CHAPTER 3:


ESTABLISHMENT & EXPANSION. 






As the LBSCR began to establish itself, the shareholders became increasingly dissatisfied with the decisions made by the company’s board of directors and in 1843 they were voted out of office wholesale. After John Harman’s departure, the next in line to take the helm was Mr. Rowland Hill.

His ideas for the line were initially considered controversial and degraded the 'upmarket appeal' of the line. Mr. Hill proposed to introduce excursion trains made up of 1st, 2nd and 3rd class carriages, the first of which ran on Easter Monday of 1844. Little did Mr. Hill, the directors or the shareholders realise, but this decision would kickstart a whole new era of railtravel and would put Brighton firmly on the the map as a highly viable tourist concern.

Brighton was truly swamped by commuters from London, few of whom had even seen a river, let alone the vast panorama of the ocean. This first ‘monster train’ as it was called, was seriously delayed due to the sheer volume of passengers boarding, and arrived 1½ hours late. Spectators flanked the line from Patcham to the terminus, eager to glimpse the new-fangled steam train.

The train was so heavily laden that it was treble headed throughout its journey and, at times, required up to 4 banking engines to assist the 33 fully laden coaches with inclines. After an estimated 1000 passengers on the first train, 500 came on the 2nd. It is believed that over the 3-day duration of the holiday, nearly 10,000 people entered the town via the railway. The reduced price of fares were apparent in both directions and Brighton residents were quick to take up the opportunity of cheap trips to London with around 12,500 people travelling on the up trains over the duration of the Easter holiday.

The days when a Master of Ceremonies greeted quality personages from London were diminishing fast. Brighton’s whole social calendar was altered, the masses appearing to descend on the town between June and October and local traders welcomed the extension of their trading period. Brighton would now become a kind of ‘two tier’ town: the affluent, upper class area of Royal Crescent, Sussex Square and the Pavilion on one hand, and the 2nd in the area between the piers with its many gimmicky vendors, palmists and souvenir stalls.

The ease of access to the town from London had also bought about a new ‘industry’ to the town. It became the fashion among high society to send their children to school at Brighton, and by 1851 there were thought to be as many as 189 private schools in the town.

For 6 years after the official opening of the main line from London to Brighton, the railway handled continental traffic at Brighton and Shoreham. Steamers operated by the General Steam Navigation Company sailed from Shoreham Harbour to Dieppe via Brighton’s Chain Pier (often weather permitting) to embark and land passengers. Direct services from Dieppe to Shoreham were also advertised but were not quite so popular and not nearly so glamorous as departing at Brighton. 

None the less, the LBR’s own advertisements at the time advocated the quickest route to Paris as being by rail to Shoreham and then onto Dieppe by steam packet. It therefore stands to reason that a lot of continental traffic would have passed through Shoreham station and that as many journeys were made from Shoreham as there were from Brighton.

In 1843 provision was made for a special through train from London to Shoreham to cater for passengers who had missed the steamer at Brighton with 1st class carriages on this route introduced the following year. This would have been especially useful for passengers from Kingston to Le Havre, as their steamer did not stop at Brighton. In 1847, the railway formed a subsidiary company to operate its own ships and caused differences to arise with the Shoreham Harbour authorities. This caused all passenger services to be transferred to Newhaven.

In 1843, competition had arisen in the shape of the SER (South Eastern Railway) whose lines had reached Folkstone. The SER co-operated with a shipping company and formed a day service to Boulogne. It appears that the LBR was starting to move away from its continental ambitions and concentrate on the operations bound by its title. The company seemed to show little interest in construction of the Lewes and Newhaven Branches as it had been empowered to do.

At the time when travel across the channel from Newhaven was gaining popularity, it appears that local companies were responsible for the extensions or branch lines eastwards and westward from Brighton, which were to convert its status from a terminus to a railway centre. Two such companies emerged in 1844 and the Acts of both empowered both to sell their lines and associated developments to the LBR. The first new line to open was an extension of the Shoreham line onwards to Worthing, which opened to LBR traffic on 24th November 1845.

By this time, excitement over new railways was waning and the opening attracted little attention. It is also noted that a mishap occurred on the day in which “the 12.50 train from Worthing caused the horses of a ballast cart, headed for the 2nd track through Lancing, to bolt. One of the horses was struck by the locomotive and killed, causing a derailment. All but one of the passengers escaped injury save for fright and shock, the one being a gentleman sustaining a contusion of the knee".

