Platforms have existed at Marden ever since the South Eastern Railway’s (SER) earliest days of running passenger services through the Kentish Weald. Some red brick of the platform faces may still exist from those formative days, but today’s station building is very much a modern affair, procured at a time when many railway structures upon the former South Eastern Division, dating from the 19th Century, were replaced by up-to-date facilities.

Whilst excavating a cutting for the railway at Marden, a fossil of what was identified at the time as either an elephant or mammoth, was discovered 20-feet below the surface. A single tooth was reported to have weighed over 20lbs and the Resident Engineer of the line, Mr Barlow, endeavoured to collect the full remains in a series of wagons (ref: Maidstone Gazette and Kentish Courier, 31st May 1842). The fifteen mile double-track extension of the SER’s line from Tonbridge (then “Tunbridge”) to Headcorn was opened to passenger traffic on Wednesday, 31st August 1842. Intermediate stations were opened at Maidstone Road (latterly renamed "Paddock Wood"), Marden, and Staplehurst; the First and Second Class fares between Marden and London Bridge were 8 shillings and 5 shillings 6d respectively (£40 and £27.50) [ref: Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser, 3rd September 1842]. There were six “up” and an equal number of “down” trains between London and Headcorn, Monday to Saturday; there were three in either direction on Sundays (ref: The Sun (London), 10th November 1842). Scheduled traffic started to run to and from Ashford on Thursday, 1st December 1842.

Two platforms came into use at Marden, arranged in a staggered formation either side of a track foot crossing. The “up” side was host to the main building, which was a single-storey timber affair with a slated hipped roof and shorn of any canopy. The proportions of this building were not unlike the structure still in existence at Pluckley, although the latter today comprises overlapping clapboard, rather than the tongue-and-groove timber panelling formerly seen at Marden. Similar buildings came into use at Staplehurst and Headcorn, and between Redhill and Tonbridge. The Ordnance Survey edition from 1866 shows the “down” platform as having two buildings: photographs from around the turn of the 20th Century indicate that at its western end was a single-storey brick building with hipped slated roof; midway along the same platform was also a timber waiting shelter. The latter, as seen in photographs from circa 1900, was as per the structure that is still in use at Rye; however, it was most likely a later design that replaced Marden's original waiting shelter and not that from 1842. The station was equipped with electric telegraph (ref: West Kent Guardian, 4th October 1851).

West of the station, beyond the road bridge, once existed a single siding trailing from the “up” line, which terminated in the adjacent field. Likely to be a private siding, it is marked on Ordnance Survey maps as early as 1866, is still there by the 1897 edition, but was no longer marked ten years later. This was a typical early SER station with staggered platforms. Click the above for a larger version. © David Glasspool

The evolution of sidings is depicted in the diagrams on this page and a partial description of the 1854 layout was described thus:

Immediately contiguous to and lying west of the station house, and south of the main lines, are two sidings parallel to each other; under the southmost of these, coal wharves have been constructed, which are rented off the South Eastern Railway Company by different coal merchants. Trucks are shifted from one of these sidings to the other, by means of a shifting rail, a short distance from the main line, which rail, at the time of my inspection, was not in good working order. [ref: Railway Department, Board of Trade, Whitehall, 12th June 1855]

The Stationmaster’s house, mentioned in the above extract, still exists today. It is a substantial three-storey-high red-brick pitched roof structure, located beside the entranceway to what is today’s car park.

A brick-built goods shed, fed by a single track, was situated on the western side of the main building. From about 1885, the station layout was controlled from a signal box located on the “down” side, adjacent to the track foot crossing between the platforms. The signal box was built to the SER’s trademark in-house design: it was two storeys high, of clapboard construction, with sash-style windows and a hipped slated roof.

