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Lewes

Main entrance

The main entrance from Station Road photographed on 17th June 2003 clearly showing the cleaned brickwork and the restored canopy. The extension to the former Parcels Office on the right hand side is clearly visible, I wonder why matching bricks were not used?

photograph by Glen Woods

The earlier photographs on these pages were taken in the 1960s and 1970s and are from the collection of late Glen Woods. Glen was a native of Lewes having been born in Nº45 Mountfield Road, close to the station, the son of a railwayman in a railway house. Glen's father Frank worked in Lewes as a Carriage and Wagon Brake fitter before he transferred to Newhaven. Glen also went on to have a successful career with British Rail.

This site was later upgraded to show some 'Now and Then' scenes showing how things have changed in the years since the original photographs were taken.

The current station at Lewes is the third in the town and the second on its site. The first railway into the county town of Sussex came as a double track line from Brighton which opened on 8th June 1846. This served a terminal station adjacent to Friars Walk, which at the time only had temporary buildings. The permanent station buildings opened on 28th August 1846. A single track line to Hastings opened on 27th June 1846 branching off before the terminus, thus requiring a reversal into and out of the terminal station for through trains which immediately became a matter of contention for travellers. A triangular junction serving the terminal had been proposed but not authorised by Act of Parliament. Local pressure for better facilities for through travellers initially resulted in a halt being constructed on the through line at Southover/Ham though this was little more than a ticket collecting platform. This halt only survived until sometime in 1848. In the interim the line to Hastings had been doubled from February 1848 and in the autumn of 1848 two platforms on the Hastings line were opened at Pinwell, just east of the junction to the terminus. These platforms did not have any facilities and they were regarded as part of the main (terminal) station. Buildings were considered by the Board, albeit on a very limited budget, but they were deferred. The Pinwell platforms were not differentiated in the timetable and reversals into and out of the terminus still continued for many through trains.

The direct line from London, branching off from the London-Brighton main line at Keymer, opened in 1847. Due to heavy hop and sheep goods traffic at the time this line was pressed into service early during September and passenger traffic commenced on 1st October 1847. Just prior to this the branch to Newhaven (off the line to Hastings) was completed in August but it was not put into service immediately. Goods traffic on the line started in November with passenger services commencing on 8th December 1847.

With the railway burgeoning in the area the London & Brighton board eventually had to concede that much better facilities were required in the town. Plans were put before the board in 1857 for an entirely new station to be built at the junction of the lines from Keymer and Brighton, this also requiring the construction of Station Road to serve it. The new station, more befitting of a county town, opened on 1st November 1857.

However expansion of the railways in the area was not yet complete. The line to Uckfield (ultimately an alternative route to London) opened on 11th October 1858. Initially this line approached the town from Hamsey to a junction with the line from Keymer just north of Lewes Tunnel. It was not until almost 10 years later when on 1st October 1868 a link from Hamsey to Friars Walk was opened; thereafter trains for the line to Uckfield departed Lewes in the opposite (eastbound) direction. The line from Uckfield through the Friars Walk site, which had been retained as a goods station, was on a new elevated formation as it had to pass over the High Street on a bridge.

Even though the 1857 station was a considerable improvement the situation was still far from ideal. The line from Brighton to Hastings had long described almost an inverted U course with sharp curvature through the town, and the junction of the lines from London and Brighton was also sharp. 1889 saw the massive Lewes deviation works implemented. This involved construction of a new less curved line of 79 chains to the south bypassing the Friars Walk site. 30 chains of the original lines were abandoned, mostly that of the 1868 route to Uckfield from the 1857 station, but the original line was retained as a goods avoiding line. The line from Uckfield was diverted to the east of the goods station to join the new line from Hastings just east of the station. As part of this work a new junction station was built largely on the site of the 1857 station but slewed more towards the south. This opened in June 1889 and is the current substantial station of 8 platforms.

Between October 1934 and May 1935 the southern portal of the Lewes Tunnel was widened further to reduce the curvature on the northern approach to the station. At this time the up main and down main /loop platforms were extended. The lines from Brighton and Keymer to Hastings and Seaford (but not Uckfield) were electrified with their new EMU services commencing on the 7th July 1935. In 1969 the line from Uckfield was closed. The original Friars Walk site and line was abandoned. Subsequently, as seen in our pictures, the platform 1 loop line and the platforms 4&5 line have been lifted.

Picture of Lewes station in 1976

This shot of the Brighton line platforms was taken from the Mountfield Road bridge in 1976. Top left is the main station building that is in Station Road. On the extreme left are the offices of the newspaper wholesaler Birkbecks, next to it can be seen the sun shade of the station kiosk, then the red door that is the main station entrance with the old style red and concrete telephone boxes and the parcels office. There was a carriage canopy at one time that extended over the inset area from the kiosk to the parcels office. Rarely mentioned is that the station building was extended and this is visible in the different brickwork of the section nearest the camera. This was the cycle store.

