This is a station which has been subject to considerable modernisation in only recent years, as the surrounding area has been dramatically transformed from an industrial landscape into one of high quality housing, retail outlets, and office units. Greenhithe came into use with the North Kent Line on 30th July 1849 as a standard two-platform affair. The station was one of a number along the original SER route designed by London architect and playwright Samuel Beazley, Gravesend and Erith remaining today as fine examples of his work. The main buildings at Greenhithe were situated at the western end of the ‘’down’’ platform, being constituted of the familiar yellow brickwork used extensively by the SER. A single-storey 78-foot long booking hall was flanked to its west by a 25-foot wide two-storey high Station Master’s house and, to its east, by a single-storey square-based pitched-roof appendix. The Station Masters’ houses at both Greenhithe and Northfleet were built to the same basic tall, slim design, although noticeable differences were in evidence. These two stations also shared the fact that they were both positioned upon an embankment, in addition to having the platform surfaces linked by a subway. Greenhithe’s ‘’up’’ platform was provided with an elongated brick-built waiting shelter, complete with a wooden-clad façade and an upward-sloping roof. Platform weather protection on the ‘’down’’ side was provided by means of a 78-foot long flat-roofed canopy, supported by five stanchions and demonstrating the same icicle-patterned valance which can still be seen in use today at St Johns.
For an area which became so industrialised in the 19th and 20th centuries, it is surprising that no goods facilities were ever present at the station here. However, Greenhithe acquired its own signal box circa 1885, this being constructed upon the ramp at the western extremity of the ‘’up’’ platform. The cabin was to the SER’s own in-house design, being of clapboard construction and featuring the company’s familiar sash-style window frames. Complete with a slated pyramid-shaped roof, access to the cabin was gained by means of a small five-step timber staircase upon the platform surface.
Under SE&CR ownership, the platforms were heightened with further layers of bricks – such work at many stations resulted in surfaces becoming upward-sloping, as only those sections of platform nearest the track received the additional brick layers. A direct rail connection was also made with the standard gauge network of the 1908-opened Empire Paper Mills, the industry of which was situated on the bank of the Thames, within the historic Ingress Abbey grounds. The single-track connection left the ‘’down’’ line shortly before the route plunged into the 253 yard-long Greenhithe Tunnel, to the east of the platforms. More change came under Southern Railway ownership. On 6th July 1930, scheduled electric operation formally began beyond Dartford, to Gravesend Central. As part of these works, Greenhithe received a revised gas lamp design: the diamond-shaped SER lamps were replaced by the SR’s distinctive swan neck equivalents. The alteration formed part of the SR’s desire to present a ‘’modern image’’ at those stations which were situated upon electrified stretches of line. At the same time, both platform surfaces were lengthened at their eastern ends with Exmouth Junction-produced prefabricated concrete, these extensions being backed at their rears by fencing of the same material. Naturally, the SR’s ‘’Target’’ name boards prevailed at the site.
The early British Railways era brought further platform lengthening. Prefabricated concrete cast components (again, Exmouth Junction products), were used to extended both surfaces, again at their eastern ends, in 1954, in preparation for ten-vehicle EPB electric formations. The signal box here was one of the route’s earlier casualties; this was taken out of use during July 1965, which resulted in the station’s ‘’home’’ semaphores being removed, leaving just the ‘’distant’’ signals controlled by neighbouring cabins. It was also at this time that the wrought-iron swan-neck gas lamps of the SR were replaced with electric lighting supported upon concrete posts. Plain white name boards with black lettering were implemented at the station concurrent with this.
Semaphore signals were decommissioned in November 1970, when the route switched over to colour light signalling on the 8th of that month, controlled by the Dartford Panel. It is unclear when Greenhithe’s imposing Station Master’s house was dispensed with, but it would seem likely that this building was demolished during the 1970s, this being an era which witnessed structural cutbacks and economies at numerous sites - the structure was still marked on a 1971 Ordnance Survey. Nevertheless, all other major remaining structures survived into the 21st Century, although by this time, the ‘’down’’ side platform canopy had lost its attractive valance. Greenhithe had, hitherto, been served only by all-station stopping services – semi-fast trains bypassed all stations between Dartford and Gravesend exclusive. However, the March 1999 opening of the Bluewater Shopping Centre saw the station’s status markedly improve, with all passenger services (except the likes of main line Kent Coast diversions) subsequently being scheduled to stop there. The presence of Bluewater, combined with mass new housing developments being created in the immediate environs, deemed that the station required modernisation. In 2002, the original ‘’up’’ side waiting shelter of SER origin was demolished, and the curved roof of the adjacent subway stairwell was removed. ‘’Bex Contracts PLC’’ of Belvedere were hired to install a replacement glazed waiting shelter, covering both the former site of the SER building and the top of the subway stairwell. Further alterations to the station site commenced at the end of October 2004: the considerable greenery and vegetation behind the ‘’down’’ platform, east of the station building, was cut down. Behind the station, land was being redeveloped as a turn-back bus stop facility for buses from Bluewater and for the proposed ‘’Fastrack’’ vehicles. A second station entrance was opened up midway along the ‘’down’’ platform. The new entrance allowed a gradual road ascent to the platforms, avoiding the original steep stairs alongside the SER station building.
In 2006, Network Rail published within its Business Plan proposals to redevelop Greenhithe station. This forms a continuation of the aforementioned bus stop works and includes the provision of a completely new station building midway along the ‘’down’’ platform. The new structure is based on a square floor plan, featuring elevations clad with orange tiles and glazing, and incorporates an overhanging white flat roof. £402,688 was allocated to the project, and construction began in 2007, the building being virtually complete by December of that year. Erection of lift shafts was undertaken on 16th March 2008, coinciding with the dismantling of the platform canopy of the original SER structure. The new station building has an estimated lifespan of fifty years, and construction work was subcontracted to ''Dean & Dyball Rail''.
A James Stirling-designed tender engine trundles into the station from the Dartford direction. The first carriage in tow is a Wainwright-designed ''Birdcage''. In view is the SER-designed signal box, which was built circa 1885 and closed in July 1965. Its predecessor is the single-storey hut immediately behind it. The original curved roof to the ''up'' platform subway entrance is on the left, whilst a track foot crossing can be seen just in front of the engine. ''Reffell Bros Bexley Ales'' are advertised on the ''up'' side, and the sleepers at this time were submerged in ballast. The chimneys of cement works can already be seen on the horizon.
© David Glasspool Collection
17th May 2004
The ''down'' side buildings in this westward view were largely complete, but an obvious absence was that of the Station Master's house, which formerly resided at the far end of the platform. Additional casualties have been chimneystacks, in addition to the canopy's ornate valance. The pitched roof appendix behind the ''down'' platform name board is used as a store; it used to house the toilets.
© David Glasspool
17th May 2004
In 2002, the existing ''up'' side waiting shelter was dispensed with and this glazed structure erected in its place. The subway entrance's roof was also removed during the process, allowing the new structure to be extended over the stairwell.
© David Glasspool