The London, Chatham & Dover Railway (LC&DR) commenced through running of scheduled passenger traffic between Victoria and Canterbury on 3rd December 1860. On 22nd July of the following year, an extension to Dover came into use, intermediate stations opening at Bekesbourne, Adisham, and Shepherdswell. The first timetable printed in the 23rd July 1862 edition of The Kentish Gazette shows a non-stop train between Dover Town (as Priory was originally known) and Canterbury taking a flat half hour, and the quickest service from the former to Victoria was timed to take 2 hours 40 minutes. At this stage, there was no mention of any station at Kearsney.

In the 15th March 1862 edition of The Dover Express and East Kent Intelligencer, it was reported that the LC&DR was contemplating erecting a goods station at Ewell. The newspaper remarked that the hope was the presence of a goods station would result in arrangements being made for conveyance of passengers to and from the same site, serving an area that was considered a “charming suburban retreat”. Ewell was a rural village, about 2½-miles from the Port of Dover as the crow flies, and was described as “a hamlet romantic on account of the lofty hills and deep valleys which here prevail on either side of the London road” (ref: The Dover Road Sketch Book; Or, Traveller’s Pocket Guide Between London and Dover, J. H. Brady, 1837). By late May 1862, construction of a passenger station at Ewell, 2-miles 64-chains from the LC&DR's Dover Town, was in full swing:

EWELL. -The Railway Station.

The importance of a passenger station at Ewell has at length been recognised by the director of the London, Chatham, and Dover Company. We are not surprised that their conclusion has been so rapidly followed by active operations, and that the ground is already being levelled for the proposed station. Our wonder has been that a suburban district of so much rural beauty, in the immediate vicinity of a population approaching 25,000, should so long have been without its station. [The Kentish Gazette, 27th May 1862]

In the 17th May 1862 edition of The Dover Telegraph, it was stated that temporary accommodation for passengers would be in use at Ewell by the end of that month. However, it was later reported in The Dover Chronicle and Kent and Sussex Advertiser on 21st June 1862 that the 1st of the following month was likely to be the opening date of the station, and that a portion of platform had been laid down by that time. The same newspaper remarked that the opening of the station was to be celebrated “by a monster tea-party, promoted by several Dover tradesmen”.

The station at Ewell eventually came into public use on 1st August 1862; another station at Newington, near Sittingbourne, was opened on the same day (ref: Dover Express and East Kent Intelligencer, 2nd August 1862). From the outset, the name “Ewell” was used, and the 2nd August 1862 edition of The Dover Chronicle and Kent and Sussex Advertiser stated that seven “up” and an equal number of “down” trains served the station. The 30th August 1862 edition of the same publication remarked that platforms had been provided, but temporary booking offices were in use. The Station Master was one Arthur Gahagan (ref: The Dover Telegraph, 23rd May 1863).

Given that Ewell was just a rural suburb of Dover, not a town in its own right, a generous station was nevertheless provided. Two platforms were situated either side of the double-track line, and in place of the temporary accommodation that had been used since day one arose a fine main building on the “down” (Dover-bound) side. This was a two-storey-high structure, the majority of which formed the Station Master’s house, and was a variation of a standard design that the LC&DR used at several of their intermediate stations. Yellow brickwork was used in construction, the roof was slated, and sash-style windows were in evidence, although it is not clear if a whitewashed finish was a feature from the beginning. Early maps show a small structure on the “up” platform, directly opposite the main building, which must surely have been a waiting shelter; this was an early casualty, not surviving beyond the 19th Century (more of later), but it’s appearance was likely as per the standard design at neighbouring Shepherds Well. Finally, passengers were required to walk between the platforms by means of a track foot crossing.

As mentioned earlier, Ewell was initially promoted by the LC&DR as a goods site, before passenger facilities were considered. A goods shed was built on the “down” side of the line, behind the platform, about 35-feet southeast of the main building. The shed was of yellow brick construction with a slated pitched roof, and a single track — within which was inserted a wagon turntable — entered the structure through an arched doorway in its southeastern elevation. Early Ordnance Surveys show a second siding — also comprising a wagon turntable —running parallel with this arrangement. Although early Ordnance Surveys show no connection between the sidings, the reality must surely have been that they were linked by a track in-between the turntables. The diagram on this page illustrates the likely scenario.

