Borough Green & Wrotham

The ‘’Sevenoaks Railway’’ opened a nine-mile single-track branch between what became Swanley Junction and Sevenoaks Bat & Ball on 2nd June 1862. By July of that year, two intermediate stations were on this line: Eynsford and Shoreham. The line was doubled throughout in 1863, two-track running coming into use on 1st August of that year. It was also in 1862 that the same company received Parliamentary approval for the construction of an extension of this branch to Maidstone, this of which would spur off at Otford - no station was in evidence at the latter at this time. In anticipation of this, the company renamed itself the ‘’Sevenoaks, Maidstone & Tunbridge Railway’’. The spur to Maidstone came into use on 1st June 1874, Wrotham & Borough Green station opening on this date. Double-track working on the Maidstone extension came into effect fully on 1st July 1882, but the main structure at Wrotham dates from the original opening of the line, and it seems likely that a second platform was also in use earlier than the doubling. Stations along the original Bat & Ball branch and the Maidstone line were unlike their counterparts on the original ‘’Chatham’’ main line to Dover, their design naturally being influenced by the original building company. Generally, the main buildings were more elaborate and imposing; for example, it is worth comparing the style of Wrotham with Sole Street – the respective levels of detail which have been incorporated into each example of architecture becomes obvious. Wrotham’s main building was situated on the ‘’down’’ side and was some two-storeys high, featured gabled roof sections, and was red brick in construction. Canopies were provided on both the northern and southern elevations of the structure, to the benefit of people waiting alongside the street entrance façade and passengers on the platform respectively. Four chimney stacks complemented a building which would have impressed the very small community it initially served on opening. Modesty was in evidence on the ‘’up’’ side, a glazed timber waiting shelter being available to passengers. This totally lacked a canopy and valance, but these features were not needed, the structure instead being fully enclosed and protecting its patrons effectively from the weather. It even had a coal fire at its western end for those cold winter mornings! From the outset, the platforms were linked by track foot crossings at both ends.

A single-track goods shed located on the ‘’down’’ side, to the west of the station building, was in evidence from the outset, but the number of sidings available began to peak after the 1882 doubling (the Wrotham to (West) Malling section saw two-track working commence a year earlier than the rest of the line). All facilities were provided on the ‘’down’’ side, which included three westward-facing sidings (including the track of the shed), and a single-track connection with an adjacent quarry pit. The whole complex could not be accessed directly, a lengthy headshunt line instead being in place for reversing trains (this itself could qualify as a fourth siding). At the pit, sand and ‘’Kentish Ragstone’’ were excavated, the latter material having been previously used by the SER in 1856 to build Aylesford station. Horse-drawn carts were used within the quarry to transport stone across the expanse to the railway wagons. The domestic goods yard dealt mainly with fruit and hops, of which the nearby fields were plentiful. An additional eastward-facing ‘’dock’’ line was also in use on the ‘’down’’ side and since the doubling, the whole layout had been controlled by a Saxby & Farmer-designed signal box positioned at the western end of the ‘’up’’ platform.

By 1880 the ‘’Railway Hotel’’ had opened on the other side of the main road to the station, providing accommodation for those travellers staying in the village, but the railway complex would not see further significant change until the Southern Railway era. In January 1935, electric working on the original Bat & Ball branch commenced, but this was not further extended beyond Otford Junction for another four and a half years, and then only as far as Maidstone. This was part of the SR’s scheme of electrifying ex-SE&CR suburban lines and third rail from Otford to the county town became formally active on 2nd July 1939. In connection with this, the track foot crossings at Wrotham were taken out of public use and a rather unlovely prefabricated concrete footbridge was installed immediately to the west of the main building – at least the view of this fine structure from the road bridge was not marred. The platforms became prefabricated concrete in construction about a decade later, but as per usual, ensuing years were to bring decline.

The 1960s was a decade of considerable change for Wrotham and, indeed, several other stations. The Kent Coast Electrification Scheme saw the extension of third rail from Maidstone East to Ashford, electric services commencing on 9th October 1961, but the full electric timetable did not come into use until 18th June of the following year. The line effectively became triple-track at this time for a very short stretch immediately to the west of Wrotham, a loop having been installed to avoid any movement conflicts caused by increased train diagrams. Also on 18th June 1962, the station name boards assumed a more logical word order: ‘’ Wrotham & Borough Green’’ became ‘’Borough Green & Wrotham’’, the station having been located within the area of the new prefix from the outset. Wrotham was just under 1½ miles north of the railway, but its larger size over Borough Green back in 1874 would seemingly have deemed for its name to precede that of the latter. September 1968 marked the greatest blow for the station: goods facilities were withdrawn, the quarry having long been exhausted and hops and fruit now seeking alternative road transport. The tracks were lifted and this area was subsequently flattened to provide car parking space. The ‘’up’’ waiting shelter was also dispensed with at this time, its replacement being a soulless bus shelter. The Saxby & Farmer signal box remained in use right up until 9th December 1983, semaphore signals still being in use throughout this time. Its functions were assumed on this day by the 1962-commissioned ‘’power box’’ at Maidstone East, colour aspect lights having also replaced the semaphores. The main station building has fared the years well and excepting a slight realignment of the platform canopy valance, to allow for the passage of Channel Tunnel box containers of a greater loading gauge, it more or less remains in its original condition, complete with immaculate red brickwork.

11th March 2006

Steaming through Borough Green & Wrotham was Battle of Britain Class No. 34067 ''Tangmere'', with an excursion trip from Victoria to Hastings, wearing ''Golden Arrow'' regalia. The station building is obvious on the right, displaying its immaculate red brickwork, its chimney stacks (a feature which many stations lost during the 1960s), the gabled roof sections and, finally, the retained platform canopy. Note that the front of the canopy valance has been re-aligned, thus now it does not line up with the side valance portions. The car park on the right indicates the former site of the goods yard. © David Glasspool

October 2004

An earlier view shows the station's façade, complete with canopy over the entrance, this of which retains the original valance pattern. This building has changed little over the years. © Mike Glasspool