Station Name: HELLINGLY

[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 3.4.1880
Location: On the south side of Station Road
Company on opening: London Brighton & South Coast Railway
Date closed to passengers: 14.6.1965
Date closed completely: 14.6.1965
Company on closing: British Railways (Southern Region)
Present state: The station is little changed since closure and is the best preserved station on the line still retaining its front and rear canopy. It is a private residence. The Cuckoo Trail pasees along the trackbed past the platform which is now partly obscured by bushes and a fence for privacy.
County: Sussex
OS Grid Ref: TQ584120
Date of visit: June 1968, June 1975, May 1976, September 1982 & June 2005

Notes: Hellingly was the only station on the Cuckoo line with only one platform which was sited on the up side of the line. A small goods yard with two sidings and a 5-ton capacity crane was accessed from the south with the sidings running behind the platform. At this time the yard only handles small goods and parcels. By the 1920s a third siding had been added between the two original sidings. This passed through an unusual goods shed without any walls and consisting of a pitched corrugated iron roof supported on metal pillars and then passed a dock. With the expansion of the yard a full range of goods traffic was handled. Goods traffic was withdrawn from the station from 12 September 1964.

Hellingly Station features in the 1964 film Smokescreen starring Peter Vaughan and John Carson. The film was shot almost entirely in the Brighton area. At one point, Hellingly Station is mentioned as the possible route for the suspect to have escaped the area. The two investigators (Vaughan and Carson) visit the station and meet the stationmaster Derek Guyler (played by Deryck Guyler) who tells them the station is about to close, as is the whole line. The line did, in fact, close about a year after the film was made.

Just south of the station there was a siding that led to nearby Hellingly Mental Hospital. It had no connection with the LBSCR except that a small wooden platform was constructed without a canopy opposite Hellingly's only platform. Traffic to the hospital could use it between the hours of 6am and 6pm and then provided due notice was given to the railway company. The railway was used to convey building material, stores and so forth to the hospital and occasionally visitors and staff. For this there was a 12-seater four-wheeled tramcar.

In 1903 the mile-length line was electrified using the hospital's own generated current at 500 volts DC. The wire was suspended from brackets supported by metal poles spaced out alongside the track.

The line closed to passenger traffic in 1931 and the platform was removed in 1932. By 1954 goods traffic was down to about one a day but the line lingered on until March 1959 when it was finally abandoned although there was at least 1 enthusiast 'special' after that date. Click here for pictures of the remaining features of the Hellingly Hospital Railway in 2005. The hospital, including the engine shed, were demolished in 2011 and the site is now occupied by housing.

The `Cuckoo Line' from Polegate to Eridge was completed in two stages. Initially a route from Polegate to Hailsham was opened on 14th May 1849 and a line south to Eastbourne opened to traffic on the same day. These lines followed only three years after a route had been completed east from Brighton via Lewes and Polegate to St. Leonards.

The remainder of the route northwards from Hailsham to Eridge was completed some 31 years. In 1873, local business interests promoted a Bill for a 3' gauge line from Tunbridge Wells to Polegate. Little progress was made in raising the required capital and the LBSC stepped in, obtaining an Act in 1876 giving them authority to extend their Hailsham line to Eridge where it joined the Uckfield - Groombridge Junction line (opened in 1868). The South Eastern Railway was to be given a share in the receipts and running powers over the line into Eastbourne.

The 7 1/2 miles of single track was opened between Hailsham and Heathfield on 5th April 1880 and the 9 3/4 miles on to Eridge on 1st September that year.

At Redgate Junction, south of Eridge it joined the route from Uckfield to Groombridge and both lines ran in parallel to Tunbridge Wells and to London via the Oxted line. When the Uckfield line was doubled in 1894 the Heathfield line north of Redgate Junction became the down line.

The name `Cuckoo' was adopted by the railwaymen themselves. This relates to the old Sussex legend that on the 14th April annually the first cuckoo of summer is released at Heathfield Fair.

By 1904 services on the Brighton lines had assumed a pattern that was to remain radically unaltered until 1933. There were a total of 83 workings between Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells West where trains went on to three destinations, Three Bridges, Brighton via the Uckfield line and Eastbourne via the Cuckoo line.

By 1925 the single track spur from Tunbridge Wells West to Central was little used with four daily trains to Brighton and two to Uckfield. Three of these carried through carriages for the Cuckoo line which were detached at Eridge. By the 1950's this had improved and in 1956, 58 passenger trains and two freights used the spur making it, for that year, the busiest section of single track in the country.

The main goods stations on the Cuckoo line were at Heathfield and Hailsham, the other stations handled little more than the occasional wagon of coal.