Effective 31st January 1869, the station’s name changed from Ewell to Kearsney, to avoid confusion with a place of the same name in Surrey:

A placard in the booking office at Ewell, near Dover, notifies that, on and after the 31st of this month, the name of the station will be changed from Ewell to Kearsney. The change has been made in order that the many mistakes now prevalent, by confusing it with another station of the same name on the Brighton line, shall for the future be prevented. [The Dover Chronicle and Kent and Sussex Advertiser, 9th January 1869]

On Tuesday, 14th June 1881, the Dover & Deal Joint Line was opened with ceremony. It was a rare instance of cooperation between rival LC&DR and South Eastern Railway (SER) companies prior to 1899. The line was double track, 8⅓-miles long, and joined LC&DR metals at a junction in Crabble Meadow, about 1,600-yards northwest of Dover Priory. At its northern end, the railway connected with the Deal branch of the SER. Messrs Brady and Mills were the line’s engineers, and the contractor was Mr T. A. Walker (ref: The Building News, Friday, 17th June 1881). The junction at Crabble — named “Buckland Junction” — faced Dover, meaning that LC&DR trains running between Deal and the direction of the capital via Faversham had to reverse at Priory station. The need to change directions at Priory was soon negated by the opening of the “Kearsney Spur Line”.

Click the above for a larger version. © David Glasspool

The Kearsney Spur was a 28-chain-long double-track that formed the northern side of a triangular junction between the Dover and Deal lines. In the 2nd May 1882 edition of The Kentish Gazette, it was reported that the spur was nearing completion. The contractor for the work, Mr Walker, had also laid the line to Deal, and the junction station would be Kearsney. On Thursday, 8th June 1882, the Government Inspector of Railways, Major General Hutchinson, R. E., visited the then newly-laid track of the Kearsney Spur, in the company of the LC&DR’s Chief Civil Engineer, Mr Mills (ref: The Deal, Walmer, and Sandwich Mercury, 10th June 1882). Connections with the main line were inspected and, at the time, it was reported that after some trifling matters were arranged, the spur would be certified for service. The Kearsney Spur opened on Saturday, 1st July 1882 (ref: The East Kent Gazette, 1st July 1882); the connection with the main line was called “Deal Junction”, and that with the spur from Buckland Junction was called “Kearsney Loop Junction”. On the opening of the Joint Line, the LC&DR ran six weekday trains in either direction between Kearsney and Deal, which made connections with London services at the former (ref: The Railway Magazine, July 1953).

In connection with the Kearsney Spur, an additional platform face was brought into use at the station. This was formed by the opposite side of the existing “up” platform and served a terminating track facing in the Faversham direction; as the accompanying diagram shows, this platform line also provided access to a lengthy refuge siding by means of a reversing manoeuvre. Technically, the station had four platform faces by this stage: the pair adjacent to the main line; that serving the Faversham-facing track just mentioned, on the “up” side; and, finally, the opposite side of the “down” platform’s southeastern end, which served that track feeding the goods shed. Whether the latter was genuinely used for passenger purposes during its lifetime is debatable. Further station modifications included the provision of a pitched roof canopy on the “up” side, underneath which were timber offices, and a brick-built and roofed gentlemen’s toilet block at the Dover end of the same platform. On the “down” side, a cuboid-shaped timber waiting shelter — with a flat roof, wraparound sides, and no valance — was erected, the rear of this sitting immediately adjacent to the wall of the goods shed. Finally, passengers no longer had to cross the tracks on the level, for a lattice footbridge was erected between the platforms.

In the goods yard, the wagon turntables were abolished and both sidings linked by a conventional set of points. At the Faversham end of the station, on the “down” side, a Dover-facing siding was laid, this of which provided access to — via a reversing manoeuvre — a turntable. Based on maps of the period, the turntable was larger than those used for wagons, but appears to only have been able to accommodate locomotives of modest size.

