The Railway

The Railway Story by Paul Rhodes

Paul, a railway enthusiast who grew up in Hartfield, researched and wrote this history in 2006 and was happy for us to add it to the Hartfield History Website

It has been added as a 'flip page' album so that you can read the great story, page by page. You can also enlarge it to read at full screen size. The easiest way to read the whole story is to click on the symbol to enlarge the click book with the 'wood' background. Click on the arrows at the bottom to reach the page you want and then click on the magnifying glass to fill the screen. Unfortunately, if you wish to move on a page, you have to reduce the size again by clicking on the magnifying glass which then provides you with the arrows to change the page. Repeat the process!


The picture above was described as Hartfield Station platform photographed from the train. HOWEVER, I have now come across the picture below which is a similar picture taken from the train and is quite obviously a genuine picture of Hartfield Station. I have left the incorrect one for you to compare as it turns out to be a picture of Withyham 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

Stitch-3-cut-Stn-Version-2Withyham station  - Version 2

 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 (at this stage of our website development), 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 but if there is anyone with a particular interest please do get in touch through the Contact section of the site. 

Railway Closure

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.


The Station after closure - beginning to show deterioration.


 Early days as Hartfield Playschool 

The Station Today

The Station today

This is the view of Hartfield Station from the railway bridge today. 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.

If you enlarge the picture you can see some colourful elements of the Playschool that has its home in the Station building.

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.

Cycle path sign


CLICK on any of these pictures to enlarge them. Use the back arrow to revert to the original.

The front of Hartfield 'Station' as it is today. In it's guise as a Playgroup for the last 50 years it retains all the appearance and charm of the original station.
The front of Hartfield 'Station' as it is today. In it's guise as a Playgroup for the last 50 years it retains all the appearance and charm of the original station.

The Goods Shed has been beautifully refurbished and adapted as a new home for the Parish Council and includes two apartments.
The Goods Shed has been beautifully refurbished and adapted as a new home for the Parish Council and includes two apartments.

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. The first one is a detailed photographic record of the Hartfield Station development and the Forest Way by Derek Hayward.

20 Comments on “The Railway

  1. Hello. My Mum was evacuated to Hartfield during the war. She said that she was at Bolebrook Cottage/s but can’t remember the name of the farm that it was on or the name of the people who owned/ ran it. If anyone can help with any info or photos old or new of Bolebrook Cottages or if anyone has memories of my Mum it would be greatly appreciated. She is Kathleen Curtis and was evacuated to Hartfield from Bellingham in South East London 1939/1940>41.

    Many thanks

    Doug Bolt

    • Hello Doug, thanks for getting in touch. Bolebrook is a particularly ancient part of the parish and you may have seen several pictures of Bolebrook Castle under ‘Ancient Buildings’. The ‘Cottages’ I believe are the ones close to the remains of the gatehouse on the opposite side of the track. Being an ‘incomer’ myself of only 21 years I will pass you query on to our historian, Mike Parcell, who has a great deal of information and may have something relevant. I have come across other children who were evacuated to Hartfield at the beginning of the war. I live close to Bolebrook Mill which is a watermill noted in the Domesday Book but the other side of the (main) road to the other Bolebrook buildings. I will pop down and get a photo of the cottages near the castle to see if it rings any bells with your mother.

  2. Hello doug
    Hartfield brings back memories for me as i lived there on the station when i was a small child,with my mum,dad,and brother.
    Our bedroom over looked the platform. I was 4years old at the time,i can only remember the diesel train’s that used the line.
    We remained there after the line closed but moved to paddock wood in 1969.

    • Thank you Ian for your reminiscence of the railway station, it is good to have first hand memories. In what year were you 4 years old? The line closed on 1st January 1967 and the playgroup started in 1973. Chris

      • Hi Chris.
        Sorry i’m making myself older than i am. I was 2 years old but still remember looking out our bedroom window and watching the diesel train go past. We moved to hartfield in 1965,my dad knew that the line was to close within the next 2 years.
        We were all very upset when the line closed,another part of history gone forever. I still get goosebumps every time i pass it,and i often see (NOT REAL)Ghosts of me and my family living there,it was and always will be apart of me.

  3. Does anyone know if there was a Platelayers/Permanant Way Gang Hut anywhere along the railway of Hartfield and Withyham?

    I descend from Silvester Latter Edwards ( my Great Grandfather). He lived with his Mother and Father, William and Louisa Edwards working as a Farm Labourer at Reids(Reeds) Farm, Hartfield Parish (I cannot locate this farm or where it was?). He married Sarah Ann Weeding in 1884 and set up home at 93 Green Cottage, Hartfield ( anyone know this location?). He quit working on the farm and become a Platelayer for the railway. Unfortunately I have no knowledge as to where he was based. I am a fourth generation Railwayman thanks to Silvester, his son( my Grandad)and my Dad.

