All About Wadhurst

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Railway History

 

The South Eastern Railway opened Wadhurst Station in 1851. The cost of the line from Tunbridge Wells to Hastings was £725,000.

The station building was designed by the architect William Tress and there were sidings and a goods shed. Records show that Ebenezer Oliver was engaged as a porter at twelve shillings (60p) a week.

In the 1920's most of the goods came and went by rail.

Three horse teams with broad wheeled wagons would load the coal. Cheesman and Newington and George Lavender had coal wharves there until the early sixties. Mr George Pope, a general carrier, delivered goods daily to and from the station to homes and businesses in the parish. The original Parcel Force, Heasmans, on the other hand, would move goods to and from Wadhurst to Tunbridge Wells if the letter 'H' was displayed in the window of a building.

With the growing success of the railway, rolling stock increased in size and the tunnels between Tonbridge and Hastings were too narrow to accommodate them. From about 1924 specially built stock had to be used. The passenger service engines were the Schools Class and one is still in use today on the Bluebell Line at Sheffield Park. In about 1958 steam trains were replaced by diesel engines until they outlived their working lives.

In February 1977 there was a landslip on the railway line between Wadhurst and Stonegate stations. It halted the 75 mph trains and was thought to have been caused by a dry summer followed by incessant rain.

In 1983 it was announced that the line would be electrified and in order to do so the tunnels had to be 'singled' due to their narrowness. This programme was completed in 1986 and on a Sunday in April the public were invited to travel all day between Tonbridge and Hastings for the princely sum of 50 pence.

With the arrival of electrification the journey from Wadhurst to London was reduced by ten minutes. With such a good service Wadhurst was, in a certain way, changed. Now it has become home for many business people commuting to London each day. Large car parks were built where once there had been sidings, and on land where former station masters ran their chickens. More recently in 1997 closed circuit cameras were installed to help combat the car thieves.

When discussing the railway two people are brought to mind. Firstly Mr. Reg Ward who was a signalman there for 42 years. He was well known to all the commuters and well respected by the public generally. He served on Wadhurst Parish Council for many years and was its Chairman for nine years. Unfortunately his signal box is no longer there having been removed to Northiam to be used on the Kent and Sussex Railway.

In the days of the steam train one of the most important events for the Children was the annual Sunday Schools outing to Hastings organised by Mrs Margaret Manktelow, an infant teacher who ran the Church of England Sunday School. Children, wearing coloured ribbons for identification, with their mothers spent the day on the beach and at the end of the afternoon enjoyed tea in one of the Hastings' restaurants. Many of the local business men supported this event by supplying transport to collect the weary revellers on their return. After the Second World War when these special days were revived, the engine proudly displayed the words: "MAGGIE'S SPECIAL". Red letter days indeed.

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