A look at Uckfield’s railway history

The coming of the railway did much to make Uckfield what it is today.

As I noted in the article: Uckfield – A Modern Town business expanded, new shops opened, coal was brought in and the gasworks were built, writes Paul Watson.

Up until then, Uckfield had been a minor centre for agriculture.

In the 20th Century the boom effect of the railway slowly ebbed away and by the Millennium the Uckfield line was unreliable, unloved, uncared for as the result of investment being strangled over a period of some 50 years.

In the last five years though there has been something of a renaissance.

Old, worn-out rolling stock was replaced with modern diesel trains. The result was dramatic.

Passenger numbers shot up.

When the new trains were introduced in December 2004 there were 110,000 journeys a year made from Uckfield station.

In 2008/09 the figure was 335,000 – an increase of 179 per cent.

And once again, from the spring of 2010, Uckfield has a “real” railway station.

It is the third proper station building in the town since the coming of the railway in 1858.

Originally a branch line from Lewes, the route was soon extended and reached Tunbridge Wells in 1868.

The original Victorian station was on the other side of the road to the present building.

A much grander station building opened in 1901 but as the fortunes of the line declined, so the grandeur faded too.

The writing for this building was on the wall once the closure of the line between Uckfield and Lewes had been implemented in February 1969.

This wasn’t part of the infamous Beeching Cuts but came about because of a road building scheme in Lewes, which we now know as the Phoenix Causeway.

It meant trains arriving and leaving Uckfield station had to cross the High Street for no good reason.

Traffic congestion was being caused as the level crossing gates swung open and shut.

In 1991, the old station was closed and a new station on the other side of the road – the present site – was opened.

The fading grandeur of the Edwardian structure soon became a crumbling edifice as it was damaged by flooding, vandals and neglect. The building was demolished in 2000.

The new station was that in name only. A ticket office and a small shelter with a seat were the “home comforts” for passengers for many years.

Things went from bad to worse when the ticket office was closed in the autumn of 2008 after, it was reported at the time, the discovery of a rat.

Another temporary building was used to sell tickets before the new station opened in March this year.

It was built at a cost of £750,000 as part of the Department for Transport’s National Station Improvement Programme.

• Uckfield News

Sources:

Southern

Disused Stations

Wealden Line Campaign

• This story first appeared on UckfieldNews.com on July 13, 2010.

See also:

Uckfield in the front line

 

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