In The Sun (London) newspaper on Friday, 2nd November 1860, a trip over the then-recently completed "Western Extension" of the London, Chatham & Dover Railway (LC&DR) was reported on. The journey was made by the Directors of that company and their friends on 31st of the previous month, at the invitation of the contractors Sir M. Peto and Messrs. Betts and Crampton, who built the 22-mile-long line between Strood and Bickley. The article recounts the trip made from the railway’s Bickley end and, nearing the journey’s conclusion, it remarks: "On approaching the Medway, after passing the Meopham and Sole Street Stations, the river Medway is seen on the right with the ruins of Rochester Castle in the distance." This double-track line opened to public traffic on 3rd December 1860, allowing the LC&DR to commence through running between Victoria and Canterbury. Although mention of Meopham and Sole Street stations was made in the month prior to opening, no timings exist for either in the first timetables published in December 1860. Their entries are either absent completely or, when present in some tables from that month, are completely devoid of any timings. However, fares from Victoria for both stations were still advertised from the outset.
By February 1861, the timetable entries for Meopham and Sole Street were still without trains. In the 28th May 1861 edition of the Maidstone & Kentish Journal newspaper, the LC&DR’s timetable for that month was published; this shows trains for Sole Street, but still none calling at Meopham. Finally, by the July 1861 timetable, trains are shown against Meopham’s entry: Monday to Saturday inclusive, six "up" and an equal number of "down" trains called; on Sundays, this reduced to four trains in either direction. The census taken in the same year recorded the Parish of Meopham’s population to be 1,123. As of 1876, the Station Master was one Mr Pearman (ref: Gravesend and Dartford Reporter, 1st July 1876).
Two platforms, directly opposite each other, were in use from the outset. The Station Master had the luxury of a two-storey-high house, erected behind the "up" (London-bound) platform. Of yellow brick construction, with a slated pitched roof, decorative end gables, and the LC&DR’s distinctive orange brick lining, the house was built to a variation of the same design used at multiple intermediate stops along the route, such as at Farningham Road and the aforementioned Sole Street. However, unlike several of its contemporaries, the Station Master’s house at Meopham avoided a rendered whitewashed finish, instead retaining exposed brickwork. Immediately west of the house was situated the station’s ticket office, which was a single-storey building of timber construction. This arrangement was unlike the majority of intermediate stops on the "Chatham" main line (such as at Teynham, Adisham, and Shepherds Well, to name a few), where the booking office and Station Master’s house were formed as a combined brick-built unit. The LC&DR employed a similar approach at Westgate-on-Sea in 1871, where a substantial masonry Station Master’s house and single-storey timber booking office were juxtaposed on the "down" platform. Finally, on Meopham’s coast-bound ("down") platform was provided a waiting shelter, also of wooden construction. This shelter was built to the same design as the one that can be seen in the photographs on the Selling section.
Click the above for a larger version.
© David Glasspool
The 1869 Ordnance Survey edition shows a trio of lengthy sidings east of the platforms: two on the "up" side and a third on the "down" side. A substantial brick-built goods shed, through which a single track passed, was evident on the "up" side, this of which was of similar proportions and style to that still in existence today at Teynham.
In July 1873, the Vestry of Newington — which today forms part of the London Borough of Southwark — opened a refuse depot at Walworth, in connection with the LC&DR. The same authority established similar depots at Longfield and Meopham in 1874, leasing three acres of land at the latter and purchasing two acres of freehold at the former (ref: The Kentish Independent, 13th November 1886). Both refuse sites adjoined the railway, that at Meopham forming part of the "up" side goods yard (where an additional siding for it was laid), and their purpose was to receive horse manure for disposal from the depot at Walworth. Local farmers could collect the manure at their convenience, and the railway replaced the vestry’s previous mode of transport for manure disposal, which were Thames barges.
Circa 1880, a signal box was brought into use on the "down" side, about 65-yards east of the platforms. This was built by contractor Saxby & Farmer, and was a two-storey-high structure comprising a brick base, timber cabin, and a hipped slated roof. An all-timber version of this design can be seen pictured in the Shoreham section.
No footbridge was provided from the outset, passengers crossing between platforms on the level. This was still the case by the 1907 Ordnance Survey edition; however, by 1931, a metal footbridge had been erected between the platforms, west of the ticket office and waiting shelter.
The line through the station was electrified in 1939 as part of the extension of the 660-volts D.C. third rail system from Swanley to Gillingham. The scheduled electric timetable commenced on 2nd July of that year. By 1938, concrete bracket lampposts had also been installed by the Southern Railway (SR) on both platforms.
In 1958, both platforms were extended at their eastern ends with prefabricated concrete components, in connection with the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme. These extensions were equipped with the same style of concrete bracket lamppost previously installed by the SR on the original platforms. Lengthening of the platforms required the sidings on either side of the running lines to be truncated to provide room for the extensions. As part of the same electrification scheme, colour lights were brought into use. The formal British Railways Southern Region Signal Instruction (No. 6, South Eastern Division) shows that colour light signals were scheduled to come into use in place of existing semaphores between Swanley and Gillingham at 11:30 P.M. on 9th May 1959. Existing signal boxes at Fawkham Junction, Longfield Siding, Chatham Goods Sidings, and Chatham were to be abolished and, on Sunday 10th May, a new signal box was to come into use at Rochester. Meopham’s signal box was retained at this time; a relay room was built alongside the cabin and it was modified to control colour light signals. The full accelerated electric timetable came into force on the "Chatham" main line on 15th June 1959.
Public goods traffic was withdrawn from Meopham on and from 2nd April 1962, but Clinker’s Register (1980) indicates the existence of a private siding in use beyond this date. Photographs from May 1959 show that the goods shed had already lost its track. The signal box remained operational until 1965, closing on 27th November of that year (ref: Southern Railway Register, Section E1: St Mary Cray Junction to Dover Marine, Signalling record Society).
In the 19th March 1971 edition of the Chatham, Rochester & Gillingham News, there was a brief mention of the rebuilding of Meopham station. The same snippet contained rumours about the closure of Sole Street station after Meopham’s rebuilding, which was denied at the time by British Rail (and, evidently, transpired to be untrue). Reconstruction works involved the flattening of the "up" side wooden booking office; upon its site, a single-storey prefabricated "CLASP" structure was erected, measuring 75-feet by 25-feet. The LC&DR waiting shelter on the "down" side was also dispensed with and, it is place, a CLASP equivalent built. A replacement footbridge of a simple concrete design with metal railings was erected immediately east of the former Station Master’s house; the latter survived the rebuilding.
In about 1988, the platforms were further extended at their eastern ends using prefabricated concrete components, to accommodate longer train formations. In the Chatham News on 21st July 1990, it was reported that British Rail was hoping to provide between thirty to fifty additional car parking spaces at Meopham, with assistance from Gravesham Council. At the time of writing (2023), the station very much remained in its 1971 form.
Class 47 No. 47659 is seen passing through non-stop with an InterCity CrossCountry service bound for Dover Western Docks. Both platforms had only recently been extended at that time, using the same design of prefabricated concrete used about thirty years previously.
© David Glasspool Collection
1st October 2004
For many years, the former Station Master’s house has accommodated an Indian restaurant, and during that time gained a series of single-storey extensions. This London-bound view at dusk includes the CLASP ticket office of 1971 and, just visible on the right, the canopy of the “down” waiting shelter.
© David Glasspool