With the Shoreham branch now merged with the main line, progress of the route continued along the coast towards Portsmouth. The Brighton & Chichester Company had already been authorised to extend its operations and Portsmouth was reached on 14th June 1847. Construction of the Lewes Branch was undertaken by the Brighton, Lewes & Hastings Railway Company and opened on 8th June 1846, coinciding with the opening of the West Coast line from Brighton to Chichester.

This was reported with great excitement by the Brighton Herald as trains to both places were due to leave at 7pm, the same time as a departure for London: “the appearance of 3 trains travelling, at the very same moment, north, east and west was very lively”. This liveliness, however, was not present in Lewes where “nothing was done to mark the celebrations as a portion of the inhabitants are in dudgeon about their stations”. There was a partial boycott of the railways in Lewes and some of the stagecoaches were kept running with the support of the malcontents.

The ructions had occurred due to the claim that a promise to consult the interests of the town as a whole, with regard to the siting of a station, had not been honoured. Instead of building a direct line from St. Mary’s Lane to Southerham, the complainants claimed that a deviation of the line had been made through property owned by one of the directors. (Little appears to have changed today in that respect!) The line to Hastings (St. Leonard’s at the time, the section to Hastings opened in 1851) left the deviation of the route with a curve “of fearful and suspect character”.

The people of Lewes were appeased by the promise of a grand and substantial station house erected for their accommodation. One disgruntled correspondent concluded, “If a roofless shed having the appearance of a cow-house is to be considered as a substantial station house, then the directors have fulfilled their pledge, but not otherwise”.

Besides the gripes, the original arrangements at Lewes Station were inconvenient for through traffic between Brighton and Hastings. The station was originally a terminus and trains calling there had to be propelled out before proceeding on their way eastward round the ‘fearsome curve’. Platforms were provided at Southover on the line to Hastings, enabling the town to be served without entering the terminus, but they were further from the centre.

Shortly after the line from Brighton to Lewes opened, a Bill to amalgamate the London & Brighton Railway and the London & Croydon Railway received Royal Assent. The date was 27th July 1846.This resulted in the creation of the company best known for its association with Brighton: the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR). The Brighton Terminus was now a focal point for the south coast and all traffic east and west along the coast passed through it.

The line to Lewes brought with it a new and instantly familiar landmark to the skyline of Brighton. The line diverged due eastward from the main line, a short distance north of the station and immediately crossed the valley occupied by London Road and Preston Road today. This is achieved by means of the 400 yard long, 27 arch viaduct across Preston Road & Beaconsfield Road. 

This fantastic viaduct took a mere 10 months to build and used just over 10 million bricks. 11 of the 27 arches are constructed on a curve of 10 chains radius with the other 16 arches on a curve of ¾ mile radius. The curvature and the height (67 feet tall at the centre) combine to make a graceful and very impressive structure. The longest span (50 feet) crosses the London Road and has given the viaduct its long-standing name of London Road Viaduct. 

At the time of its construction, people were not as in awe of the viaduct as they are today. There were local objections on the grounds of cost and the chances of the structure being blown up by an enemy in the event of a war: a concern which was proven in the course of the 2nd world war when the bridge and the engineering works were extensively bombed. In May 1943 the viaduct sustained a direct hit during a low-level raid by 6 Fokker-Wulfe fighter-bombers and two arches were damaged. They were repaired with incredible speed and vital freight was crossing the viaduct anew in just 24 hours. Such efficiency and commitment to service are totally unknown nowadays.

On the outskirts of Brighton at Moulsecoomb, the Lewes line crosses the Lewes Road on a distinctive skew bridge of 3 brick arches of 60 feet span, similar in construction to those of the London Road Viaduct.

The Brighton Vestry showed a lot of interest in the coastal lines and added its voice, with great effect, to those of the petitioners during the passage of the various Bills in parliamentary consideration. The coastal lines brought increased trade to the town from both east and west, as all traffic along the coastal routes had to pass through Brighton. There was some uneasiness that this highly lucrative situation might not last.

These concerns were unfortunately realised when the South Eastern Railway (SER) persuaded government that it could provide a better service from London to Hastings via Ashford than the LBSCR could achieve via Lewes. As a result, authorisation was given to build a Hastings to Ashford line connecting Ashford with the SER main line to Dover. This meant that Brighton didn’t remain a pivot point on the coast for very long.

