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Berwick Signal Box

A Grade II Listed Building in Berwick, East Sussex

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Latitude: 50.8403 / 50°50'24"N

Longitude: 0.1663 / 0°9'58"E

OS Eastings: 552621

OS Northings: 106761

OS Grid: TQ526067

Mapcode National: GBR MTB.6VL

Mapcode Global: FRA C67W.8LX

Entry Name: Berwick Signal Box

Listing Date: 10 October 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1413793

Location: Berwick, Wealden, East Sussex, BN26

County: East Sussex

District: Wealden

Civil Parish: Berwick

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Sussex

Church of England Parish: Berwick St Michael and All Angels

Church of England Diocese: Chichester

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Signal box. Built in 1879 for the London Brighton & South Coast Railway. A Saxby & Farmer Type 5 design. Late C20 additions and alterations are not of special interest.


MATERIALS: locking room and rear wall of the operations room and chimney of brown brick in Flemish bond. The remaining three sides of the operations room are timber-framed with replacement uPVC double glazing and original overlights. Hipped slate roof with overhanging eaves supported by curved timber brackets.

PLAN: two storeys and two bays long by a single bay wide.

EXTERIOR: low locking room with two round-arched openings facing the track, now bricked up. Square-head entrance with original door in north-east elevation. The operations room is reached via a timber staircase and landing at the north-west end. Original glazed entrance door. The original timber four-pane sliding sash windows have been replaced with uPVC double glazing and a door to the modern timber extension platform, that contains a timber-boarded WC, has been inserted in the north-east elevation. The curved-ended overlights remain. The timber brackets supporting the eaves have distinctive cuboid stops. The wooden signage bearing the name of the station is modern.

INTERIOR: the interior retains the original Saxby and Farmer 17-lever frame although some levers have been cut short. The block shelf also survives with a combination of C19 and C20 equipment including a Southern Railway circuit diagram, block instruments and indicators. A C20 suspended ceiling has been inserted. The fireplace has been blocked up.

The locking room retains the interlocking section of the frame and also has Southern Railway electrical relays by Tyer and Co arranged round the walls, some of which probably date to the first half of the C20.


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 will be rendered redundant over the next decade.

Berwick Signal Box was built in 1879 for the London Brighton & South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) on the Lewes-Hastings section of the Brighton and Bulverhythe branch line and is an example of a Saxby and Farmer Type 5 signal box. The design was introduced in 1876 and they continued to be built until 1896. The type was widespread and appeared on more than a dozen railways including the London Chatham & Dover Railway, the Great Eastern Railway and also in Ireland and overseas. It was particularly associated with the LB&SCR where, John Saxby had commenced his career and with whom he had pioneered the use of mechanical interlocking of points and signals. The LBS&CR employed Saxby and Farmer exclusively for its signal boxes until the 1880s, but from then built an increasing number of signal boxes to its own design.

Subsequent changes have included the bricking up of the locking room windows during World War II and in the late C20 the addition of a timber platform housing a toilet and the replacement of the original operation room windows in uPVC.

Reasons for Listing

Berwick Signal Box, constructed in 1879 for the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway on the Lewes-Hastings section of the Brighton and Bulverhythe branch line, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historical interest: the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway has particular association with John Saxby where he commenced his career and pioneered the use of mechanical interlocking of points and signals;
* Architectural interest: a good example of a two-bay, Saxby & Farmer Type 5 signal box;
* Survival of operating equipment: contains a Saxby and Farmer 17 lever frame and locking rack, Southern Railway circuit diagram, block instruments and indicators, and electrical signalling relays;
* Group value: part of a now rare grouping of country railway buildings.

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