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Wellow Signal Box, Bath and North East Somerset

Description: Wellow Signal Box

Grade: II
Date Listed: 16 July 2013
Building ID: 1413358

OS Grid Reference: ST7402358186
OS Grid Coordinates: 374024, 158186
Latitude/Longitude: 51.3222, -2.3741

Locality: Bath and North East Somerset
County: Bath and North East Somerset
Postcode: BA2 8QG

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Listing Text


A signal box, built in 1892 for the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway; closed 1966, subsequently used as an artist's studio and converted to accommodation and extended in the late C20.

Reason for Listing

The signal box at Wellow is designated at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: the box is the only surviving example of a signal box from the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway;
* Architectural interest: the design, a Type 2 Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway signal box, is the most architecturally interesting of the boxes on the line, with greater elaboration and external detailing than the other, more standard designs, most of which remains intact;
* Historic association: with the British artist Sir Peter Blake, who moved to Wellow in 1969, founded the Brotherhood of Ruralists in 1975, and used the signal box as a studio until his return to London in 1979.


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.

The Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR), which eventually provided a through route between the midlands and the south coast at Bournemouth, was acquired jointly by the London & South Western Railway (LSWR) and the Midland Railway in 1875. Responsibility for signalling and engineering was assumed by the LSWR. The first S&DJR boxes (type 1) were built 1876-9 to a hipped roof design, similar to those of the LSWR’s own type 1 design. The second S&DJR box type (type 2), of which Wellow is the last surviving example, was built between 1878 and 1895 to what has been described as the most characteristic of all S&DJR box types. A gabled-roofed design, it was similar in some respects to boxes produced by the signalling contractors, Stevens & Co, but differed from them in a number of respects, most notably decorative bargeboards and elaborate valencing at the foot of the gable end. From 1895 the S&DJR boxes were built to the LSWR type 4 design.

Wellow signal box was built in 1892 and, following the closure of the S&DJR in 1966, was used for a number of years by the painter, Sir Peter Blake (b. 1932), as a studio. Blake moved to Wellow in 1969 with his then-wife, artist Jann Haworth; they obtained planning permission to convert the former Wellow Station into a house, and used the signal box, with its fully-glazed first-floor room, as a studio. The Brotherhood of Ruralists, a loose group of artists who make figurative work inspired by nature and with a strong emphasis on traditional skills, grew up around them at Wellow, where Blake and Haworth were joined, among others, by Ann Arnold, Graham Arnold, David Inshaw, Annie Ovenden and Graham Ovenden. The group exhibited together from 1975; Blake left Wellow in 1979, and he, Haworth and Inshaw left the Ruralists soon after, though the remainder of the group, occasionally joined by Blake and Inshaw, continued to exhibit together for about another 20 years.

The signal box has subsequently been converted to form living accommodation, with a linked single-storey addition.


A signal box, built in 1892 for the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway; closed 1966, subsequently used as an artist's studio and converted to accommodation and extended in the late C20.

The signal box is constructed from blue engineering brick to the ground floor, with a largely glazed first floor and slate-covered roof, with timber bargeboards and valencing. The extension is constructed in matching materials, with the addition of some red brick.

Rectangular on plan, joined to a square-plan extension by a narrow link.

The single bay, two-storey structure consists of a brick-built ground floor with a timber and glazed first floor, which is accessed by a dog-leg timber staircase which leads to a short balcony to the western end of the box; the first-floor structure breaks forward beyond the balcony to create a small, glazed first-floor porch with a porthole window. The ground floor of the main elevation to the north has a six-pane horizontal window. The entrance, which has a late-C19 plank and batten door, is set under the overhang of the first floor. To the south, there are two smaller multi-pane windows, and the east end has a single larger window, alongside the glazed link to the late-C20 extension. The first floor has observation windows formed from side-hung sashes which is continuous around three sides, the fourth (south) side being built in brick. There is a half-glazed entrance door and porthole window set within the glazed porch. Below the windows the first floor is clad in tongue and groove timber. The pitched roof has elaborately-shaped bargeboards, pierced and shaped valencing, and turned finials at the apexes of the gables. A clock on a scrolled metal bracket is set at the north-west corner. A glazed link leads to the single-storey annexed extension, which is built in red and blue brick, the north elevation clad above the level of the plinth in painted tongue and groove boarding; the other three sides are built in brick, with timber casement windows. The gabled roof has bargeboards, finials and valencing to match the signal box, and there are triangular dormers, with similar bargeboards, set into the roof slopes.

The interior of the signal box has lost all its signalling equipment. The ground floor is now fitted out as a domestic kitchen; its ceiling is formed from a transverse timber beam which carries the floorboards of the floor above. An opening leads through the glazed link to the extension. The first-floor room, which remains accessible only via the external stair, is entirely clad in tongue-and-groove panelling, each plank having moulded edges; the panelling continues to the underside of the roof structure. The south wall has a small, brick-built fireplace with a segmental-arched head, now housing a modern wood-burning stove. The interior of the extension is wholly modern in character, and consists of a ground-floor room with exposed roof structure, and basement with bathroom and steam room.

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