The Railway, Playgroup, Coal Yard Development & Parish Office


The picture above was described as Hartfield Station platform photographed from the train. However, it turned out to be a picture of Withyham Station which is very similar. The picture below is obviously a genuine picture of Hartfield Station. You can see how the road at Hartfield is climbing up the slope over the railway bridge whereas the road that passes the Withyham Station is level with the line and used level crossing gates. Note the lamps are oil on both platforms and where there is no burner it would have been removed for filling, lit and replaced when necessary. The Withyham picture also shows a small signal box at the far end of the platform which presumably controlled the level crossing.

Hartfield rly station

A picture of Hartfield Station that was taken before the coal yard development to compare with the black & white picture above.The small window is hidden behind the storage shed but you can see the top of the drain pipe and also the support for the platform canopy.  The picture of Withyham level crossing shows the signal box at the end of the platform.

Farmer Moving South (A Winter Journey)

One of the most extraordinary stories directly related to the railway in Hartfield is that of a farmer who moved the whole of his farm from Yorkshire to Perryhill Farm here in Hartfield – by train – in the snow – in December 1950! The move was filmed by British Transport Films and is part of their film collection, Volume 3, entitled ‘Running a Railway’. For your money you get 2 DVD’s with 7 short films on each, of which ‘Farmer Moving South’ is on Disc Two and runs for 17 minutes.

In October 2013, we had an excellent talk by Ian Pierce looking at the story from the opposite end as it were. Ian runs the History Group in Great Ayton which is some 4 miles from the market town of Stokesley. The farm in question which was moved is at Skutterskelfe on the other side of Stokesley. Whilst his history group, like ours, had seen the British Transport film, nobody had attempted to discover much about the people involved and Ian had written to Perryhill Farmhouse as part of his investigation asking for photographs to compare with those that were on the film. This is where I became involved as the neighbour to Perryhill Farm and provided a number of pictures for the ‘before and after’ approach that Ian was after for a more detailed talk.

To cut a long story short Ian decided that he would like to see ‘this end’ of the story and kindly offered to give an illustrated talk to the Hartfield History Group which was very well attended. As there were some 90 slides I will attempt in due course to add an outline of the story to this section.

At the end of the trip from Yorkshire this shows the farm equipment being unloaded at Hartfield station prior to driving up the road to Perryhill Farm. Note the snow!
These are 3 pictures taken after arrival at Perryhill Farm where they are beginning to settle in that evening whilst still being filmed as you can see.

Railway Closure

This is the only photo I have come across that shows the signal box at the far end of the platform. Doubtless this was for the signals and point switching for the siding track in the coal yard and through the goods shed as shown in the drawing of the track layout below. Pic ref alsop (by 9.1912) old 2. This may or may not indicate the date! Note the little garden opposite the platform.

When the railway was closed in the vast cuts to the rail system by Dr Beeching, an important connection for the village was ended.

His infamous report, ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’, in 1963, led to the closure of 5,500 miles of track, the sacking of 67,000 workers and the shutdown of 2,363 stations. This was a third of the track network and 55% of stations.

Possibly one of the last pictures of Hartfield Railway Station before the track was removed and redevelopment started.
Nature begins to takeover the abandoned railway.

Forest Way Park. In 1971 East Sussex County Council purchased the railway line to make the Forest Way Country Park. It was resurfaced by Sustrans resulting in a wonderful footpath, cycle route and bridle path linking Groombridge to East Grinstead.

Hartfield Railway Station and the Stationmasters House were both sold in 1972 after a massive fundraising campaign by parents and friends gaining support from many celebrities to raise money as permanent headquarters for Hartfield toddlers. Playgroups were a new concept by parents affiliated to the Pre- School Playgroups Association. In order to fund the renovations, the adjacent Station Master’s house was sold and in 1976 Jenny Agutter, star of the Railway Children, came along to open the building and a massive party was held. Hartfield Playschool celebrated its 50th Anniversary of existence in 2015.

This somewhat moody picture by Clive Standen in 1974 shows how the track bed has been filled and the boundary for the new arrangements has been set.
The new boundary runs across the old track bed which has now been filled up to platform level but you can still see the platform edge at the eastern end which is still at least partially visible today.
And here you can see the beginnings of a garden for the extended Station Masters House and early days of the playgroup.

A very early picture of the playgroup enjoying the beginnings of the Forest Way Country Park where it goes under the railway bridge close to the station.

Sale of the Coalyard – British Rail put the yard up for auction in 2002 and it was sold well above the asking price but soon back on the market and purchased by Claverton Holdings developers who were successful in gaining planning permission to convert the goods shed to offices. The yard was shared with a building aggregates company and concern was expressed at the large numbers of lorries so close to the Playschool so when the yard was once again up for sale, having failed to persuade ESCC to buy the yard, Hartfield Parish Council stepped in and made a bid to purchase the land and Goods Shed.

In 2006 their offer was accepted and after considerable efforts to overcome numerous objections from Wealden District Council, planning consent was finally obtained for conversion of the Goods Shed to Hartfield Parish Council’s offices with two flats above for private occupancy plus planning consent for 9 affordable houses.

After further protracted negotiations, contracts were exchanged with Town and Country Housing on the 26th March 2009 who proceeded to build the houses at the Eastern end of the site. Hartfield Parish Council then moved forward with the renovation of the old Goods Shed into the offices and flats above that you see today.

The houses carry many clever details to match the ex railway location and in this picture you can see the old trackbed reimagined as the Forest Way Country Park looking in the direction of Withyham.

The Station Today

The Station today

A view of Hartfield Station from the railway bridge. The width of the bridge is hardly sufficient for today’s traffic and this photo had to be taken by driving slowly across in an open car – it’s simply too dangerous to walk across which is why there is a pedestrian route down to the old track bed and up the other side. Beyond the private house part of the original station building can be seen the Playschool and the large garden with some colourful equipment.

Railway bridge now

Looking under the railway bridge in the East Grinstead direction along what is now a popular cycle and off-road easy walking path through the countryside.

These remarkable pictures illustrate a collision on the top of the bridge. How many of us driving north have worried about this happening today? If you click on the central picture you will see a young girl. Who is she I wonder?

Further Hartfield Railway Websites and Information

There are a huge number of railway enthusiasts and several websites dedicated to many aspects of railways then and now which you may like to view. A major one is a detailed photographic record of the Hartfield Station development and the Forest Way by Derek Hayward.

If there are any pictures that have been included without suitable credit please let HHG know. We are very grateful to all those enthusiastic photographers who have helped to record the past for future generations.