Despite a new timetable being introduced in the 1950's with one train an hour on the Cuckoo line, it was not to survive the Beeching cuts. In 1965 a survey revealed that there were only 250 passengers a day using the line of which only 23 were season ticket holders. Any attempt to promote the line was halted under the Beeching plan and a new timetable was introduced with long waits between connecting trains designed to deter passengers from using the service.

The Cuckoo line was closed to passengers north of Hailsham on 14th June 1965. Freight
trains continued from Hailsham to Heathfield until 26th April 1968 when a bridge became damaged and repair was considered uneconomic and not carried out. Hailsham closed completely on 9th September 1968 and with this the final stretch of Cuckoo line had gone.

Although the line between Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells West was also proposed for closure this remained open but there was no future investment in the line and by the early 1980's the track and signaling needed replacing.

With the planned removal of Grove Junction during the upgrade of the Tonbridge - Hastings line British Rail decided they could no longer justify keeping the line open and announced closure of the line from 16th May 1983. Once again there were strong objections but these were outweighed by British Rail's cost argument. They estimated that to upgrade the infrastructure, while retaining the existing services, would give a £175,000 loss per year and the Secretary of State confirmed closure of the line on 6th July 1985.

Grove Junction was removed the day after closure but the line from Eridge to Tunbridge Wells remained in use until 10th August 1985 when the depot was closed.

Shortly after closure the Tunbridge Wells and Eridge Railway Preservation Society was formed with an aim of reinstating the passenger service on the line. The Society acquired the line in the early 1990's and by winter 1996 they had refurbished half a mile of track and were able to run a steam service from their base on part of the old Tunbridge Wells West station site. TWERPS later merged with the North Downs Steam Railway at Dartford, Kent. The line is now known as The Spa Valley Railways, a name chosen as the result of a competition.

The Spa Valley Railway now runs for 3 1/2 miles to a new station at Groombridge with an intermediate station at High Rocks built by the owner of the High Rocks Inn and Restaurant.

Between 1992 - 1994 the section of line between Polegate and Heathfield was reopened by the county council as a footpath and cycleway known as the Cuckoo Trail. There are proposals to extend northwards from Heathfield and as part of this extension Heathfield Tunnel has been restored and lit and the 'Millennium Gates' fitted to the south portal.

Further reading: The Hellingly Hospital Railway by Peter A Harding - published by the author in 1989 - ISBN 0 9509414 5 X

Tickets from Michael Stewart. Route map drawn by Alan Young

Click here for other web sites

To see the other stations on the Eastbourne - Tunbridge Wells West line click on the station name: Tunbridge Wells West, High Rocks Halt, Groombridge, Eridge, Rotherfield & Mark Cross, Mayfield, Heathfield, Horam, Hailsham, Polegate, Hampden Park & Eastbourne

Click here for pictures of surviving features of the Hellingly Hospital
railway in 2005

Hellingly Station looking south in the early 20th century. The wooden platform serving Hellingly Asylum is seen on the left.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection and from Richard Clark collection

1910 1:2,500 OS map shows the station berfore expansion. There is a small goods yard to the south of the station with two sidings running behind the platform. That to the left served the coal yard. The 5-ton capacity yard crane stands between the two sidings.

1932 1:2,500 OS map. The goods yard has been expanded with a third siding being added between the two original sidings. This passes through a small goods shed and then passes a dock. The Hellingly hospital platform is seen oppoiste the station building with the line to the hospital curving away to the east to the south of the station.

Hellingly Station looking north in 1905
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

Hellingly Station before 1923 showing the alteration to the wooden platform.

Hellingly Station after 1933 when the wooden platform serving Hellingly Asylum was removed. Its base can still be seen. The station's unusual goods shed which was devoid of walls is seen in the background.

Hellingly Station looking south in 1962
Photo by Robin Lush

'Stationmaster' Deryck Guyler sweeps the platform at Hellingly station as Peter Vaughan approaches .
Screen shot from the 1964 film Smokescreen

L.C.G.B. The ' Wealdsman Rail Tour' at Hellingly station on 13 June 1965. The goods yard closed the previous year. The goods shed has gone but the yard crane can be seen in the distance.
Photo by Bevan Price

Hellingly Station from the same viewpoint as the picture above in June 1968 two months after all traffic over the line ceased.
Photo by Nick Catford

Hellingly Station looking north in May 1976
Photo by Nick Catford

Hellingly station seen from Station Road bridge in June 1977.
Photo by Alan Young

Hellingly Station looking south from road bridge in May 1995
Photo by Nick Catford

Hellingly Station in June 2005
Photo by Nick Catford

Click here for more pictures of Hellingly Station





:[Source: Nick Catford]

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