    I shall be keeping an eye on this wonderful website as I am interested in the local history as it is from where I descended. There were a lot of Edwards in the Hartfield and Withyham area, and tracing my roots has been fun and confusing at times.

    • Thank you for contacting us with your interesting enquiry. I have added it to Parcell’s Postings and hope that we can provide some answers in due course. I thought that there was a hut very close to Hartfield station at the end of what was or became the coalyard but I could not say if it was actually a platelayers hut

    • Silvester Edwards b abt 1859.In 1891 he worked on the track as part of a gang of four as a labourer paid 3/- a day. Find my Past railway records
      Green cottages I think were near Chessons corner on Withyham Road

  4. We often walk our dog along this lovely route. Wonderful to see Hartfield & Withyham stations as they were when they were open – thank you. Amazing to think they’ve been closed now for 50 years but were open for 100 before that! Withyham signal box is preserved at Sheffield Park on the Bluebell Rly and used to demonstrate what such a box was like to work.

    • Thank you for your reminiscence. The History Group went on an enjoyable outing to the Bluebell Railway quite recently. Shame that we did not know of the signal box connection. Perhaps I should try and get a photo of it now to match the original on the site!

  5. This is nothing to do with the railway ime grasping at straws but does anyone know of a family from hartfield that apparently were well off had a son called simon who drove a sports car would probably of been around 20/25 in 1967 its important i find this man i only have a first name not a last please if anyone knows of him please post a reply he is my dad and ive only just found out about him sorry to ask on your site but thought that some of the origional generation from hartfield might know

  6. Does anyone have or recall any information on a private miniature railway which ran from Bassetts Manor to somewhere near Hartfield in the 1960’s? I think the engine turntable was in one of the oast houses. I used to visit Bassetts Manor as a child when my Great Grandmother lived there and I have some pictures taken in the gardens.

    • Mike Parcell has sent me some information about the Bassetts Manor railway with several photos and a long article that was sent to him back in 1992 by the then owner of Bolebroke Castle, Peter Hobcraft. The railway was built by a well known model railway company called Cromar White but the railway at Bassetts Manor was both the first and the longest that they had built being about 1.1/2 miles long and was started with a discussion in 1967. The connection with Bolebroke Castle was that there was a proposal to run a branch line down the side of a field to the top lake of Bolebroke Castle but was never constructed.

      The Grand Opening was held on the 27th October 1968 with around 300 guests but, sadly, this was the one and only operating day for the completed railway as owner W.A.Bourner died of cancer later in the year and the whole estate and railway was sold in July 1969. A sad end to what could have been one of the outstanding model railways of the country.

      I wonder if anyone knows about the similar railway that was constructed at Bolebroke Castle, presumably later, but was in evidence running beside the lane leading to Bolebroke and also beside the lake?

      Janice, if you have any photos which include the railway or are just of general interest regarding Bassetts Manor I would be very happy to add them to a note in a new section about Bassetts rather than the Railway section although I will make reference to model railways in the main Railway section. I will include the model railway photos when I have scanned them.

  7. Hello All

    I’ve only just come across this website and although not from Hartfield I was from relatively nearby.
    My question is about the date of the opening of the station playschool being 1973 as I took two photos in early 1974 just after getting my first ever new camera around Christmas 1973….a then new fangled Kodak 110 Instamatic. I still have the photos and negs and the station is still sort of derelict although on one of my photos the new awning on the platform has just been built. This camera superceded an 8 shot ( slides ) 126 Instamatic that I only had for the last six months of 1973….so without newspaper dates I am wondering if the school was open but using just one room or something as the view I took of the front of the station isn’t showing any sign of the playschool ?.

    • I believe the playgroup existed elsewhere and the parents and doubtless others clubbed together to buy the old station as a new home for the playgroup so it looks as if they may have been working on the building at the time of your photo. I will try to get you a more definitive answer for the next update of this section.

    • The Playgroup was opened in 1973 and I had the pleasure of being there on the day.
      Below is a link that tells a little more about it. This link can be found on Hartfield Playgroup’s webpage

      The photograph bottom left (in the link) shows Jenny Agutter under the railway bridge with local children. I am the little girl with long blonde hair in the centre of the photograph.
      My late mother, Marge Hill helped to run the playgroup.
      Thank you for asking about the playgroup, it has given me some happy memories.

  8. Hi, we live in Railway Cottages on the old coal yard.

    After speaking to our neighbors we have been wondering if there was any accidents on the site, as there has been some strange things happening every now and again.
    I myself haven’t heard or seen anything but I have been told about weird noises, cold spots in some of the houses.

    Would be interested to find out.


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