Beckenham Hill is
unique along the Catford Loop for two reasons. Firstly, it is the only station
along the route to feature its main building at the same level as the platforms
(as per all such structures originally on the line, this is positioned on the ‘’up’’
side). The second reason concerns structural design. As mentioned within other
sections of this website, architecture along the Catford Loop was standardised
on two variants; Crofton Park and Bellingham were of one distinct type, Catford,
Beckenham Hill, and Ravensbourne were of another. Of the latter group, both
Ravensbourne and Catford have witnessed significant structural alterations over
the years which have resulted in the destruction of their original station
buildings. Once single-storey, constituted of red brick, and demonstrating
square window frames and distinctive triangular pitches, these buildings may now
be lost to us, but their design traits remain within the still extant structure
at Beckenham Hill. This amply illustrates why this station is now historically
important, despite itself having been the subject of economical measures in the
latter British Rail era.
Beckenham Hill opened with the Catford Loop on 1st July 1892, concurrent with all other stations along the route. The aforementioned station building measured some 24 ft by 85 ft, which compared to the general 38 ft by 38 ft ground area of its Loop Line counterparts. Attached to the main structure’s platform-facing façade was a pitched-roof canopy, some 125 feet in length, matched by an identical structure on the ‘’down’’ side. Again, the canopy design was standardised at all stations along the route, but subsequent alterations have left Bellingham and Crofton Park as the only sites to retain the original 1892 architecture. Further mention should be made of the ‘’down’’ side canopy at Beckenham Hill: this was backed at its rear partially by a brick wall (only Catford boasted timber rear elevations, as a weight saving tactic upon a viaduct), and partly by a brick-built waiting shelter. In addition, the canopy featured wooden wrap-a-round ends. Naturally, linking both platform surfaces was the customary enclosed footbridge, iconic of the route, this spanning for some 70 feet at the London end of the layout. The canopies of both platforms stretched up to the footbridge entrances, providing passengers with the luxury of full protection from the elements. As a consequence, the main station building had a canopy overhang at its London end of 40 foot.
There is one structure which has yet to be mentioned: the signal box. Saxby & Farmer were drafted in by the LC&DR on numerous building projects as signalling contractors, the Catford Loop being one such scheme. A signal cabin, identical in appearance to that still in existence at Sturry, emerged beside the ‘’up’’ line. This was rather detached from Beckenham Hill station itself, for it was positioned at the ‘’country’’ end of the layout, on the opposite side of the road bridge. Like the example at Crofton Park, the signal box here controlled a simple layout consisting of no more than the running lines and a trailing crossover.
The first changes came under SE&CR auspices, with the rebuilding of the canopies from the existing 1892 pitched-roof design to an equally intricate upward-slanting variant (now existing only at Ravensbourne). Thereafter, it was left to the SR to make further alterations. These began with the electrification of the Catford Loop in 1925, scheduled EMU passenger services commencing on 12th July of that year. This formed part of the SR’s earliest electrification project on its Eastern Section territory, the whole route from Victoria and Holborn Viaduct to Orpington via Bickley Junction being treated with third rail. In conjunction with this, the platforms at Beckenham Hill were extended with Exmouth Junction-manufactured prefabricated concrete, in addition to the gas lamp design being altered. At the same time, the station lost its intricate SE&CR canopy valances, these being replaced by plain timber versions. Furthermore, the footbridge, although remaining enclosed, saw its upper timber half rebuilt using the same timber as that of the canopies. Consequently, the footbridge lost its original pitched roof, a downward-slanting design instead being implemented. Beckenham Hill station was the only site along the Catford Loop to be subject to these comprehensive modifications.
The 1959 Kent Coast Electrification saw the abolition of the Saxby & Farmer signal box, its final day of operation being on 22nd March of that year. A prefabricated concrete permanent way hut also emerged at the ‘’country’’ end of the ‘’up’’ platform as part of the works. Today, if the footbridge's staircases are assumed to be significant, then this station's structural degrading can be traced back to as far as the 1970s. The staircases match the rudimentary design of those examples installed at Otford and Broadstairs during this period, and their installation at Beckenham Hill would seem to coincide with all structures on the ‘’down’’ platform being demolished, in addition to the footbridge losing its roof and timber side walls. Consequently, all that remained complete was the main station building on the ‘’up’’ side, although this demonstrated the aforementioned plain canopy valance. By this time, to the passing glance, Beckenham Hill looked more akin to the 1931 SR rebuilds present at Bexleyheath and Welling, rather than a station of 1892 heritage. The final indignity occurred in 2003, which saw the replacement of the timber canopy valance with a grey corrugated metal fabrication, somewhat reminiscent of the dreary asbestos which began to frequent stations around the turn of the 1970s. Whilst a futuristic bus shelter-style structure has emerged on Beckenham Hill’s ‘’down’’ platform, and the main building has been retiled, this station has lost much of its charm and character, but at least the important station building still stands, reminding us of the architecture once seen at both Ravensbourne and Catford.
This first scene depicts Class 465 No. 465159 ready to depart Beckenham Hill on 23rd
February 2007 with a Victoria stopping service. Just about visible is the station building,
roofless footbridge, and canopy. David Glasspool
Another London-bound view from 23rd February 2007 reveals the current situation on the
''down'' platform, namely that a futuristic bus shelter is now a permanent feature. The brick
work surrounding the flight of stairs on the ''down'' side has been spruced up considerably.
This view from 23rd February 2007 is not too dissimilar from the first picture presented
on the Bexleyheath page, even though nearly forty years separates the structures at these
sites. Whilst the canopy at Beckenham Hill may have witnessed its valance being changed
more than once, both its framework and struts remain of SE&CR origin. David Glasspool
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