Underneath, on platform 4, can be seen the passage way that led to the various offices at platform level. By this time there was a footbridge across the former track bed between platforms 4 and 5. The starting signal for platform 5 was just beyond the end of the ramp. The platform 7 and 8 starter, although by now having SR arms, was of LBSCR origin. Platform 8 was unique in that it was the only platform that was straight! To the right of platform 8 is the siding that was always known as under the wall by railwaymen. Originally there was a connection from this siding, at the end of the platform, to the up Brighton line. The position of the former staff crossing at the end of the platforms can be determined by the cleaner ballast.

photograph by Glen Woods

Picture of Lewes station in 2003

Slightly further towards Mountfield Road than the original, due to road widening (see later), and photographed on 15th June 2003, the restored canopy is visible on the top left. The former platform 4 & 5 has been filled in with shingle and the former platform 6 (now platform 3) has been extended towards Brighton. The semaphores have been replaced by colour light signals but the most striking thing is the increase in the foliage, in common with many of the present day views. (15th June 2003).

photograph by Glen Woods

We are going to start our tour proper coming down the line from Keymer Junction, then backtracking a bit to approach from the Brighton lines, and finally going down the lines towards Hastings and Seaford (also formerly Uckfield). (15th June 2003).

Lewes Tunnel 2003

The tunnel entrance platform starter which originally there was a semaphore with distant arm. First the distant arm went and then the remaining semaphore was replaced with additional equipment in the track associated with modern practice. Note that the rail-built semaphore signal post was retained when the colour light signalling was installed. taken on 23rd June 1974 from the Southover Road bridge. (23rd June 1974).

photograph by Glen Woods

looking south east from Southover Road bridge 1974

Also taken from Southover Road bridge in 1974 but looking in the opposite direction showing (from left to right) platforms 1, 2 and 3. The West box was located where the wooden hut is on the left. On the bridge that carries Station Road over the railway it is possible to discern the canopy supports for platforms 1 and 2 , the canopy used to extend to approximately the position of the near end of the modern bus type shelter. Under this canopy was a starting signal for trains from platform 1 towards London. A single signal repeater is all that remained at that time (23 June 1974) but originally there were three, one for platform 1 and two for platform 2, the additional one on platform 2 repeating the signal that protected the junction from platforms 4/5. The two lines to the Yard used to go through the span to the left of platform 1 (where the yellow lorry is parked) and it is possible to make out the characteristic railway fencing on the dock.

Above the bridge the footbridge, linking platforms 1, 2 and 3 with the main station building is visible, as is the commuter entrance/exit which was rarely used in the 1960s but was used as the bus stop for the Southdown bus service (Nº 123) from Lewes to Newhaven. Beyond the commuter entrance the top of the lift shaft can be seen. (23rd June 1974).

photograph by Glen Woods

>looking south east from Southover Road bridge 2003

By 15th June 2003 everything up to the former Platform 1 has been covered in tarmac to provide a car park, it even extends beyond the other side of Station Road bridge. A striking feature of Lewes today is the massive steel fences that give the station an 'hostile' aura. Eastwoods Cement Works no longer exists and its ability to replicate the message from the Vatican, that a new Pope has been selected, is missing from the skyline. (15th June 2003).

photograph by Glen Woods

looking north west back towards Southover Road 1974

This view taken from Station Road shows Southover Road bridge. The former loop line to platform 1 has been disconnected and a buffer stop affixed. There used to be two pairs of points that led into the yard in the vicinity of the buffer stop and the ballast to the right of the platform indicates where the lines used to be.The canopy on platform 3 used to extend to approximately half way along the furthest green building to the left of the platform. These green buildings were part of Lewes Cattle Market. (23rd June 1974).

photograph by Glen Woods

looking north west back towards Southover Road 2003

Looking towards the tunnel on the London platforms it is pleasing to note that the former buildings of the cattle market still exist. The signal repeater that was on the far side of the shelter on platform 2 has gone. The car park has been increased in size up to the former platform 1 and foliage, again, has obliterated the view from the buildings on the right hand side. (15th June 2003).

photograph by Glen Woods

The dock 1974

The dock adjacent to platform 1. Note that there is not a ramp at the near end, only steps. (23rd June 1974).

photograph by Glen Woods

apex platforms 3 & 4

We are getting closer to the junction now! Under the overall roof on platforms 3 and 4, it is just possible to discern the luggage ramp. Note also that the canopy valence of platform 2 (extreme right) is cut away to aid sighting of the signals. This was also done at the junction end of platforms 6 and 8. The line for 4/5 platforms had been removed at this stage. (23rd June 1974).

photograph by Glen Woods

footbridge joining platforms 1, & 2 2003

A new footbridge carries a new pathway, between the former yard area and Mountfield Road, affording views of the east end of the station that were not possible previously. The footbridge stands where the junction to the Uckfield line used to be sited. The former platform 1 is now just a short siding but the remains of the dock can be seen amongst the foliage on the right. (15th June 2003).

