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Woolston Signal Box, Southampton

Description: Woolston Signal Box

Grade: II
Date Listed: 15 August 2013
Building ID: 1413387

OS Grid Reference: SU4393111240
OS Grid Coordinates: 443930, 111240
Latitude/Longitude: 50.8990, -1.3767

Locality: Southampton
County: Southampton
Postcode: SO19 7DD

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Listing Text


Signal box of London & South Western Railway Type 4 design, situated on the ‘down’ platform to the east of the listed Woolston Station booking hall.

Reason for Listing

Woolston Signal Box, a London & South Western Railway Type 4 design, situated on the Southampton to Portsmouth railway line and built 1901, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: one of only two surviving London and South Western Railway Type 4 signal boxes with the original distinctive fenestration intact, and one of only two platform mounted Type 4 signal boxes remaining;
* Intactness: the exterior is unaltered;
* Group value: it forms part of a group of station buildings, including the listed Grade II main station building and booking hall.


From the 1840s, huts or cabins were provided for men operating railway signals. These were often located on raised platforms containing levels 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 is anticipated that most will be rendered redundant over the next decade.

Woolston station was opened circa 1860 and the main station building and booking hall was built in an Italianate style, possibly designed by Sir William Tite. The station was primarily intended for passenger traffic and to begin with, it only had one goods siding. However, by the turn of the C20 the capacity had been increased to three sidings, a goods shed, a yard crane, and a head shunt.

The signal box was built in 1901 to the London & South Western Railway Type 4 design, first introduced in 1895. It was built to the east of the main station building, with the locking room constructed within the depth of the ‘down’ platform. The Type 4 signal box was a much less fussy and practical design than those of many companies and its apparent modernity ensured that the type continued to be built until 1928. Competition with road traffic and the introduction of ‘block’ goods trains resulted in the closure of the goods yard during the early 1970s and the signal box was closed in 1980. Today the station is still open to passenger traffic and the main station building is listed Grade II.


MATERIALS: red brick in Flemish bond. Hipped slate roof with overhanging eaves and timber verge boards. Timber stairs and landing.

PLAN: rectangular-plan, two-storey structure with lower storey forming a semi-basement.

EXTERIOR: two-storey structure has a broad brick panel dividing the glazing on the front elevation, with a pair of windows to either side, with distinctive four-pane timber side opening Yorkshire sashes with curved framing at the head. Each end wall also has a pair of four-pane Yorkshire sashes. The windows are mounted in timber frames that rest on projecting painted stone window cills, which wrap around the north-west and north-east corners. The window frames have transoms with rectangular toplights (now painted over). The two flat-arched locking-room window positions in the main elevation (north wall) have been bricked up. An original painted timber name board with the word ‘Woolston’ in relief is mounted on the central brick panel below the cill line. The lower storey containing the locking room is sunken into the depth of the platform and is accessed down a flight of five brick steps with chequered blue tile treads leading to a doorway in the west elevation. The operations room is reached by a centrally set, short flight of timber steps that rise from the platform to a timber landing, supported on four timber struts in the west elevation. Timber posts supporting inclined handrails and single side rails protect the steps and the landing has handrails supported by posts and cruciform rails. A timber panelled open porch with a mono-pitch roof occupies the southern half of the landing and protects the operations room door from the weather. A secondary timber frame clad in painted corrugated sheeting extends out from the porch and protects the steps to the locking room from the weather. A secondary lean-to signalman’s closet is built against the south elevation. The hipped slate-clad roof has dark grey ridge tiles, and a conical galvanised steel ventilator is set in the southern slope. The roof projects beyond the face of the structure to form eaves with sloped timber soffits and cast-iron rainwater goods mounted on verge boards.

INTERIOR: the operations room is entered from the porch through a four-panel door at the southern end of the west elevation; it is likely that the top two panels were originally glazed. The room is empty, the brickwork of the north, west and east walls has been painted and the southern wall has a timber lining. The soffit of the hipped roof is clad in timber-painted boards and the tie-beams of the two roof trusses are exposed. The locking room is entered by a framed ledged and braced door and is devoid of any fittings. A blocked rectangular recess at floor level in the north wall indicates where the point rods and signal cables passed out of the locking room. The ends of the three cantilevered timber beams that support the landing pass through the west wall and project into the room.

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