Battle station, on the Hastings line in East Sussex, is widely considered to be one of the finest Gothic revival stations in the country. It has now been refurbished by Southeastern and now looks much as it must have in 1852 when it was first opened.
Designed by William Tress, architect to the South Eastern Railway, the Grade II listed station is finished in coursed local sandstone and features steeply pitched roofs with decorative tiles and large stepped chimney stacks. The windows, which are glazed with latticed glass are tall and narrow, with pointed arches that typify Gothic architecture.
The conservation team at Canterbury-based Clague Architects worked closely with Redec Refurbishment, the Ashford-based chartered building company, to repair and refurbish the Victorian station building.
Before refurbishment could get under way, Clague secured planning and listed building consent for structural repairs to the station. These included replacing the roof and guttering, rebuilding the chimneys, cleaning the brickwork and rehoming a 3,000-strong beehive. Wherever possible, materials were sourced locally, with the replacement tiles hand-made in Wealden clay by a supplier only a few miles away.
Clague also undertook the discharging of the planning conditions which required securing approval for the materials used, including the mortar for the repointing of the Wealden Ragstone, the replacement roof and extensive programme of works.
The consent, secured from Rother District Council by Clague, involved the removal of a structurally unsafe chimney. This was replaced by contractor Redec in brick that was consistent with the original Victorian building.
James Kenton, associate at Clague who led on the conservation project, said: “Securing the fabric of this glorious little station was a challenging one in terms of the scale of the conservation required, but also because Southeastern needed to keep the station’s platforms and booking hall open for customers throughout the process.”
Redec director Chris Moore agreed: “One of the largest challenges of this project was trying to undertake sensitive conservational repairs to what is a live railway station. The layout of the building made erecting scaffolding problematic and the design had to be revised to take careful consideration of both this and the safety of the passengers below.”
It was a job well done. Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle, was certainly impressed: “The refurbished station at Battle looks fantastic. It is a significant local building being used by hundreds of people each day and for many others it’s their first impression of the historic town of Battle.
“The whole project is a great example of how a number of different organisations can all work well together to enhance the local community and preserve local heritage. The attention to detail involved in restoring it to its original glory is remarkable. It has not only preserved the building but has ensured that it will continue to serve passengers and visitors for generations to come.”
While the conservation works were being undertaken, a separate programme saw the installation of new bicycle racks for train passengers.
Southeastern managing director David Statham commented on the project: “As well as preserving the fabric of an iconic, historic building, this restoration work will enhance the experience of the more than 500,000 passengers who use the station every year and is part of our ongoing programme of investing in improved facilities.
“The new cycle parking spaces are sheltered, well-lit and monitored by CCTV. In addition, an adjacent real-time customer information screen provides improved information for cyclists arriving at the station.”
Funding for the refurbishment work came from Network Rail, Southeastern, South East Local Enterprise Partnership, the Railway Heritage Trust, East Sussex County Council and Rother District Council.