Lullingstone

 

This is the station that never was. In 1937, the Southern Railway finalised plans outlining a four-platform layout just to the south of Eynsford Tunnel, on the Sevenoaks Bat & Ball route. Speculative in nature, the company envisaged large-scale house building to take place in the immediate area, especially now that the route had been electrified (this having occurred in 1935). Furthermore, the large expanse of land on the western side of the line had been set aside for London’s main international airport – the equivalent of Heathrow. The sleepy village of Eynsford and its immediate surroundings were to be totally transformed and had the plans actually been implemented, today the skies around this parish of Sevenoaks would have been littered with Jumbo Jets! The building of the station commenced shortly after the plans were published. As aforementioned, four platforms were to be in use here, their arrangement virtually identical to Swanley Junction station (which was to close in 1939): two faces for the main line and two for the airport branch. With reference to the latter, this would diverge from the line and curve round westwards, only trains heading in the southward direction being able to access it. The branch took a short course across a field to terminate at the airport terminals. The four prefabricated concrete platform faces were all to be linked by a footbridge of the same material, and all surfaces would have single-storey brick-built waiting accommodation. These would be supplemented with upward-slanting corrugated metal canopies. The main station building was to be sandwiched in-between the apex of the diverging lines and be of typical modern SR design: red brick in construction, it would have been a cross between Albany Park and Hastings stations. In fact, if one pays a visit to Bishopstone station in East Sussex, the building design which was to be used at Lullingstone can still be found in existence (Bishopstone itself only opening in response to proposed housing development in 1938).

 

It is perhaps ironic that World War II’s intervention ‘’saved’’ the area - sudden urbanisation was halted. On the outbreak of the conflict in 1939, the main line platforms were virtually complete, boasting their waiting accommodation and canopies. No work had begun on the infrastructure for the airport branch (although the four platform-span footbridge had been installed) and indeed, nothing did eventually commence. In 1944, conversion work began to transform the existing aerodrome at Heathrow into a Royal Air Force base, but this work was only semi-complete when the war ended. However, since it was partly-built, it provided a simpler and less costly solution to London’s main airport over the original plans at Lullingstone. The implementation of the Green Belt after the war also saw the Eynsford area protected from any significant development, which sealed the fate of the unfinished station and the proposed airport branch. In 1955, the year in which Heathrow’s Terminal 2 opened, demolition of the would-be Lullingstone station commenced. The corrugated metal canopies were, however, to be re-used, these going to Canterbury East, where the LC&DR overall roof was being dismantled. Whilst the brick buildings and footbridge were obliterated, the platforms were left standing and are still in existence to this day. The corrugated metal canopy valances from the proposed Lullingstone were replaced at Canterbury during a station refurbishment in 1988, which saw much more pleasing intricate types introduced. The canopy framework is, naturally, still of Lullingstone origin.

 


14th December 2006

 

This northward view reveals that both prefabricated concrete platform surfaces remain intact, although some

of the edging has since disappeared. A signal post now occupies part of what would have been the ''up'' platform.

Eynsford Tunnel is in the distance, and the field which was to accommodate the area's version of Heathrow

Airport is beyond the vegetation on the left. © David Glasspool

 


14th December 2006

 

A southward view reveals the ends of the platforms and, in the distance, Eynsford substation, the latter of which

is virtually identical to that still in evidence at Chelsfield. The absence of platform edging is evident here.

© David Glasspool

 


14th December 2006

 

A feature which can also still be seen is the former entrance to the footbridge. It is located on the ''down'' side

of the line, above the platforms - the station is in a cutting by this point. In the background is the field which

was earmarked for the international airport. The station had been partly financed by the Kemp Town Brewery

Company, which also owned the land planned for development. The distances of Heathrow and the proposed

Lullingstone airport from Central London are not too dissimilar: 14 miles and 17 miles out respectively.

© David Glasspool

 


 

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