Brookland Halt

The South Eastern Railway (SER) opened their Ashford, Rye, and Hastings branch to public traffic on 13th February 1851, intermediate stations coming into use at Ham Street, Appledore, Rye and Winchelsea (ref: Kentish Mercury, 15th February 1851). Over twenty years later, by an Act dated 5th August 1873, the Rye and Dungeness Railway and Pier Company was formed to construct a 10¾-mile line from the SER’s station at Rye to Dungeness, which included the construction of a pier at the latter (ref: Bradshaw’s Railway Manual, Shareholders’ Guide, and Official Directory, 1875). Powers for this scheme lapsed. Later, on 8th April 1881, another company by the name of the Lydd Railway was formed to lay a single-track line from the SER at Appledore to Lydd, with a capital of £75,000 and powers to borrow £25,000 (ref: Bradshaw’s Railway Manual, Shareholders’ Guide, and Official Directory, 1885).

Progress on the line was swift, so much that the ceremonial opening — led by Sir Edward Watkin, Chairman of the SER — occurred on Tuesday, 6th December 1881 (ref: London Evening Standard, 7th December 1881). The nature of the terrain across the marshland meant that there were no heavy civil engineering works to undertake, making the line comparatively cheap to lay. The line was 10-miles 63-chains in length and had been constructed by Mr Walker of Great George Street, Westminster, with Mr Wright as Resident Agent (ref: The Railway News, 5th November 1881). Stations were opened at Brookland and Lydd; beyond the latter, the line was carried to a point near Dungeness lighthouse. From the outset, the line was open to passenger traffic only as far as Lydd; the section beyond to Dungeness was used for the purposes of carrying shingle, the latter of which covered an area of about 6,000 acres (ref: London Evening Standard, 7th December 1881).

Telegraph wires were laid from Appledore through to Dungeness (ref: Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, 27th August 1881). The station at Brookland was situated about 2½-miles from the junction with the SER at Appledore, upon an unbroken dead-level four-mile section of line. The name Brookland originated from the various brooks that flowed through the area, the latter of which was associated with varied vegetable production and good crops of cereal, pulse, and roots (ref: The Railway News, 5th November 1881). On opening day, numerous people were at Brookland station waving flags as the train carrying SER dignitaries passed through (ref: The Kentish Gazette, 13th December 1881). The 1881 census recorded a population of 434 at Brookland.

Two platforms were in evidence at Brookland, each about 150-feet-long and situated either side of a passing loop, the latter approximately 250-yards in length. The "down" (Lydd-bound) platform was host to a generous, sturdy main building: this was a single-storey structure comprised of red brick with concrete facings; a slated pitched roof was in evidence, with gabled ends, and sash-style windows were incorporated. A modest timber canopy of about 25-foot-length covered the booking office’s exit to the platform, and approximately half of the main building was given a rendered finish. The building was essentially a shorter version of the structure commissioned at Lydd. The "up" platform was provided with a timber waiting shelter with decorative valance, this being a smaller version of that pictured in the Rye section. A track foot crossing linked the platforms at their Lydd ends, and beyond this was a level crossing. Mr J. Stutely was noted as being the Station Master at Brookland in 1892, and it was also recorded that he was suffering from the then potentially deadly influenza in January of that year (ref: Kentish Express and Ashford News, 30th January 1892).

No sidings were laid at Brookland. Goods traffic was focused at Lydd, where a spacious array of sidings and cattle pens were provided. However, a signal box was in evidence beyond the Appledore end of Brookland’s "up" platform. This cabin controlled the passing loop and was a two-storey all-timber affair, built to the SER’s in-house design with hipped roof and sash-style windows. An example of this signal box style still exists today at Cuxton.

Effective 1st January 1917, Sunday services over Lydd and New Romney branches were withdrawn by the South Eastern & Chatham Railway (SE&CR) in connection with wartime reductions and decelerations (ref: The Railway News, 13th January 1917). The Board of Trade also instructed all railway companies to increase fares by one half from the same date and to refuse to carry luggage exceeding a total weight of 100 lbs per passenger. This was to curtail unnecessary travel and help the railways handle wartime trains carrying troops, munitions, and supplies (ref: The Railway News, 23rd December 1916).

In an official Southern Railway (SR) timetable published in the 2nd June 1923 edition of the Kentish Express and Ashford News, the station was referred to as plain "Brookland". However, in a timetable printed in the 14th July 1928 edition of the same publication, the station was called "Brookland Halt", suggesting that the name change occurred some time during those five years. Your author surmises that it was during the degrading to "halt" status that the passing loop and signal box were abolished, and the "down" platform deprived of a track. Thereafter, all traffic served what was originally the "up" (Appledore-bound) platform. The main building of 1881 ceased to be used for passenger purposes; it was replaced by a staffed pitched-roof brick hut, situated south east of the former "up" platform, adjacent to the gated level crossing. The "down" starting semaphore signal was relocated from just beyond the Lydd end of the original "down" platform to the former site of the loop.

By 1954, five stations were under the control of a single Station Master, one Alfred R. Cooper: Lydd Town, Brookland Halt, Lydd-on-Sea, Greatstone-on-Sea, and New Romney. In that year, Mr Cooper was promoted to Assistant Station Master at Guildford (ref: The Kentish Express, 26th February 1954).

In the March 1963-published The Reshaping of British Railways report, Lydd and New Romney branches were listed for closure to passengers, as was the entire stretch between Ashford and Hastings. By this time, Brookland Halt was run by two men working in shifts, noted in 1965 as being Mr. Alfred Westley of Venti, Greatstone, and Mr. Anthony Knipmever of Almacotts, Brookland (ref: Kentish Express, 5th November 1965). On and from 6th March 1967, closure of Lydd Town and New Romney branches — which together possessed thirteen manually-operated level crossings — to passenger traffic was effected (ref: The Railway Magazine, April 1967). From the same date, the "East Kent Road Car Company" started a new bus service — Route 142 — from Lade (Greatstone-on-Sea) to Appledore, via the former calling points of the railway (ref: Kentish Express, 10th March 1967).

Circa 1959

The lack of headcode discs in this Lydd-bound view suggests that Ramsgate-allocated BR Standard Class 2MT 2-6-2 Tank No. 84027 is propelling its three carriages into Brookland Halt from Appledore. Note the electricity warning flash sticker on one of the side tanks, presumably in connection with the installation of overhead wires in South Eastern Division goods yards for the then new E5000 series (Class 71) locomotives. The main station building on the disused former "down" platform was still in fine fettle at the time of this view, complete with canopy. The rendered finish of the main building can be seen, as can the concrete facings and the gabled end. The "down" starting signal, protecting the level crossing, is on the former track bed of the loop that once served the platform on that side. The former main building is today a dwelling, which in 2006 was extended to double the structure’s original size. © David Glasspool Collection