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St Bees Signal Box, Copeland

Description: St Bees Signal Box

Grade: II
Date Listed: 21 November 2013
Building ID: 1412068

OS Grid Reference: NX9702911989
OS Grid Coordinates: 297029, 511989
Latitude/Longitude: 54.4928, -3.5912

Locality: Copeland
Local Authority: Copeland Borough Council
County: Cumbria
Postcode: CA27 0DG

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Listing Text


Furness Railway Type 3 signal box built 1891.

Reason for Listing

St Bees Signal Box is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architecture: not withstanding the loss of the original glazing pattern, St Bees, with its tapering base, snecked stonework and high pitched roof is an unusually architectural signal box which is reasonably well preserved.
* Representative: as one of only two surviving examples of a Furness Railway Type 3 signal box: an adventurous architectural design dating to circa 1875, possibly by the practice of Paley and Austin.
* Interior: the survival of the original 1891 Railway Signalling Company lever frame adds to the special interest.


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.

St Bees Signal Box was opened in 1891, being built to the design now known as the Furness Railway Type 3. This signal box design was employed by the Furness Railway between 1875 and 1895 for a proportion of its signal boxes. Aspects of the design appear to have been influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and also have similarities to many of the station buildings designed for the railway by the Lancaster based architectural firm of Paley and Austin, many by the architect John Harrison who managed the firm's office in Barrow. The Type 3 signal box design may have been by the firm, although this has not been proved.

St Bees Signal Box is sited behind the northern end of the western station platform, overlooking the Main Street level crossing.


Railway signal box, 1891, for the Furness Railway, possibly by Paley and Austin of Lancaster. Furness Railway Type 3 design.

MATERIALS: red sandstone, slate roof.

EXTERIOR: two-storey signal box with a steeply pitched hipped roof. The signal box's base is stone built with snecked stonework that has a gentle batter so that it tapers up to the operating floor's window sill. Central to the rear wall there is a projecting chimney stack that survives to full height. This is quoined with grey sandstone with its base supported by three corbels. The locking room (the ground floor room) is lit by lancet windows to both front and rear, with a larger window in the north end, all now boarded but originally with a lower large pane with four square panes arranged in a square above. The operating room (the upper floor) is entered from the southern end, via a modern porch at the head of an external staircase. The operating room has windows to all sides, being continuous to the east (facing the tracks with seven windows) and north (overlooking the crossing with six, narrower windows). These windows were originally arranged with plate glass lower sections with four small panes in a row above. These windows have been replaced in uPVC with undivided top-lights.

INTERIOR: the signal box retains its original lever frame, of 24 levers, supplied by the Railway Signal Company.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.