On 2nd October 1847, the LBSCR opened a cut-off line from Keymer Junction (near Wivelsfield on the London main line) to Lewes. This enabled trains from the London main line for the East Coast section to avoid Brighton. The branch from Lewes to Newhaven was opened on 8th December of the same year.

The route, which had been adopted for the main London Brighton Line, favoured direct journeys and made little provision for the inland towns of Sussex and its borders. Over the next 20 or 30 years, a whole railway network began to take shape throughout Mid Sussex.

Traffic from London for Chichester and Portsmouth continued to be routed via Brighton until a more direct route via Three Bridges and Horsham became available with the opening of the Mid Sussex Junction line on 3rd August 1863. Crawley and Horsham were served by a branch from Three Bridges opened on 14th February 1848 and extended to Petworth on 19th October 1859. A through service from Brighton to Horsham via Shoreham came to be in September 1861 when a branch from Shoreham to Partridge Green was extended to join the Petworth to Shoreham line at Itchingfield Junction on 1st July 1861.

To the east of the main line, a branch was established from Three Bridges to East Grinstead on 9th July 1855. The route via Lewes and Horsted Keynes was a late addition to the network and wasn’t completed until 1st August 1882. Tunbridge was also first reached from Brighton via Three Bridges, the East Grinstead Branch was extended to Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells on 1st October 1866. Again, a route via Lewes followed this closely; the final section was completed on 3rd August 1868.

All of these lines were built and run by private companies which were all taken over later on by the LBSCR. A lot of the Mid Sussex lines are sadly long gone today as a result of the Beeching cuts in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Some have survived as preserved lines such as the Cuckoo line and the Bluebell Railway between Horsted Keynes and Sheffield Park. Plans also exist to reinstate some of these lines to avoid lengthy diversions during modern day engineering works. Services in the modern day over what remains of the Mid Sussex branches under the National Rail Network do not penetrate south of Uckfield.

In 1858, important changes were also being made at the London end of the main line. The development of the line from Norwood Junction to the Crystal Palace was extended to a new West End terminus at Battersea with trains running on the line from 29th March of the same year. 

In 1860, the Battersea terminus was adapted and the line extended to Victoria. This route was incorporated into the London to Brighton Route from 1st of October in the same year. A line from Croydon to Balham was opened in December 1862 and this became part of the normal Brighton to Victoria route as it avoided Norwood Junction, cutting the journey by 2 miles. 

The 1868 opening of the SER’s line from New Cross to Tonbridge relieved congestion on the London to Brighton line caused by SER traffic, although many Tonbridge trains continued to use the route via Redhill for many years.

Whilst the rail network as a whole was expanding and establishing itself throughout the southeast, there were also useful developments made closer to home. In 1848, improvements were being made to the approach to the station with the construction of Queens Road. This road was a continuation of the existing West Street and provided a straight thoroughfare from the waterfront, past the Clock Tower to the station forecourt. 

The LBSCR contributed 2000 pounds to the cost of the work and also constructed a new bridge over Trafalgar Street (which is a steep hill up from the valley, don’t forget the station was built into a substantial hillside slope) to improve access to the forecourt from the new road.

Other changes in Brighton itself were that after the Mid Sussex line had bypassed the town for London to Portsmouth trains, London to Worthing trains continued to run into Brighton station. Here, they reversed in order to continue their journey along the West Coast line. Residents of Hove and Worthing were critical of this practice as it wasted time and prolonged the journey. 

Therefore, a spur was built in 1875, which curved to the west at Preston (at that time, a small village about 1½ miles north of Brighton and known later as Preston Park Station) and proceeded onward to a junction with the West Coast line in Hove

The Cliftonville Curve, as this section of line became known, passed through a 535-yard long tunnel (just north of modern day Seven Dials district) and joined the West Coast line just east of Cliftonville Station, from whence the curve gained its name. Cliftonville was a housing development extending eastward from the old village of Hove; its station had been opened in 1865. 

When the Cliftonville Curve was opened, however, Cliftonville station was renamed West Brighton, as the West Brighton Estate Company had been set up in 1872 and was responsible for constructing the long, wide avenues, which typify Hove. This was to be the fastest growing area of Hove in the 1870’s and 1880’s.

The opening of the Cliftonville Curve caused a huge increase in passengers through Preston Park Station and led to a substantial enlargement of the site. The changes included the replacement of the old up and down platforms with 2 new islands: 1 for Brighton trains and the other for those taking the curve into Hove. At the same time, an extra down line was introduced between Brighton and Preston Park.


