Southborough Road, as it was then known, opened before through running between Faversham and London was physically possible, coming into use on 5th July 1858. Three wholly independent concerns had been integral in the laying of track from the north bank of the Thames, through Bromley, to Southborough Road: the Victoria Station & Pimlico Railway Company, the West End of London & Crystal Palace Railway, and the Crays Company. Starting with the first, this concern was responsible for the construction of Victoria station and the extension of the lines over the Thames by means of Grosvenor Bridge. Here, the lines joined the metals of the second company in question, these of which stretched as far eastward as Crystal Palace and formally gave access to Victoria station on 29th May 1858. Meanwhile, the ‘’Crays Company’’ had been making further progression east with the line, extending it from Crystal Palace to Shortlands on 3rd May 1858, then onwards to Southborough Road on 5th July of the same year. It was not until 3rd December 1860 that the LC&DR connected with this system after a westward extension from Strood.
Southborough Road station became ‘’Bickley’’ on 1st October 1860, thus the station has been known by the latter name throughout its entire LC&DR existence, and beyond. The LC&DR had no influence over the original layout at Bickley, a station built by the Crays Company already being in existence. The line was for many years double track, thus just two platform faces were in use from the outset, the main building being situated on the ‘’up’’ side and a pitched roof timber waiting shelter on the ’’down’’ platform. The latter was a far less common design than the usual upward slanting and flat roofed shelters which can still be seen at the likes of Sole Street and Adisham. For two and a half years Bickley was a terminus, thus a turntable was provided to rotate engines for the run back to Victoria, but even when the station became a through affair in December 1860, this facility was retained. It is interesting to note that no engine shed was incorporated within the original plans, especially peculiar as there was no Stewarts Lane at the time for the locomotives to come down from. Goods facilities were also absent from this station, presumably because Bromley, only a mile westward, catered for these adequately. Rolling stock storage accommodation was, however, provided, with single sidings being present to the west (‘’down’’ side) and east (‘’up’’ side) of the platforms. Lastly, a track foot crossing was in use for passengers between the platforms, a footbridge not arriving until shortly before the station’s total rebuild.
The LC&DR had been leasing the Crays Company since December 1860, but this concern had been absorbed by the time the former initiated a quadrupling scheme. The main route to Victoria was also now via Herne Hill, the LB&SCR having acquired ownership of the Crystal Palace lines. Quadrupling was by no means extensive at this point in time and indeed, it was just the Bromley to Bickley section which was being so treated. What this did call for was the complete rebuilding of both Bromley and Bickley stations to accommodate the new track formation. Work began in 1893, by which time the LC&DR appeared to have settled on another design of standardised station building. Both Bromley and Bickley rebuilds were virtually identical, barring the fact that their station buildings were located at alternative ends of the platforms. The architecture employed at these locations had also been implemented at Chatham in 1886, when this station received a new high-level entrance, and also later at Faversham, despite the buildings there remaining at ground level, alongside the platforms. Two islands were brought into use at Bickley, in addition to a main station building consisting of crème brickwork, orange window arches and a pitched roof, straddling the tracks on a road bridge. Bromley received enlarged goods facilities, but although nothing in the form of freight provision appeared at Bickley, the latter acquired both an engine shed and a replacement turntable. The engine shed, single-track and dead-end, took the place of the ‘’down’’ storage siding to the west of the platforms, and its associated turntable was positioned directly opposite, on the ‘’up’’ side, located about 250 yards west of the original 1858 turntable. Luxuries these facilities may have been, but their existence was short-lived. As part of a scheme to improve commuter services to and from the capital, a number of new sheds were opened by the SE&CR to house those tank engines on suburban runs. Orpington was one of these, coming into use in 1904 and subsequently making the shed and turntable at Bickley redundant. The approach line to the turntable became a siding and the engine shed was subsequently demolished, although it is possible that the latter was in use for at least a few more years to provide covered accommodation for passenger stock. A water tower had opened with the rebuilt station, to the east of the shed, and this in fact survived far beyond the closure of the latter, not succumbing until June 1959. The rebuilding had also provided the station with copious rolling stock storage space either side of the islands, which was afforded by the lack of a goods yard. Signal boxes had appeared to the east (‘’down’’ side) and west (‘’up’’ side) of the station, both built by Saxby & Farmer and consisting of brick bases and timber upper halves.
Third rail reached Bickley in 1925 during the Southern Railway’s scheme of electrifying former SE&CR suburban lines to modernise and speed up commuter services. On 12th July of that year, the first scheduled electric services ran, with an extension of such trains to Swanley and Sevenoaks on 6th January 1935. Rolling stock sidings at Bickley also received the ‘’juice’’ and as a consequence of the 1925 scheme, the replacement engine shed at Orpington closed in 1926, after a mere twenty-five years of use – at least there had been a distinct improvement in services. It was the 1959 Kent Coast Electrification which heralded further significant changes at the station. The layout’s two mechanical signal boxes were decommissioned, as was the cabin at Bickley Junction, when Chislehurst ‘’power box’’ came into use on 31st May of that year. This was done in conjunction with the switch over from semaphore signalling to colour aspect lights. The quadruple track was also perpetuated at this time through to Swanley, which required the widening of cuttings and installation of concrete walling in high-density residential areas. Scheduled steam working finished on the ‘’Chatham’’ main line on 14th June 1959.
The station building had not been without change: during the 1950s, both halves of the façade had been rebuilt, the traditional windows on each side done away with (but remaining in the centre), in order to incorporate trading outlets. These areas of the structure were also finished in all-over white. The building’s entrance canopy valance was also severely truncated at this time, and later removed altogether. Over several decades the triangular platform canopies have always demonstrated a spruce appearance, complemented by their intricate valances, but in much more recent years there appears to have been some change for the worse. The valance of the ‘’down’’ island has sustained considerable damage (looking like an engineering vehicle has ‘’attacked’’ it) and both canopies have had makeshift renewals at their western ends: the wooden end elevations have been plated over with corrugated metal. A repaint undertaken in 2005 has, however, improved the station’s appearance considerably and the crème brickwork is in good cosmetic condition.
Semaphore signals are seen at the western ends of Bickley's platforms, in addition to a barrow crossing. SE&CR D1 Class 4-4-0 No. 247 is seen hurtling through with a boat train. Click the above for a larger version of the locomotive.
© David Glasspool Collection
19th April 2006
The station building is viewed from the road, the later modifications on either side of the structure being obvious. Note the triangular pattern above the station entrance - this is a feature shared with the similar examples at Chatham and Faversham, and with the pre-1959 building of Bromley South.
© David Glasspool
19th April 2006
An eastward view allows close inspection of the station building's rear and the canopy valances. Starting with the former, the familiar LC&DR arched windows are still very much in evidence; the rear elevation has changed little since 1894. The ''down'' canopy valance can be seen with large chunks missing at irregular intervals.
© David Glasspool
19th April 2006
Another eastward view, but this time beyond the canopies, reveals the incongruous corrugated metal cladding, but the retention of the intricate valance underneath.
© David Glasspool