Station Name: LEA BRIDGE

[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 15.9.1840
Location: On the north side of Lea Bridge Road
Company on opening: Northern & Eastern Railway
Date closed to passengers: 8.7.1985
Date closed completely: 8.7.1985
Company on closing: British Rail (Eastern Region)
Present state: The platforms and roadside building are still extant. The booking office has been used by tramps in recent yhears but is now boarded up. A new road runs through the site of the goods station.
County: London
OS Grid Ref: TQ362872
Date of visit: November 1984, January 1986 & 25.12.2008

Notes: The Northern & Eastern Railway was part of an 1836 scheme for a railway from Islington just north of central London to York via Cambridge, Peterborough and Lincoln. An Act of 1839/40 abandoned the section north of Bishop's Stortford and introduced a deviation from Tottenham to Stratford. Service began on the 15 September 1840 between Stratford & Broxbourne. The first intermediate station north of Stratford was at Lea Bridge Road (also known as Lea Bridge Walthamstow); the station opened with the line.


Lea Bridge Station entrance in the 1940's
From Stratford, the line ran up the Lea Valley, but the settlements were on high ground to the west and many of the stations were inconveniently sited. Tottenham was the only one of any importance along the line and until access to Maiden Lane became possible it was used to unload cattle destined for the
London market. To reach some more of these settlements a single line branch, authorized in 1846, was opened on 1st March 1849 from Angel Road through Lower Edmonton to Enfield. Lea Bridge Road station was shortened to Lea Bridge in April 1871.

By the middle of the 19th century, Walthamstow had developed into a town of some 5000 inhabitants and was a popular retreat for London businessmen who had to travel by horse drawn bus to Lea Bridge Station to catch a train into the city. On 26 April 1870 a single line opened from Lea Bridge to Shern Hall Street (Walthamstow), worked by a shuttle service. This line
line and an extension to Chingford were sanctioned by an Act of 20 June 1870. The Chingford extension was opened on 17 November 1873, when Shern Hall Street was replaced by Wood Street. The branch was doubled by 2nd September 1878 and opened to the present, larger terminus a mile to the north. The station has four platforms and is laid out for an extension that was never built. The Northern & Eastern Railway survived as a private company until being merged into the Great Eastern Railway in 1902.

From 1st August 1872 through trains ran from Shern Hall Street to Bishopsgate via Hackney Downs, crossing the Lea Valley line just north of Lea Bridge station. A new Stratford - Walthamstow service using the Lea Bridge spur was introduced on 7th June 1880 with some trains running through to Chingford. With the introduction of electric trams this service was
withdrawn on 3rd October 1914. This was not the end of passenger working over the Lea Bridge—St James’s Street spur, as from 1914 there were summer services between North Woolwich and Chingford and between Lea Bridge and Chingford.

In the 1920's Lea Bridge was served by two services, Liverpool Street - Hertford with 18 up trains and 16 down trains Monday - Saturday with five trains in each direction on Sunday and Palace Gates - North Woolwich with 16 trains a day in each direction on weekdays but no weekend service. A similar frequency was still in operation on both routes in 1950, slightly reduced on the Hertford service and slightly increased on the North Woolwich service. 

On 14th July 1928 a speedway stadium was opened next to Lea Bridge Station and some special services were introduced to bring speedway fans to the station between 1928 - 1939 when the stadium closed.

In the BR Modernization Plan of 1955 the Chingford branch was listed for electrification. Work began early in the following year to prepare for operation from 6.25kv overhead lines. Three-car multiple-unit sets made up the trains, which ran from 14 November 1960, but there were many technical troubles, so that steam-hauled passenger working did not entirely cease
cease until the end of 1961. Although the curve to Lea Bridge had been equipped for electric working it was never so used and the rails were lifted in 1967.

Freight services were withdrawn from Lea Bridge on 7th December 1970 and in 1984 British Rail announced its proposal to withdraw the direct passenger service between Tottenham Hale and Stratford and with it close Lea Bridge Station. The proposed date for closure was 1st October 1984 but following objections this was deferred until 8th July
1985. Prior to its closure the station had been neglected for some years and none of the original station buildings remained having been replaced by open shelters on each platform; even these were removed before closure. The original building on Lea Bridge Road had also been replaced by a smaller modern structure. Prior to closure the hourly rush hour service was the best service the station had for many years.

On the last day a local acoustic punk-folk band Aunt Fortescue's Bluesrockers played a gig at the station and on the final train. They had previously played 'on train' gigs to highlight the stations plight and bad service and forthcoming closure. The last train left Lea Bridge in the middle of a violent thunderstorm.

Since closure of the station there have been numerous proposals to reopen it and in 2002 Waltham Forest Council commissioned a feasibility study for a scheme to reinstate the Hall Farm Curve and reopen Lea Bridge station. The work was funded by a £50,000 grant from Transport for London. The studies showed that the scheme was

Lea Bridge Station in the 1950's
relatively straightforward in engineering terms and that there were no major technical problems. The scheme would involve laying approximately 800 metres of track on the existing embankment, which is still in good condition. Services could then be run from Chingford in the north of Waltham Forest, via the Hall Farm curve to a reopened station at Lea Bridge, then Stratford and possibly beyond providing the population of Waltham Forest with an efficient rail connection to the 2012 Olympics site and Lower Lea Valley area.
In December 2005 a new passenger service between Stratford and Stansted Airport reintroduced direct passenger services between Stratford and Tottenham Hale passing through the closed Lea Bridge station. The campaign to reopen the station continued as part of a general regeneration of the area before the 2012 Olympics.

In January 2013 it was announced that Waltham Forest Council and Network Rail "have committed to work together to reopen Lea Bridge Station following an extremely positive meeting". Although no date has been set yet, the results from the feasibility study have been positive.

Click here to read more about the proposal to reopen Lea Bridge station
Tickets from Brian Halford & Michael Stewart

Sources:



Lea Bridge Station looking south east in c.1907
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection



1885 1:1,056 Town Plan

1936 1:2,500 Ordnance Survey map

Lea Bridge Station looking south east in July 1975
Photo by Alan Young

Lea Bridge Station in November 1984
Photo by Nick Catford


Last train at Stratford Station

Photo by Graham Larkbey


Aunt Fortescue's Bluesrockers playing on the platform at Lea Bridge on the last day

Photo by Alan Young

Lea Bridge Station on the last day.
Photo by Dave Brennand


Lea Bridge Station in January 1986
Photo by Nick Catford


Lea Bridge Station looking south from the 'down' platform in December 2008. The roof of the street level building has now been removed.

Photo by Nick Catford

For more pictures of Lea Bridge Station click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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