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Shepherds Well Signal Box

A Grade II Listed Building in Shepherdswell with Coldred, Kent

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Latitude: 51.1891 / 51°11'20"N

Longitude: 1.2291 / 1°13'44"E

OS Eastings: 625742

OS Northings: 148275

OS Grid: TR257482

Mapcode National: GBR W0R.CKJ

Mapcode Global: VHLH3.8C4S

Entry Name: Shepherds Well Signal Box

Listing Date: 25 April 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1413576

Location: Shepherdswell with Coldred, Dover, Kent, CT15

County: Kent

District: Dover

Civil Parish: Shepherdswell with Coldred

Built-Up Area: Shepherdswell

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

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Signal box, c1878 by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway Company on the Chatham and Dover Railway Line. A later porch is not of special interest.


DATE: signal box of circa 1878. Designed by and built for the London Chatham & Dover Railway.

MATERIALS: locking room of stock brick in Flemish bond, operating room constructed of timber with cladding of vertical boarding with a slate roof.

EXTERIOR: the front or north-east elevation of the operating room has four horizontally sliding nine-pane sash windows and the side elevations each have two identical windows. There is an iron inspection balcony running around these windows. There is a fixed locking room window on the north-east elevation and door on the south-west elevation. The gable ends to the north-west and south-east elevations have wooden bargeboards with moulded pendants and trefoil cutouts and small central vents. Entry is by an external timber flight of steps in the south-east elevation and through a later wooden porch with C21 metal door (the porch is not of special interest). The gable ends to the side elevations have wooden bargeboards with moulded pendants and trefoil cutouts and there are small central vents.

INTERIOR: horizontally boarded walls and roof and a shelf on brackets to the south-west wall. The original locking frame with 23 levers survives. The track indicator and train control instruments have been removed.


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 is anticipated that most would be rendered redundant over the next decade.

Shepherds Well signal box opened c 1878 when the stations on the line between Canterbury and Dover were interlocked. It was built to the only standard design produced by the London and Chatham & Dover Railway. From the opening of the East Kent Light Railway, it increased in importance as Shepherds Well became the transfer point for traffic from this area of the Kent coalfield to the national railway network. It is the only surviving example of a signal box built to the London Chatham & Dover Railway's own design, a major company that was one of the earliest to achieve full block working (a mechanism by which only one train could be on a section of line at any time, controlled by signals). It retains its original locking frame, one of only two London Chatham & Dover Railway examples to survive in situ. Although the parish is called Shepherdswell the railway spelling refers to the station and signal box as Shepherds Well.

The London Chatham & Dover Railway was one of the major British railway companies with an extensive network in Kent and south London. It was a relative latecomer by comparison with its bitter rival, the South Eastern Railway (which it joined in 1899 in a working union to form the South Eastern & Chatham Railway), and built many competing lines. It was progressive in its approach to signalling and had full block working by the early 1870s. In 1922, it had 122 signal boxes. It employed signalling contractors, notably Stevens & Sons and Saxby & Farmer, for the majority of its signal boxes. In the late 1870s it developed its own design for signal boxes which it employed until it reverted to boxes built by contractors in the early 1880s. Other known examples of the design were at Newington, Kent and Rainham, Kent (both closed on the 1959 electrification and re-signalling of the line) on the Kent coast main line while Adisham, also on the Canterbury-Dover line had a tall example, closed in 1979. The box was a conventional design of the period, either all timber, or, as in the case of Shepherds Well, with a timber superstructure on a brick base. In both cases the boxes all had vertical boarding. The curved tops to the glazing of the sashes were a distinctive feature, but in later years, many of these were replaced with timber sashes without this particular detail.

Shepherds Well signal box was closed in December 2011.

Reasons for Listing

Shepherds Well Signal Box, c1878 by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway Company on the Chatham and Dover Railway Line, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: it is the only surviving example of the standard design signal box produced between the late 1870s and early 1880s by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway;
* Intactness: it survives with the original windows and decorative end bargeboards intact. The only later addition is a small porch;
* Survival of operating equipment: it retains its original 23 lever locking frame, one of only two surviving examples of a London, Chatham & Dover Railway frame and the only one still situated within its contemporary signal box.

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