In the year that the Prestonville Curve was opened, the old Hove station at the top of Holland Road, dating from the original Shoreham branch, was closed and converted into a goods yard. The name of Hove was absent from timetables for a short time, but on 1st October 1894 West Brighton was renamed Hove & West Brighton, but that name was dropped a year later and it has been known as Hove station ever since. This station also increased in traffic and size with the up platform being made into an island.

A new station was built and opened at Preston on 1st November 1869 to cater for traffic from new residential development. Soon the village of Preston was lost amidst highly desirable residences whose occupants could enjoy living by the sea whilst keeping a respectable distance from the pier, boarding houses and “dowdy amusements” of the seafront.

It is worth noting at this time that the railway company also took steps to ensure its business stakes with the tourism industry. Known examples are contributing 100 pounds to the 360 pounds the town paid to purchase the grandstand building at the Brighton Racecourse. In 1853, the Railway Company also contributed 50 guineas to the founding of the Brighton Regatta.

The London & Brighton Railway started out with a fleet of 31 locomotives from various builders, but in 1844 these were entered into a common pool alongside stock from the London & Croydon and South Eastern Railways. This arrangement came to an end in 1846 when stock was divided between the London & Brighton (which was about to merge with the London & Croydon) and the South Eastern. Through this share out, the combined LBSCR received 51 locomotives.

Most of the passenger locomotives employed by the company were 2-2-0 or 2-2-2 wheel configuration. One of the LBSCR’s first orders after the merger was for nine 2-2-2s, which were designed by David Joy and built by E. B. Wilson & Company. The first of these locomotives was named Jenny Lind and this became the adopted name for this class of loco. Despite this class of loco being used by several other rail companies in the early years, the name has remained synonymous with Brighton. However, individuality would eventually come to Brighton’s locomotives with the creation of the LBSCR’s Railway Works. Up until the creation of the works, locos were bought in from outside manufacturers and modified or adapted as necessary.

As the train service expanded, Brighton Station underwent substantial changes at an almost exponential level. At first, lengthening the platforms in 1853 increased capacity. This caused the platforms to protrude beyond the roofing area, but also resulted in the Main Line / West Coast Junction occurring within the platform length. This is still the case today.

Another anomaly, which has survived from way back, is the Middle Siding between Platforms 2 & 3 in the present station. This was originally the exit from the steam shed after it was moved into the space between the West Coast and Main Lines. The idea was that locomotives coming from the shed could stand on the siding and not take up any platform space before coupling to their trains. Platform 3 had access to all 3 routes out of the station, but the crossover to the West Coast Line was badly positioned and restricted the length of train that could be accommodated, without division and shunting.

In the 1860’s the improvements included new platforms (as well as the lengthening of some of the old ones to accommodate 2 trains lengthways) and a new arrival line to serve them. This meant that the number of tracks crossing New England Road (originally named Wick Road and later Montpelier Road) was greatly increased. This resulted in the building of a new girder bridge, which has since been continually criticised for the effect it had on New England Street; it is dark, damp and miserable, and quite forbidding at night.

There were concerns at the time of its construction that it would totally alter the feel of that part of town, harbour pickpockets and frighten horses. It is hard to imagine now, but at this time New England Road and Preston Circus through to Ditchling Road was largely open countryside and farmland.


Another feature of the station rebuild was the ‘Porte Cochere’, the ornate shelter at the entrance to the station house. This covered the front and east facing wall, also the forecourt where it bridged Trafalgar Street. This protected passengers from inclement weather, but at the same time, rather spoiled the view of Mocatta’s handsome station house. Today it is still in situe, but serves more as a taxi rank than anything else.

In the final phase of development in the steam age, Brighton station had 11 platforms numbered from west to east. Platforms 1 & 2 were for the West Coast line. Platform 3 could be served and approached from both the East and West Coast lines, but connections between the 3 routes (East, West and London Lines) have never been an easy transition and as late as 1926, there were plans for a southern curve (opposite to the Cliftonville Curve) to allow travel from the London side of the station, across the viaduct and on towards Lewes. In fact, there was an extremely radical proposal to build a new Brighton Station north of the original site laid out as a through station to allow simplified travel in all directions!

Platform4 was originally a bay between Platforms 3 & 5 and used mostly for stopping services between brighton & Haywards Heath, usually steam push-pull sets.

Platforms 10 and 11 were used primarily for East Coast trains, with Platforms 11 used for the Kemp Town Railway.  



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