9 Keymer to Seaford

 

 

SUSSEX MAIN LINES - A YEAR 2002 SURVEY 
John Blackwell

9. KEYMER JUNCTION TO SEAFORD
A link from the main London to Brighton line at Keymer (south of the present Wivelsfield Station) to Lewes was opened on 1st October 1847 and extended to Newhaven on 8th December of the same year. A single line from Newhaven to Seaford was opened on 1st June 1864, which was doubled in 1904 and singled again in 1975. Electrification of all the above routes took place in 1935.
Initially there were no Stations on the Keymer branch although allegedly trains stopped where the line crosses the present Junction Road at TQ 319196. The stop appears in the timetable for 1855 and a Station is clearly visible on the 1875 OS map at this point but I have not come across any photographs or illustrations of it. This Station closed in 1883 as part of an abortive scheme to build a flyover across the main line. Local resentment at the closure resulted in the opening of a new Station to the north, in 1886. This was renamed Wivelsfield in 1896. The typical cast iron footbridge crossing the line at Junction Road survived until 1978 and in the eighties the signal box and early railway cottages were demolished. All traces of the siding which ran just past the old Station into the Keymer Brick and Tile works have been obliterated .

Plumpton Station opened in 1863 and remains a typical Victorian rural Station. The signal box dates from 1891 and is an in house LB&SCR design introduced to supplement output from Saxby & Farmer, and similar in appearance. Built of brick up to the window level, the roof is surmounted by a large ventilator. About 1985, the box ceased to be a block post, becoming a "ground frame" protecting the crossing. The box fulfils this function today, and is now the only location in Sussex where the old-fashioned level crossing gates, worked by wheel, are still operational. The box, gates and crossing keepers cottage opposite, with identification number painted on the house wall, were Grade II listed in 1986 and prompted the overnight demolition of the Worthing, West Worthing and Goring boxes by BR to ensure similar protection should not be awarded to them! The outline can still be discerned of an additional platform on the up side. This was provided in the early years of the last century for traffic to the adjacent race course.

Cooksbridge Station opened in 1851 with the down side buildings remaining intact today. Regrettably the signal box dating from about 1875 was demolished in the 1980s. The line proceeds towards Lewes passing the still clearly visible junction where the 1858 line to Uckfield diverged at Hamsey TQ 405121 (this is the alignment that would be used if the line to Uckfield was ever reinstated). The line then enters a tunnel that passes under the castle before emerging at Lewes Station, which has been covered in a previous article.

Leaving Lewes, the line to Eastbourne and Hastings crosses the River Ouse at Southerham before branching south to Newhaven and Seaford. The 1847 cast iron bridge, which crosses the cut from the Ouse to Glynde Reach at TQ 436073, has recently been restored. Southease opened as Southease and Rodmell Halt on 1st September 1906 and was served initially by two petrol railcars built by Dick Kerr & Co of Kilmarnock for the stopping service between Lewes and Seaford. These proved to be unsatisfactory and were replaced in 1912 by push-pull locomotives which operated the service until electrification in 1935. Southease Halt comprises a concrete footbridge and platforms. The crossing keeper's
cottage and signal box have been demolished. The minor road which crossed the line here and linked the A26 to Southease village has been closed but the interesting former swing bridge over the River Ouse remains as part of the footway at TQ 426055. It is the second bridge on this site, being built in the 1880s. The opening mechanism remains but since 1967, there has been no need to open the bridge for navigational purposes. To the south a lightly laid siding from Newhaven North Quay ran into Newhaven Cement works at TQ 448032 until closure in 1914.

With the opening of the line to Newhaven the way was clear for the commencement of cross channel services and in 1848 the London and Paris Hotel was opened for these passengers. Newhaven Town Station opened with the line in 1847 some 400 metres north of the end of the line on Railway Wharf where Newhaven Wharf Station was constructed. Dates and information on this station, like Keymer are scant. Today the up side of the Town Station retains the original flint building. A wooden drawbridge erected in 1794 carried the coast road across the River Ouse. It was replaced by a cast iron swing bridge in 1866. This bridge carried a tramway from the North Quay sidings to the West Quay breakwater. This huge breakwater was completed in 1889 after many years in construction and made the harbour non-tidal dependent for shipping. The tramway was principally for maintenance of this structure and the line ran along the top of the breakwater supported on arches that formed (and still do) a covered walkway offering some protection from the elements. For many years Stroudley Terrier No 72 Fenchurch, now preserved at the Bluebell Railway, was the motive power; until closure of the tramway in 1963. In 1974 the 1866 swing bridge was replaced by another, at a higher level to the north. However, if one walks to the quayside, past the Railway Social Club along the alignment of the old road, one of the pair of gates which were closed to stop the traffic survives; as does the now derelict police hut at the entrance to Railway Quay. To the south of this hut is the former four-road engine shed erected in 1887 and constructed in corrugated iron with wooden doors.

Immediately to the south are the, now listed, Marine Workshops of the LB&SCR, built in 1882, for servicing the engines of the cross channel boats. Many will I am sure remember the huge sheer-legs that stood on the quay in front of this building. The building to the rear of the workshops was a later power Station for the electrical supply to the quays. From the other side of the river can still be viewed, just to the south of the workshops, the gridiron in the river which supported vessels and enabled their hulls to be worked on at low tide. Continuing to Newhaven Harbour Station, this was a rebuild or enlargement of the Wharf Station, presumably coinciding with the opening of the line to Seaford in 1864. Following wholesale demolition of the quayside sheds in the 1970s, all that remains of interest is the 1886 signal box, now with double glazing and air conditioning. Behind the down platform, next to the former Harbour Tavern, are the stables that housed the horses used for shunting wagons on the North Quay until about 1950. To the south of the Harbour Station was Mill Creek, an inlet for barges to the tide-mill at Bishopstone. Milling had ceased by 1879 when the Newhaven Harbour Company (a subsidiary of the LB&SCR) bought the mill and surrounding ponds. The inlet was filled with chalk from the excavations for the foundations for Brighton College and a new wharf to the south, East Quay, was constructed. In 1885 a fine new harbour station was built for the cross channel traffic later known as Newhaven Marine or Continental, this was completely destroyed by fire in November 1887 and rebuilt to the original ornate design by Longleys of Crawley. It was demolished in the fifties or sixties and a new station built in the seventies. Boat trains ceased not long after and the station now stands deserted.
Returning to the present Harbour Station the line curves away to the east passing the original Bishopstone Beach Station. This was provided for the inhabitants of the adjoining Tide Mills village and a siding curved into the mill. With the cessation of milling a tenancy was agreed with the Cafe Royal of Regent Street for use of the mill as a bonded warehouse. (despite Pat Berry's comment to the contrary, PRO Rail 414 101 refers) until 1900 when it was demolished. The halt as it had become closed in 1942 but the platforms are clearly visible at TQ461003. Half a mile to the east a new Station was opened in 1938 to serve anticipated residential development that was interrupted by WWII. Built of brick with a single storey office and shops in the 1930s deco style used by Southern Region, its chief interest is gun slits in the surmounting tower.
The terminus at Seaford is largely as built with the exception of the engine turntable at the east end which was removed on electrification, and the fine two storey goods shed, identical to those surviving at Littlehampton and Arundel, which was demolished in 1986 to make way for a health centre. Within the last two years the wooden signal cabin, similar to that at Cooksbridge, has also succumbed.
 

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