Leigh Halt

Soon after the formation of the SE&CR in 1899, numerous new stations began springing up on the network map in the form of wooden-fabricated ‘’halts’’. At the turn of the century, the newly amalgamated SER and LC&DR Managing Committees began feeling the effects of competition. In the London suburbs, tramways were continuously increasing scope, whilst the rural territories saw the birth of new bus services. The provision of economically built timber halts provided a quick solution to the SE&CR for increasing local traffic. Leigh Halt was one of these stations, coming into use on 1st September 1911. The halt was located approximately 2½-miles west of Tonbridge, and comprised two timber platforms, residing directly opposite each other, perched upon an embankment. Each platform was reached by a ramped walkway, and both surfaces were hosts to a timber waiting shelter. The latter were to a standardised SE&CR design – in fact, identical examples came into use with East Malling Halt in 1913, between Otford and Maidstone.

Leigh Halt must have been built with cost minimization in mind, for old photographs seem to suggest that the platform surfaces were composed of old sleepers! However, at least the station was equipped with gas lamps, supported upon posts that were attached to the timber/wire fencing which lined the rears of the platforms. A number of halts completely lacked lighting, such as those which came into use along the ex-SER’s Ashford to Hastings route across the Romney Marsh in 1907. Not content with the status quo, changes to the then recent halt were afoot under SE&CR control: the name was altered from ‘’Leigh Halt’’ to ‘’Lyghe Halt’’ in April 1917. It is worth noting at this stage that to traverse between the two platforms involved descending the ramped walkways and passing underneath the line to the station’s west.

The halt has led a quiet existence, and structurally remained unchanged until the British Railways era. Circa 1954, the timber platforms were rebuilt using concrete cast components, but some SE&CR relics did remain. The most obvious of these were the timber waiting shelters on either platform, but also survivors of note on both surfaces were the SE&CR-designed wooden benches. It is somewhat remarkable that the latter were retained, given that the original platforms were abolished, but it certainly adheres to the Southern Region tradition of recycling old components (whether for rolling stock or buildings) for further use. Next, in June 1960, the station reverted back to its original name of ‘’Leigh Halt’’, and about a decade later, new electric lighting was installed upon both platforms. The ''up'' side timber waiting shelter lasted until the mid-to-late 1990s, when it was burnt down. Sadly, in late 2008, the ''down'' side waiting shelter suffered the same fate, obliterating the last remnant of the SE&CR-designed station. Modern glazed shelters are now in use on both platforms. Despite its seemingly rural surroundings, Leigh suffers more vandalism than anywhere else on the Redhill to Tonbridge line. The current shelters are often found completely unglazed following a late-night rampage; nearby Edenbridge suffers from similar vandalism.

Many thanks to Kevin Gibson for supplying information concerning the fate of the timber waiting shelters.

Tickets, Please

It was good news for some passengers in 1963. On Wednesday 21st August of that year, the Southern Region announced that those travelling from seventeen stations within the South Eastern and Central Divisions would be subject to lower fares. This was to take effect on 9th September. This was as a result of slight revisions in the London Transport area boundaries. The stations in question included Leigh Halt, in addition to:

Ashurst Borough Green & Wrotham Cowden Forest Row
Groombridge Hartfield Hever High Brooms
Hildenborough Kemsing Meopham Penshurst
Tonbridge Tunbridge Wells Central Tunbridge Wells West Withyham

Further ticket revisions in the area also saw other prices increase. As of 9th September 1963, a new off-peak ticket, valid outside of the peak morning business hours, would be available. For instance, the existing day return fare between Tonbridge and London was priced at 12 shillings 2 pence (£9.18 at 2007 prices), but a new off-peak ticket would reduce this fare to 8 shillings 6 pence (£6.41 at 2007 prices). It was not all good news, however, as those passengers travelling during the morning peak would see their fares rise from 12 shillings 2 pence to 15 shillings (£11.31 at 2007 prices). It was declared, however, that season ticket rates were to remain unchanged.

25th February 2009

A spruce approach to the "down" platform was in evidence, the result of a refurbishment completed in 2008. © David Glasspool

25th February 2009

An eastward view towards Tonbridge shows the BR (S) prefabricated concrete platforms, Exmouth Junction products and now the oldest components of the station. The recent glazed ''bus shelters'' are to a standardised design and in 2008 replaced the remaining ''down'' side SE&CR-designed timber waiting shelter and a glazed "up" side shelter of BR origin. © David Glasspool