Doleham Halt

In the early 20th Century, the SE&CR Joint Managing Committee devised a scheme aimed at reducing operating costs and minimizing the amount of traffic lost to other forms of transport. Within the London suburbs, the company soon found itself competing directly with an advanced tram network, whilst along rural lines, parallel-running bus routes offered a more attractive alternative. Thus, in 1906, the ‘’railmotor’’ was born, and numerous wooden-fabricated halts appeared across the SE&CR network to provide a cheaper, but more frequent, local service to sparsely populated areas. A railmotor service commenced between Rye and Hastings on 1st July 1907, and halt stations were brought into use at Guestling, Snailham, and Three Oaks on the same date.

Guestling Halt comprised a pair of wooden-fabricated platforms, residing directly opposite each other across a double-track. These were just about long enough to accommodate a single railmotor; the latter was essentially a small tank engine and a coach, built upon a common chassis. The railmotor fleet operated out of Bricklayers Arms, and provided dubious comfort in the form of fifty-six rock hard wooden seats. The SE&CR pioneered such rolling stock on the North Kent Line, the Westerham branch, and the ex-SER Chatham Central branch. Both platforms at Guestling Halt were provided with waiting accommodation, in the form of a small clapboard shelter, and the surfaces lacked lighting. By 1910, the station had been renamed ‘’Doleham Halt’’, after a local farm; the halt at Three Oaks was better sited for the settlement of Guestling, thus this subsequently became ‘’Three Oaks & Guestling Halt’’. By the outbreak of World War I, the halts were served by eight railmotor services between Hastings and Rye, and a further two between the former and Appledore. The halt at Doleham essentially served a terrace of twelve cottages, which were no more than eighty yards from the platforms.

In about 1935, under Southern Railway auspices, the Ashford-bound (‘’up’’) platform was rebuilt in prefabricated concrete, but the existing clapboard shelter was retained. Unusually, the ‘’down’’ platform remained of timber construction, but lost its waiting shelter, passengers using this surface becoming completely exposed to the elements. The halt continued to lack lighting, and at night, the location of the platforms could only be deciphered by the presence of small lamps beyond the ends of the surfaces.

Snailham Halt closed to passengers on 2nd February 1959, but those platforms at Three Oaks & Guestling and Doleham remained in use. Considerable rationalisation was to occur at these sites twenty years later, however. Having been unable to close the Ashford to Hastings route as planned in 1969, as a result of significant protesting, British Rail devised a cost-cutting scheme for the line. Consequently, on 29th April 1979, singling of the Appledore to Ore section of the route commenced. As part of these works, the existing ‘’down’’ line at Doleham was lifted, and the timber platform surface was also abolished. The prefabricated concrete ‘’up’’ platform remained intact, complete with clapboard waiting shelter, but still this received no lighting.

Doleham Siding

This predates the halt by at least seven years, and was positioned south of the platforms, on the opposite side of the road bridge. It was southward facing and had a trailing connection with the ‘’down’’ line. From 1928, the siding handled coal traffic for the nearby Brede Waterworks, which used steam power to pump 4.5 million litres of water each day to reservoirs in Hastings. Previously, coal had reached the Brede Valley by means of barges negotiating the River Brede, and unloading at a wharf about ⅞-mile east of the waterworks. The wharf was linked to the waterworks by an 18’’ narrow-gauge steam-powered railway. Previously, the public siding at Doleham had also served a brick and tile works, which was positioned immediately alongside. Doleham siding formally closed to goods traffic on 6th February 1961.

17th August 2008

The SR concrete platform remains in existence, complete with timber waiting shelter of SE&CR design. The platform has at long last acquired lighting, and the shelter now also boasts a coat of paint - since the outset, the latter had demonstrated an untreated dark brown finish. The space where a second track was once situated is obvious. © David Glasspool

17th August 2008

A view from behind the former ''up'' platform shows the elevated position of the waiting shelter. The halt is located deep in a valley, densely populated with woodland, thus perhaps passengers have at least some protection from howling winds at this bleak location! © David Glasspool

17th August 2008

The terraced cottages served by the station are beyond the scope of this southward view, to the left of the road bridge. Like a number of the stations on the singled Salisbury to Exeter line, a sign is in evidence at Doleham to indicate the direction of travel: Rye and Ashford to the left (north), Ore and Hastings to the right (south). Doleham siding began immediately beyond the road bridge, to the left. © David Glasspool