A New Branch Line is proposed
The Bognor Railway Company was formed in 1860 by a group of local business men. With the backing of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR), plans were laid before Parliament in 1860 and the Bill enacted on 11th July 1861 to build the Bognor Branch Line. A new station called Barnham Junction was to be built close to Barnham village at the junction of the line with the “West Coast Line”. The proposed route was the preferred option of the Bognor townspeople over a rival plan from the Bognor, Chichester and Midhurst Railway Company.
Nothing happened on the ground until Saturday 18th April 1863 when a ceremony took place in a field at Upper Bognor where a Miss Arnold of Romsey cut the first sod. Work proceeded slowly until at long last on 1st June 1864, the line was opened. Bands played at Bognor and at Barnham and the public were allowed to travel up and down the line for free. The line was 3 miles and 46 chains in length and crossed many streams and ditches including the Aldingbourne Rife and the abandoned Portsmouth to Arundel canal.
The new station was situated in ‘Railway Approach’ alongside the station house which was built by Jabez Reynolds at a cost of £899 and a goods shed was moved from the defunct Yapton Station. The closure of Woodgate Station on 1st June was a loss to the people living in the vicinity however passengers to Bognor could now enjoy the 10minute journey from Barnham Junction to the coast rather than suffer the horse-drawn omnibus ride from Woodgate.
At first the Bognor Railway Company ran the line; then on 29th July 1864 the LB&SCR took over. Finally on 11th January 1871 the Brighton company paid the last instalment for the purchase of the line and the Bognor Railway Company was dissolved.
In 1874 trains were scheduled from Bognor to London with some shunting at Barnham but it would be some years before through trains ran from Bognor to London (1903) and the station layout was improved with a doubling of the branch line track and the installation of a new signal box (1911).
The new station at Barnham had a far reaching effect. The livestock market opened in a small way in 1882 alongside the station and, once it had moved to a larger site across the road, it became one of the most important markets in Sussex. Local cattle and sheep being driven along the country lanes were a common sight with livestock from further afield being moved by train. Barnham Nurseries and later Croftway (Toynbee’s) Nursery and other local nurseries sent produce, plants and flowers to the London market by rail. Coal was distributed from the railway yard. Barnham’s commercial centre grew around the station and large detached houses were built around the turn of the century nearby.
More information can be found in The Bognor Branch Line by S. Jordan, published by The Oakwood Press, 1989 ISBN 0853613931.
Queen Victoria’s Funeral Train Saturday 2nd February, 1901
The train steamed through Barnham at 9.22 a.m. at 80 mph. The locomotive was a London, Brighton and South Coast Railway No.54 Empress (R.Billington B. class 4.4.0), driven by Inspector Walter Cooper and Fireman Way. It consisted of the Royal 12-wheeler saloon, the GWR funeral car and six other eight-wheeled carriages. The train left Gosport at 8.45 a.m. and arrived at Victoria at 10.58 a.m. (Two minutes early!)
WH Smith platform newsagents
By 1895/96 refreshment rooms had been opened on the platforms and WH Smith set up an open fronted newsagents. Mr George Edward Gatrell (far left) was one of the original employees. He began work as a paper boy for WH Smith and joined them full time when he was 14. At his retirement in 1947 aged 65 he had been with the company for 51 years – 40 of these as manager. After his retirement he returned to delivering newspapers and was still doing so 10 years later!
He was featured in the Bognor Observer on Friday 10th May 1957 at the age of 75 still using his bicycle to deliver the papers to the more remote residents.
The Modern Barnham Station
The station entrance and ticket office that we see today were built in 1929. The area around the old station office was often congested and it was decided that for safety the new entrance should be further east. The subways were constructed to connect the platforms. The old station building was demolished in 1930 and, according to Harry Dart, two banks were constructed by his father in 1933 in Station Approach and a new coal merchant (Hall & Co.) followed in 1934.
