Edenbridge Town

The platform canopies have been pruned and, naturally, the goods yard closed, but this station is undoubtedly the least altered of all those which opened with the route between Hurst Green and Ashurst. As recounted in the Hever section, this was a double-track line just over 12-miles in length, originally promoted by the ‘’Oxted & Groombridge Railway’’. It received Royal Assent on 11th August 1881 and the project was taken over by the LB&SCR in 1884, as part of the latter’s endeavour to forge a more direct route between London and Tunbridge Wells. The line was opened in two stages: between Hurst Green Junction and Edenbridge on 2nd January 1888, and between Edenbridge and Ashurst Junction on 1st October of the same year.

The name Edenbridge derives from a bridge over the River Eden (which is a tributary of the Medway), and in 1831 the population was 1432. Exactly 100 years later, this figure had more than doubled to 2993. The first Edenbridge station was that of the SER’s, which opened as long ago as 26th May 1842 on the Redhill to Tonbridge line. This was a modest affair comprising single-storey timber buildings, thus in comparison the LB&SCR’s station was very grand. Two platforms came into use either side of the double-track and both surfaces were host to handsome masonry structures. Red brick construction was used throughout, and the main building could be found on the ‘’up’’ platform. The structure was of impressive proportions, comprising a façade stretching for 125-feet: it incorporated a single-storey booking hall, the Station Master’s two-storey-high house, and toilets. The sash-style windows were neatly topped off with stone-lined arches and the building’s forecourt entrance was protected by a neat 20-foot-long canopy. The platforms were equipped with splendid hipped roof canopies, 170-feet in length, then the longest to be found along the original Oxted & Groombridge Railway. The presence of a subway here, rather than a footbridge, required elongated canopies in order to protect the stairwells from the elements. The ‘’up’’ platform was also host to a solid red-brick waiting room, which sat behind the aforementioned canopy. This was single-storey, comprised a hipped slated roof, and can be seen in the below photographs. A timber-clad framework was erected behind those sections of canopy which went beyond the limits of the buildings, to form a windbreak. Finally, the LB&SCR erected six semi-detached cottages for workers: these could be found south of the station, above the cutting on the ‘’down’’ side of the line. This was at a time when even the most rural of stations commanded a large complement of staff.

A spacious goods yard was laid out south of the platforms, on the ‘’up’’ side of the running lines. Like those at nearby Hever, some of the sidings here could only be accessed by means of a reversal manoeuvre into a head shunt. In total, five sidings – excluding the head shunt – were in evidence from the outset. One of these passed through an attractive red-brick goods shed, 90-feet in length, which comprised a slated pitched roof and – on its southern elevation – an attractive canopy. Behind the ‘’up’’ side could be found a third platform surface, of which sidings terminated either side, and this was joined by yet another platform face reserved for cattle pens. Such is the complex nature of this layout that readers will be relieved to find a track diagram on this page. However, it is worth adding in text form that the layout was controlled by an attractive signal cabin, located at the ‘’country’’ end of the ‘’down’’ platform. This had been erected by well-known signalling contractor Saxby & Farmer and was of a standardised design, featuring an overhanging hipped slated roof. Of all-brick construction, the company had provided cabins of the same design at Hever and Cowden stations.

On 1st May 1896, the station became ‘’Edenbridge Town’’, the suffix being added to distinguish it from the older SER site. Prior to this, the station name boards displayed plain ‘’Edenbridge’’ – not even the initials ‘’LB&SCR’’ were in evidence. Thereafter, little changed at the site. During the Southern Railway’s tenure, Swan Neck lamps were installed, but this very much remained an LB&SCR station. A stub siding, terminating just short of the cattle pens, was lifted, but this aside, the track plan was just as extensive as when originally opened. Edenbridge Town even kept hold of its Saxby & Farmer signal box, at a time when the SR replaced those at Hever and Cowden with less labour intensive lever frames on the platforms. It was very much the more important of the two Edenbridge stations – that of the SER’s had been on a secondary route since 1st May 1868, when the SER diverted virtually all main line traffic onto a new cut-off line via Sevenoaks. Thus, it was left to British Railways to wield the axe at the Town station and, indeed, other sites along the line.

As was so often the case at stations, the goods yard was the first casualty, formally closing to general traffic on 10th July 1968. The tracks were subsequently lifted, but Ordnance Survey Maps dated over a decade later still show the coal staithes in situ, despite being without rails. The early 1970s brought economies so severe that, along the nearby Redhill to Tonbridge line, entire generations of stations were obliterated at one fell swoop. Thankfully, the route between Hurst Green Junction and Groombridge fared somewhat better, but structural rationalisation nevertheless occurred at the same time. The canopies at Edenbridge Town were both cut back at their southern ends: that on the ‘’up’’ platform was reduced in length by 50-feet, whilst the ‘’down’’ side canopy was pruned to such an extent that from an original length of 170-feet, just a 60-foot stretch remained. Of those sections of canopy which remained on either platform, both continued to protect the subway’s stairwells.

Severe rationalisation of those Central Division branches east of the Brighton main line transformed the through route via Edenbridge Town into a truncated country branch. After 23rd February 1969, the line went no further south than Uckfield, but it remained as a feeder to the Tunbridge Wells West line. This was eventually axed on 6th July 1985, and four years later was followed by a re-signalling of the line south of Oxted. Part of this involved singling of the route between Hever and Uckfield, and the replacement of the remaining mechanical signal boxes with a new panel at Oxted. The new signalling came into use on 7th January 1990, but it is here where your author has difficulty pinpointing the fate of Edenbridge Town signal box: it is suspected that the Saxby & Farmer cabin was switched out of use at least fifteen years previously, even though the structure remained in existence beyond this time.

Click the above for a larger version. © David Glasspool

October 1996

Hampshire/Berkshire DEMU No. 205009 is seen entering Edenbridge Town with a London Bridge to Uckfield service. The roofs of the platform buildings had just been re-slated, and at this time the ''down'' side building was boarded up. A waiting room did, however, still exist on the ''down'' platform, its entrance being obscured by the cab of the unit. Both canopies had been cut back at this end. © David Glasspool Collection

October 1996

A second London-bound view, this time from further back, shows part of the overgrown remains of the goods yard on the left. Grass was encroaching on both platforms and the lampposts were looking faded, but the platform buildings had been cosmetically restored. © David Glasspool Collection