Bid to protect Lewes signalbox

Signal box at Lewes Railway Station

Signal box at Lewes Railway Station

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An historic signal box at Lewes Railway Station could be lost forever as Network Rail decides to move signalling operations to Three Bridges.

Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe has applied for English Heritage to list the building which was constructed in 1888 in a bid to protect it for future generations.

Network Rail and English Heritage worked together to come up with a list of 26 signal boxes which were worthy of preservation nationwide.

But the Lewes signal box, a familiar sight to residents of the town, was not on that list, leaving its future uncertain.

Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe said: “Lewes Station is a unique London Brighton and South Coast Railway station and the signal box is an important feature.

“It is a Saxby and Farmer box built in 1888 by LBSCR, a year before the station itself in 1889, and may be due for demolition when the new signal operation centre opens at Three Bridges which it is believed will happen soon.

“On the National Rail website it is said that English Heritage has called the box “worthy of note” as “another type 5 similar to other listed examples, has some group value with listed station buildings”.

“But on a recent published list of signal boxes to be saved by being listed Lewes does not appear, so responding to local concerns about the future of the box I have put in today’s application.”

The Saxby and Farmer Type 5 signal box (1876-1898) was the culmination of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway’s designs.

Cllr O’Keeffe said it was considered to be one of the most stylish of signal boxes.

She argued in her application to list the signal box that it was an important feature close by the station platform and important in its context.

Cllr O’Keeffe added it was of architectural interest and was close to the listed station.

At their peak 70 years ago, there were around 10,000 signalboxes but today, under 500 remain in use.

English Heritage and Network Rail have worked together with The Signalling Record Society to identify and protect a sample of the most significant designs, especially where they are part of a group of historic railway buildings.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “As part of the modernisation of signalling on the railway which is taking place across the country, the signal box at Lewes will not be needed when its operations are transferred to a new signalling centre at Three Bridges.”

“We are aware that the local community has expressed interest in assuming ongoing responsibility for the signal box at Lewes, which we are working on.”