In 1925, the Stationmaster was recorded as Alfred John Archer and the signalman Charles Hobbins (ref: Kentish Express and Ashford News, 20th June 1925). In November 1927, Archer was promoted to Stationmaster at Petersfield and, in 1933, was again promoted, this time to Haywards Heath (ref: Hampshire Telegraph and Post, 17th March 1933). In the 16th November 1945 edition of The Kentish Express, it was reported that Mr. P. R. Back had become Stationmaster in 1927, after a promotion from the same position at Wye; he retired in 1945 after more than 54 years of railway service. The same publication stated that, although a small station, Marden was an important and busy railhead for fruit, hops, and farming equipment. On some days, as many as 45 wagons of fruit were dispatched from the sidings there. Droves of hop pickers would arrive by train at Marden at the end of August to work in the fields.

Phase 2 of the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme under British Railways brought a series of changes to Marden. In 1960, the “up” platform was lengthened at its eastern end using prefabricated concrete components. The “down” platform was not so treated — extension of this surface in the western direction was precluded by the presence of the signal box and it was decided not to lengthen eastwards. A prefabricated concrete footbridge linking both platforms was installed about 100-feet east of the existing track foot crossing, the latter of which it ultimately replaced. At the same time, a metal bridge was installed across the running lines, immediately adjacent to the station’s footbridge, to carry a public footpath. Based on photographs of the era, the installation of the bridges appears to have coincided with the flattening of the timber waiting shelter upon the “down” platform.

Additional sidings in the goods yard, located south of the main building, had been laid by 1907. The layout changed little between then and electrification. Click the above for a larger version. © David Glasspool

Colour light signalling was brought into use between Tonbridge and Headcorn on 1st April 1962 (ref: Southern Electric 1909-1979, G.T. Moody), but Marden’s signal box survived the transition — a relay room was built adjacent to the cabin so it could interact with the new signalling system. The full accelerated electric timetable between London and the Kent Coast via Tonbridge and Ashford commenced on 18th June 1962 and, on 3rd September of the same year, public goods traffic was withdrawn from Marden (ref: Clinker’s Register, 1980).

On 30th June 1967, Marden’s signal box closed (ref: Southern Railway Register Section B1: Tonbridge to Dover, Signalling Record Society). Period photographs show the structure to still be standing in the following August, along with the brick-built waiting accommodation situated at the western end of the “down” platform, but by 1979 these structures had been demolished. In about 1987, construction of a new main station building on the "up" side, upon the former site of the goods shed, commenced. This comprised red brick, a tiled pitched roof, generous glazing, and exposed timber roof beams, and was completed in 1988, allowing the flattening of the adjacent SER main building dating from the station's earliest years. At the same time, glazed bus shelter-style structures appeared on both sides and the platforms were extended at their western ends using prefabricated concrete components. Work was complete by October 1988.

In August 2012, the prefabricated concrete footbridge of 1960 was still standing; however, by June 2014 it had been taken down and replaced by a metal footbridge upon the same site. The adjacent bridge carrying the footpath remained unchanged.

Changes at the time of electrification included the abolition of the track foot crossing and its replacement by footbridges, one for station use, the other a public footpath. The “up” platform was lengthened eastwards, the “down” platform remained unchanged, and the connection between the goods yard and “up” line revised. © David Glasspool

22nd June 2007

Looking in the Ashford direction from the western end of the “up” platform, the prefabricated concrete footbridge of 1960 can be seen in the background. On the left is the extension of the “down” platform erected in 1988, whilst the dense group of trees on the right are upon the former single-track approach to the goods shed. © David Glasspool

22nd June 2007

Looking west from the “down” side, the 1960 eastward extension of the “up” platform is evident on the left. The lengthening of the “up” platform necessitated the connection between the “up” running line and yard being moved east. The black metal bridge carries a public footpath. © David Glasspool

22nd June 2007

Today’s station building is situated upon the former site of the goods shed, which would have allowed its predecessor to remain in use during construction. A larger variation of the same architecture came into use at Headcorn and a series of stations upon the Dartford Loop Line via Sidcup in the late 1980s. © David Glasspool

22nd June 2007

The fenced off area on the left of this westward view from the footbridge was a coal yard into the 1990s. By 2010, it had become part of the car park. The curved glazed platform shelter in the left middle distance is upon part of the site of the former main SER station building and appeared at the time of reconstruction. © David Glasspool