photograph by Glen Woods

Brighton end of the station

We are now approaching the station from Brighton. A view of the end of the Brighton line platforms, Mountfield Road bridge from Station Road. The buffer stops at the end of the under the wall siding can be seen. Beyond them is the site of the former Lewes South Signal Box. The wooden post and mast platform 7 and 8 starters are again seen. (23rd June 1974).

photograph by Glen Woods

Brighton end of the station

As the fence on Station Road has been increased in height it was not possible to obtain a photograph from the same position of the western end of the Brighton platforms. There was just sufficient space to capture the new widened section of Mountfield Road bridge. No longer is the brick arch visible having be covered by this more modern, aesthetically pleasing, beauty! (15th June 2003).

photograph by Glen Woods

Buffer stops

The buffer stops at the end of the 'Siding under the wall' appear to be in the process of returning to nature. (15th June 2003).

photograph by Glen Woods

Footbridge to platforms 7 & 8

A view of the footbridge to platforms 7 and 8 and the lift. Note again the differing lattice work. The metal protection plates that used to be affixed to the underside of the footbridge, in steam days, have been removed. (23rd June 1974).

photograph by Glen Woods

Platform 8 towards Brighton

Pictured in 1972/3 this is platform 8 (the only straight one!) looking towards Brighton with the South Box in the distance beyond the open wagon in the siding. (23rd June 1974).

photograph by Colin Woods

Steam action in platform 7

In the 1960s a Maunsell Mogul enters platform 7 with a Tonbridge to Brighton train. Although the platform curvature is not that sharp it does show the cut away sections of the platform 6 canopy valence to aid the sighting of signals and the connection to platforms 4/5.

photograph by Glen Woods

Lewes Junction signal box

Lewes (formerly Lewes Main Junction) Signal box seen from the end of the station. To the right of the is the electrical sub station. Note the box is still in green & cream colours at this time. (23rd June 1974).

photograph by Glen Woods

Semaphore signal gantry

A view of the signal shown in the previous photograph shows that the lattice masts have been replaced with round ones. The three distant arms that were underneath the three homes have been removed but their positions can be discerned. Once again the calling on signal has lost its S. The left hand signal was for platform 8, the centre one for platform 7 and the taller mast for platforms 3 and 1. The calling on arm was for the Dock. (23rd June 1974).

photograph by Glen Woods

Q1 33016 shunting in the yard

A picture from the 1960s. Q1 Class Nº33016 shunting in the yard. In front of the tender can be seen the Yard lever frame of seven levers. Also on view is some of the raised wooden trunking that are associated with the railways at the time.

photograph by Glen Woods

20003 & 32479

Bulleid CC Class Nº20003 passes, working the down boat train to Newhaven, E4 Nº32479, which was in the up siding between the yard and the station. Once again Glen found out years later from Brighton colleagues that the E4 had been derailed in the vicinity and that when the wheels were gauged it was determined that it had a bent axle. A pair of wheels appeared about a week later in front of the locomotive and Glen's father remarked that they were there for the repair. At the time Glen did not understand how he knew but of course it was another lift on site for the Brighton Breakdown crane. (1960s).

photograph by Glen Woods

No trace of the junction

There is now no trace of the junction that gave access to the Uckfield line. Trees abound where the railwaymen's allotments used to be on the right hand side of the line. The photographs that I took from the right hand side, of the signal gantry the E4 and CC can no longer be replicated. The track bed of the siding on which Nº32479 stood in the early 1960s is just discernible. (23rd June 1974).

photograph by Glen Woods

Milepost

The only thing that can be seen of railway interest is the milepost 50½! Everything else has gone. Plenty of trees and shrubs though! (23rd June 1974).

photograph by Glen Woods

Original course of railway looking east

This is a panoramic view compiled mechanically from three photographs and shows the access to the house that used to be on the left hand side. Glen always believed that this was the original Station Master's House. When Glen was young he and his friends always called it the Haunted House!

Two of the platforms ( the up Brighton and the down London) of the 1857 station extended through the span to the left. The remnants of the up Brighton platform were under the grass bank on the left. A third single line passed under the first brick arch from the left, adjacent to the tarmac surface, and continued to a buffer stop that was located at the end of the remains of the former down London platform.

At this time (23rd June 1974) the left hand span was just a pedestrian foot bridge to give access to the allotments on the other side. It appears to have been originally a steel span with a brick parapet which later gave way to an all steel bridge.The fence on the right hand side again is mounted on old bullhead rail and it was nice to note that in 1974 some of it was still in cream. On the other side of this fence was the narrow Pinwell Road.

photograph by Glen Woods

Remains of viaduct

The sole remaining arch of the access road to Leighside, the rest has been demolished and replaced with new housing developments. This arch is now privately owned. (15th June 2003).

photograph by Glen Woods

This page was last updated 26 September 2021

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