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Bury St Edmunds Yard Signal Box

A Grade II Listed Building in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk

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Latitude: 52.2537 / 52°15'13"N

Longitude: 0.709 / 0°42'32"E

OS Eastings: 585006

OS Northings: 265180

OS Grid: TL850651

Mapcode National: GBR QDT.L2R

Mapcode Global: VHKD4.7MP5

Entry Name: Bury St Edmunds Yard Signal Box

Listing Date: 16 May 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1414231

Location: Bury St. Edmunds, St. Edmundsbury, Suffolk, IP32

County: Suffolk

District: St. Edmundsbury

Civil Parish: Bury St Edmunds

Built-Up Area: Bury St Edmunds

Traditional County: Suffolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk

Church of England Parish: Bury St Edmunds St John the Evangelist

Church of England Diocese: St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich

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Bury Saint Edmunds


Signal box built in 1888 for the Great Eastern Railway.


Signal box built in 1888 for the Great Eastern Railway.

MATERIALS: timber construction except for the red brick south-west corner. Slate-clad roof.

PLAN: it is located to the west of the station, on the south side of the railway tracks. The box is rectangular on plan.

EXTERIOR: the signal box is taller than average and is five bays long. It has a pitched roof with bargeboards embellished with a decorative scalloped moulding, and is clad in vertical timber set in panels formed by the framework of the building. The box is painted overall in cream and green, the colours of the GER. There are large horizontally sliding, nine-pane sash windows on three sides of the building; and one at either end of the rear (south) side. The locking room is lit on the front (north) side by three ten-light windows with timber glazing bars. A window cleaning canopy runs around the front and sides of the box. Access to the operating room is via a flight of timber steps on the east side through a timber door has glazed upper panels.

INTERIOR: the original 1888 McKenzie & Holland lever frame is in situ. A false ceiling has been inserted but the original timber-clad ceiling is intact.


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.

Bury St Edmunds Station (listed at Grade II) was built in c1847 for the Ipswich and Bury Railway which was later amalgamated into the Great Eastern Railway. The signal box was built in 1888 to the GER Type 7 design. This was the most common type of GER signal box which was built from 1885 until 1923. The vast majority were constructed of timber and, while similar in many respects to the Type 2 design that had preceded it, they were somewhat plainer, having minimum or no decoration to the bargeboards. The signal box at Bury St Edmunds is a large example of the design, being five bays long and taller than average. A false ceiling has been inserted, and secondary glazing has been fitted. The signal box is still in use but is due to be decommissioned in 2016.

Reasons for Listing

Bury St Edmunds signal box, built in 1888 for the Great Eastern Railway, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: it is a particularly large and impressive example of the GER Type 7 that has recently won an award for its sensitive restoration;

* Intactness: it survives with a high level of intactness, retaining the bargeboards embellished by a decorative scalloped moulding, a good proportion of the original fenestration, and the original 1888 McKenzie & Holland lever frame;

* Group value: it is an important element in the mid-C19 station complex, and has considerable group value with the nearby station building, railway bridge, former Railway Hotel, and also the former Railway Mission Chapel built out of corrugated iron in 1900 (renamed Fornham Road Free Church), all of which are listed at Grade II.

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