The 1930s also saw the planting along the embankment of chestnut trees to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935.
Derailment at Barnham on 1st August 1962
After nearly 100 years of safe travel, Barnham experienced a disastrous derailment at the station. The six-coach 10.17a.m.train from Brighton to Portsmouth was approaching the station at a few minutes after eleven when, as the train crossed the points, the front carriage leapt into the air and landed on its side. The second carriage was dragged onto the platform and the third carriage was battered but remained upright. Concrete from the platforms was hurled into the air and rails twisted out of position. Of the 250 passengers aboard, thirty eight people including the driver, Mr Alfred Light of Lewes, were taken to hospital suffering mainly from cuts, bruises and shock but thankfully none were seriously hurt and only five were detained overnight. The driver was fortunate to escape serious injury as two concrete coping slabs pierced the right side of his cab. Villagers came to the rescue and the ambulance and fire services were soon on the scene. Special mention was made to the workers of Penfolds of Barnhamwho were amongst the first on the scene. Civil Defence and W.V.S. personnel also helped in the rescue and relief work. Miss Mary Beck of Barnham Riding School, who witnessed the crash whilst riding her horse in an adjacent field, described the scene to the Bognor Post newspaper. “…I heard a colossal bang and saw the train leap into the air. There were clouds of black smoke and I saw people scrambling out.” One of these was Mr Matthews of Worthing who said that he felt wood splintering all around and he thought that the carriage was falling to pieces.
The Railway Accident Report concluded: “The points, which are motor-worked, had been opened by the motor being wrongly energised; a loose washer had bridged the electrical circuit to enable this to happen.” (Ministry of Transport report published 1963) So a dropped loose washer was to blame; when it had been dropped and whether anyone was aware that it had been dropped, the inspectors did not know.
The 1911 Signal Box
In 2009, sufficient funds had been raised to move the obsolete signal box 1.8miles to its new home at Aldingbourne playing fields where it would be restored by volunteers for community use. The move involved lifting the five tonne structure by crane and taking it by road on a large lorry. The journey took 3 hours with approximately 100 telephone lines crossing the road being moved one at a time.
The following information is taken from the Network Rail Media Centre website:
“- It was built in 1911 by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR).
– It had 75 levers to control points and signals.
– The signal levers formed part of a fully mechanical signalling system which were linked via pulleys, wheels and long lengths of steel wires to signals along the track.
– The signallers had to compensate for variations in temperature, especially in the summer, by turning large steel wheels which took up or let out the slack in the steel signal wires as they expanded or contracted.
– Points were connected to steel tubular rods which were controlled via levers in the signal box.
– An ingenious system developed in Victorian times used a series of metal bars to make sure levers could only be pulled in a certain sequence. This was one of the first reliable methods of preventing train accidents.
– Barnham signal box used to be manned by one signaller who worked a 24 hour shift.
– The old Barnham signal box closed at the end of 2008.”
1846 the single track Shoreham to Chichester line via Barnham opened
1857 track doubled
1863 station opened for trains travelling to London via Arundel
1864 single track branch line opened to Bognor
1874 trains ran from Bognor to London with some shunting at Barnham
1895 refreshment rooms were open on the station by this date
1896 platform newsagents was open by this date
1901 Queen Victoria’s funeral train passed through
1903 through trains ran from London to Bognor
1911 Barnham to Bognor track doubled and new signal box installed
1929 today’s station ticket office and entrance were built
1930 old station building demolished
1935 chestnut trees were planted along the embankment fronting Barnham Road to mark the Silver Jubilee of King George V
1962 train derailment at the station – 37 passengers and driver injured but no fatalities
2009 1911 signal box removed
2014 150th anniversary of the opening of the Bognor branch line celebrated at Barnham and Bognor Regis
For photographs – follow this link to Flickr where you will find many images of the Barnham Station through the ages. (Flickr is an external site where images are hosted).