The signalling at Kearsney was also modernised as part of 1882 spur works mentioned above. Well-known contractor Saxby & Farmer erected an attractive signal box adjacent to the Dover end of the “up” platform. This was an all-timber two-storey-high structure with a hipped slated roof, as per that shown in the West Malling section. The same design was employed by Saxby & Farmer at Kearsney Loop and Deal Junctions; the cabin at Buckland Junction was built by contractor Stevens & Sons.

By the 1907 Ordnance Survey edition, a larger timber waiting shelter had emerged on the “down” side. The rear of this butted up to the wall of the goods shed; so, it was either a brand new build, or an extension of the existing structure to the full length of the goods shed, which included a roof sloping upwards towards the main running lines.

Click the above for a larger version. © David Glasspool

Based on period photographs, changes at Kearsney under the Southern Railway (SR) included the installation of Swan Neck gas lamps and, naturally, the prevalence of “Target” name signs and green run-in boards. Maps of the period reflect that the “up” side bay platform line was extended in the Faversham direction, in turn reducing the length of the siding to which it was joined to little more than a short stub. The “down” side turntable was also abolished, as was the siding which fed it. As for services, the long-running practice of reversing a proportion of trains between Dover and Deal at Kearsney started to decline in early SR days, and by 1953 the Kearsney Loop was no longer used for regular traffic (ref: The Railway Magazine, July 1953).

A photograph from 1954 shows the rails of the “up” bay to be rusty, suggesting that it was little used by then. The most significant development in the early British Railways era was electrification of the line through the station. The full accelerated timetable between London and Dover via Chatham came into force on 15th June 1959. The Faversham to Dover line escaped the installation of colour lights at this time and retained semaphore signals. Public goods traffic was withdrawn from Kearsney in September 1961, this being effective from 4th of that month (ref: Clinker’s Register, 1980).

The 29th June 1962 edition of the Daily Mirror contained an anecdote about the railway in the Kearsney area. It was reported that a swarm of bees had to be smoked out of one of the signal boxes near Kearsney station after a railwayman was stung.

As one of the photographs on this page shows, by August 1976 the “down” side waiting shelter — which was attached to the former goods shed — had been flattened. This uncovered a vintage sign painted on the former goods shed’s wall that read “Kearsney for River and Ewell”, and this still exists today. By that time, the “up” side canopy had also been taken down, but a section of the timber offices underneath was still standing. The latter was still in evidence in 1981, but had been replaced by a glazed shelter by 1985. The goods shed was still standing in its entirety in 1984, but by June 1988 had been reduced to three elevations of wall about 10-feet high. In the meantime, the signal box had closed on 7th December 1980 (ref: Southern Railway Register, Section E1: St Mary Cray Junction to Dover Marine, Signalling Record Society). The “down” trailing siding, northwest of the station, was still in situ in 1984, having been used as an overflow by the collieries to store wagons. By 1989 the siding had been lifted, but the set of points on the “down” running line and a short stub remained. The latter were removed in 1990, when the platforms were extended in the Faversham direction using prefabricated concrete components.

August 1976

The old and the [then] new signs. By the time of this 1976 photograph, the “down” side timber waiting shelter had been taken down. The orange brick intervals in the wall of the goods shed was a LC&DR design trait. The painted sign seen here remains a feature of the station today but, naturally, has been restored with fresh colours since. © David Glasspool Collection

21st July 1978

A Faversham-bound view shows a 4-VEP nearing journey’s end with a Victoria to Dover Priory service. The “up” platform was rebuilt by the Southern Railway in prefabricated concrete, and on the right can be seen the side of the goods shed that dated from the station’s opening. In the distance can just be seen a trailing crossover between the running lines, a shunt signal disc, and a couple of semaphore posts. © David Glasspool Collection

13th August 1978

The “down” starting semaphore signal shows “clear” as 4-CEP No. 7156 departs for Dover Priory. The timber waiting room on the “up” platform, on the right, was the sorry remains of the once generous passenger accommodation provided in connection with the Joint Line to Deal and Kearsney Spur. The lattice footbridge also dates from the same time. Gentlemen still had the luxury of a toilet at this time. © David Glasspool Collection