for a sparsely populated rural area, identical to those on the Cuckoo and Bluebell lines. The upper storey of the station house consisted of mock Tudor timber framing with a band of incised flower decorations on the plaster infillings. These upper storeys were later partially tile hung to prevent water penetration. The flower decorations also appeared below the guttering on the single storey office buildings.
Lavant station at SU 857085 appears to be on three levels from the platform side, but only two on the approach road side. The platform side was actually a basement with a porters' room, lamp room, and gentlemen's toilets. The whole has now been sympathetically converted into flats, although
I am not sure that the colour pink suits the plasterwork. Singleton Station at SU 866130 was the jewel of the
branch, designed to accommodate the lucrative Goodwood race traffic. The station now in private occupation (having until recently been used in connection with a vineyard) is at the head of an approach road opposite the entrance to West Dean House and gardens. The setting is somewhat marred by concrete retaining walls as here the line is carried on a thirty feet high embankment. A subway, still to be seen, led to stairs which ascended to the two island platforms where intending passengers could relax in a refreshment room with mirrors on the wall, stained glass windows, mahogany fittings and a marble counter with draught beer from hand pumps. Sadly this and the ornate canopies, similar to those at Horsted Keynes, were demolished in 1956, although the platforms remain. The men's toilet block, which previously had six WCs and ten urinals, is now in use as a football changing room. Immediately above was the locomotive turntable. Walking south along the edge of the football field one can find the brickwork which supported the pump house with a roof top water storage tank, on the embankment above. The slope to the left leads to the goods yard now used by a vehicle repairer. The goods shed, built in a matching decorative style to the station survives complete with internal hand crane, as does the yard crane.
Cocking Station at SU 874176 is now a private residence and can only be viewed from a footpath, which
commences to the west of the railway overbridge. The tile hanging has been removed and an additional storey added to the "office' part of the building. The branch curved into Midhurst on a horseshoe curve which necessitated a new station half a mile to the east of the 1866 one, built in the same style as those on the branch. This was sited at SU 884207. The site of the station is now covered by housing; all that remains is a window lintel from the station carved U&SCR AD 1880', set in a brick wall outside Adelaide House, a block of flats in The Fairway. From here can be seen the short tunnel which took the line to Pulborough beneath the A286; this has large steel doors to prevent access. The distance between the LB&SCR and LSWR stations was now considerable for passengers wishing to change, but it was not until 1895 that the two companies built a joint road between the stations. This was named New Road and is now part of the A286 into Midhurst. Following the formation of the Southern Railway, the LSWR station was closed in 1925 and the bridge over Bepton Road was rebuilt to allow through running to Petersfield. The Middleton Press albums Branch Lines to Midhurst and Branch Lines Around Midhurst make an excellent accompaniment to those wishing to trace the lines.