Railway signal box built 1875 by E S Yardley and Co for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.
Reason for Listing
Hensall Signal Box is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Representative: despite alterations, as the best surviving example of a signal box designed and built 1875 by E S Yardley and Co., signalling contractors;
* Setting: as part of a wider grouping of Victorian structures forming Hensall Railway Station.
From the 1840s, huts or cabins were provided for men operating railway signals. These were often located on raised platforms containing levers to operate the signals and in the early 1860s, the fully glazed signal box, initially raised high on stilts to give a good view down the line, emerged. The interlocking of signals and points, perhaps the most important single advance in rail safety, patented by John Saxby in 1856, was the final step in the evolution of railway signalling into a form recognisable today. Signal boxes were built to a great variety of different designs and sizes to meet traffic needs by signalling contractors and the railway companies themselves.
Signal box numbers peaked at around 12,000-13,000 for Great Britain just prior to the First World War and successive economies in working led to large reductions in their numbers from the 1920s onwards. British Railways inherited around 10,000 in 1948 and numbers dwindled rapidly to about 4000 by 1970. In 2012, about 750 remained in use; it was anticipated that most would be rendered redundant over the next decade.
Hensall signal box was built in 1875. It is a Yardley Smith box built by a small firm of signalling contractors established by the Manchester ironmongers E S Yardley and Co in about 1867 and taken over by William Smith (who held the patent for the lever frames that the firm employed) in 1876. The firm built a number of signal boxes between about 1872 and 1882, predominantly for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. By 2012 just three examples survived (Bromley Cross, Hensall and Milner Royd Junction) all having been altered via modern refurbishment. The company produced three designs of signal box. One, the Type 3, was of timber construction of which no examples are known to survive. The other two types were broadly similar, both being brick built with shallow hipped roofs, the main difference being the treatment of the operating room windows: Type 1 having rectangular top-lights above the main windows; Type 2 having taller sashes with segmental heads. Hensall is a Type 1 signal box, although its windows were replaced when the box was refurbished sometime before 2010.
Hensall signal box is sited adjacent to the level crossing at the western end of Hensall Station which dates back to the opening of the Wakefield, Pontefract and Goole Railway in 1848. The former station house is on the opposite (northern) side of the line: This 'Swiss Cottage' style building was in private domestic use at the time of the inspection, but is otherwise relatively unaltered. Just to the east of the signal box on the southern station platform is a Victorian timber-built waiting room.
MATERIALS: brick laid in Flemish bond, Welsh slate roof.
EXTERIOR: small, rectangular signal box with a shallow-pitched, hipped roof. The first floor operating room has continuous glazing to the north (facing the tracks) and to the front half of the western end wall. The windows are uPVC in an altered arrangement to the original windows which were arranged as paired horizontal sliding sashes, each sash having four panes with a fixed top light above. Each of the three pairs of windows to the front now includes one fixed sash and one inward opening casement set above a fixed light, all subdivided with glazing bars. The doorway is to the east end, reached by a modern set of steel steps. Adjacent to the door is a small modern projection for a toilet with a slate roof to match the main roof. The low ceilinged ground-floor locking room retains its pair of original windows facing the tracks, the openings having segmentally arched brick heads embellished with blackened brick headers.
INTERIOR: the signal box retains a reconditioned McKenzie & Holland lever frame of 10 levers installed in 1964 as a set of interlocked electrical switches. These are positioned to the rear of the box so that the operator faces away from the tracks.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.