Brick and timber-framed signal box, situated on the ‘up’ side of the level crossing to the north-east of Petersfield Station.
Reason for Listing
Petersfield Signal Box, a London & South Western Railway Type 3a signal box built c1885 on the Portsmouth Direct Line, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: a unique transitional design marking the functional and architectural development between the London & South Western Railway Type 2 and Type 3 signal boxes;
* Survival of operating equipment: contains a ten-lever Stevens (Railway Signalling Co.) frame and locking rack (c1880), together with a circuit diagram, blockshelf and block instruments;
* Group value: it forms part of a group of well preserved (un-designated) station buildings.
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.
Petersfield is situated on the Portsmouth Direct Line which branches from the South Western Main Line at Woking. The section between Godalming and Havant was built for the Portsmouth Railway by the contractor Thomas Brassey, but opening was delayed by disagreements with the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway which owned the connecting line at Havant. By the time Petersfield station was opened in 1859, it was leased by the London & South Western Railway, who bought it outright in 1861. Petersfield Station was built in the Tudor-revival style and is almost certainly by Sir William Tite. The station was extended and enlarged in 1864 to accommodate the traffic from the new Petersfield Railway to Midhurst. At that time, the Portsmouth Direct Line was single track but increasing traffic necessitated its doubling which was completed by 1870. It is unclear precisely when the present signal box was built, but it is believed that it was constructed during the 1880s and is a unique design combining features of two different London & South Western Railway types. It protects the Station Road level-crossing and it formerly controlled the junction of the Midhurst branch that was closed 1955. Competition with road traffic and the introduction of ‘block’ goods trains resulted in the closure of the goods yards during the 1970s; however, the volume of passenger traffic and the need to guard the busy level-crossing has ensured that the signal box has remained in operation.
London & South Western Railway Type 3a signal box, c1885. Modern alterations and additions (all of post-1970s date are not of special interest).
MATERIALS: ground-floor locking-room of red brick pier and panel construction in Flemish bond, with timber-framed operating floor, secondary uPVC double glazing and weather boards. Hipped Welsh slate roof with fretted timber valance. Timber stairs and landing.
PLAN: rectangular-plan, two-storey structure with timber stairs to the north-east elevation.
EXTERIOR: ground-floor locking room of red brick pier and panel construction on a brick plinth, two panels to main and rear elevations, single panels in end walls. The rear elevation above the locking room is clad with uPVC weather boarding. The locking room is entered by a doorway in the north-east elevation. The operations room is reached by timber stairs and a landing supported by timber posts against the north-east elevation. The stairs are protected by a steel security gate. Timber posts support inclined handrails and the landing has handrails supported by posts with cruciform rails. A glazed timber porch with uPVC weather boarding and a mono-pitch Welsh slate roof occupies the northern end of the landing. A secondary timber extension that contains a signalman’s closet is attached to the porch and is clad in white uPVC weather boarding. The operating room oversails the south-east wall of the locking room and is carried on a row of timber brackets. The former timber panels below the window are clad in white uPVC weather boarding and late C20 Petersfield name boards are mounted on the south-east and south-west elevations. Nine 3 x 4-pane uPVC windows divided by timber uprights occupy the main elevation, with three 3 x 4-pane windows in the south-west elevation, and two 3 x 3 windows in the north-east elevation with plain uPVC panels below. A 3-pane toplight is situated over each of the windows; the toplights are all partially obscured by the fretted timber valances that decorate the roof verges. The hipped Welsh slate clad roof has leaded ridges and is drained by original cast-iron rainwater goods. The section of the roof over the south-east elevation is clad with roofing-felt, it breaks slope and projects slightly forward to allow for the oversailing of the south-east elevation.
INTERIOR: the operations room is entered from the porch in the north-east elevation through an uPVC three-panel door with glazed upper panels. The room is equipped with a ten-lever Stevens (Railway Signalling Co.) frame dating from the 1880s, beneath a blockshelf with block instruments, repeaters, close-circuit television screens and a 1974 track circuit diagram; this equipment is supplemented by a modern computer display on a desk situated against the rear wall. The adjacent level crossing is closed by modern lifting barriers operated from a control box situated at the south-western end of the operating room. The timber frame and the rear timber wall of the operating room are painted and a suspended ceiling with fluorescent lighting has been inserted. The locking room houses the mechanical locking frame carried on a raised timber beam, which runs the full length of the room. Late C20 electrical equipment is attached to the rear and the south-west walls. Two blocked locking room window spaces with segmental brick arches are apparent internally but not externally in the south-east wall.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.