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The Railway, formerly known as The Railway Tavern

A Grade II Listed Building in Thetford, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.4188 / 52°25'7"N

Longitude: 0.7452 / 0°44'42"E

OS Eastings: 586782

OS Northings: 283632

OS Grid: TL867836

Mapcode National: GBR RD7.97C

Mapcode Global: VHKCC.VGVM

Entry Name: The Railway, formerly known as The Railway Tavern

Listing Date: 18 October 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1415365

Location: Thetford, Breckland, Norfolk, IP24

County: Norfolk

District: Breckland

Civil Parish: Thetford

Built-Up Area: Thetford

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Thetford St Cuthbert

Church of England Diocese: Norwich

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Former railway tavern built in 1845 by the Norwich & Brandon Railway.


MATERIALS: flint with gault brick dressings and pitched roof clad in slate.

PLAN: approximately rectangular on plan with a projecting central entrance porch on the front (south-west) elevation. Two narrow service wings at the rear (north-east) which have been partly subsumed by a late C20 extension.

EXTERIOR: the two-storey building has a three-bay frontage with outer gabled bays embellished with decorative wavy bargeboards and finials. It has brick quoins and two prominent chimneys rising through the ridge, each with three tall angled stacks with oversailing courses. The centrally placed gabled entrance porch has the same bargeboards and finial as the gabled bays, and a vertical plank timber door (not original) under a four-centred brick arch. The porch is flanked by canted bays under tiled roofs with timber casements, probably of late C19 or early C20 date, as are all the windows. The first floor is lit by three windows with paired casements, set in elaborate blocked brick surrounds with prominent sills. The fenestration is regular throughout the building.

The two-bay left and right return elevations have dentilled brick eaves and are lit by two windows on each floor, those on the ground floor being longer. The first-floor windows on the left return are boarded up. The rear (north-east) elevation is the same as the front with the exception of the gabled porch, and it has two narrow, single-storey service wings under pitched roofs. A small, modern, flat-roofed extension in yellow brick has been built at the rear of these two wings, partly subsuming them to provide shelter in between.

INTERIOR: the internal walls on the ground floor have been knocked through to create an open plan, and few C19 fixtures and fittings remain. The fireplaces located in what would originally have been the three separate bars are blocked up, and the large central bar counter is of recent date. The first-floor accommodation has been modernised and does not retain any fireplaces or C19 joinery.


Thetford Railway Station was built as part of the Norwich & Brandon Railway but a month before the station opened in 1845 it became part of the Norfolk Railway. This was later incorporated into the Great Eastern Railway. The line from Norwich to Brandon was constructed by Messrs Grissell & Peto, and the engineers were Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) and George Parker Bidder (1806-1878). It is likely that it was Bidder, rather than Stephenson, who was closely involved with the project on a day-to-day basis. Sizeable station buildings, mostly in neo-Tudor style, were erected at each of the stations along the line; and according to an article in the Great Eastern Journal (October 1998), they would have been designed by the engineer, in this case Bidder, and approved by the board of directors.

In addition to the main station building, located on the south side of the tracks, accommodation was provided for railway staff. The workers were housed in a terrace of four cottages situated on the north side of the tracks, and the station master had a separate station house and garden further to the north-west. A railway tavern for travellers was built to the south at the entrance to the station yard. These three buildings are contemporary with the main station building. A timber goods shed was also built to the west of the station together with a covered coal shed of a type once common in East Anglia. The coal shed has since been demolished. A brick extension was built onto the goods shed in 1898 but the timber part was destroyed by fire in 1912. It was rebuilt in the same year, retaining the 1898 extension. The loading gauge located at the end of the loading dock, to the west of the goods shed, probably dates to the 1930s, having replaced what would have been an original timber one. Further developments at Thetford include the erection of the footbridge linking the up and down platforms in 1881 by J O & C E Beckett (it has since lost its corrugated iron roof); and the signal box, to the west of the main station building, which was built in 1883 when block signalling was installed on the Ely-Norwich line. In 1889 a comprehensive rebuilding of the station took place. The 1845 station building was retained but a new red brick booking office, erected by P H Dawes of King’s Lynn, was built onto its right (east) end, and a canopy was put up on the platform side. A matching waiting room in a screen wall with a canopy was also erected on the north (down) side.

The Railway Tavern, now called The Railway, has been subject to some changes since it was built in 1845. The internal walls have been knocked through to create an open plan area but it is still possible to discern the original configuration. The front entrance on the south-west elevation led into the off license which had separate bars on either side, and there was a third bar in the rear room on the left. An historic photograph (undated) shows a gabled porch on the north-west side which would have provided access to this rear bar. The door has since been blocked up and replaced by a window. The flint work on the south-east elevation also shows evidence of alteration, and it is likely that there was formerly a door here giving access to the kitchen occupying the rear room on the right. The large central bar is a C20 replacement but it is probably in the original position where it provided service to all three bars. The fireplaces in these rooms have been blocked up. The timber casement windows with glazing bars, shown on the historic photograph, have been replaced with similar casements probably in the late C19 or early C20.

The outbuildings have also been altered. The two narrow service wings at the rear have been partly subsumed by a modern extension built to provide shelter. The large detached outbuilding further to the north-east, shown on the Ordnance Survey maps of 1885, 1905 and 1928, has been reduced to approximately a third of its original size. This building does not have special interest and is not part of the listing.

Reasons for Listing

The former railway tavern, built in 1845 by the Norwich & Brandon Railway, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Date: it is an early example of a railway tavern built by an independent railway company during the heroic age of railway expansion;

* Architectural interest: it is a well proportioned building in the picturesque style with much attractive detailing, particularly the group of three angled chimney stacks, and the gabled bays and porch with their decorative bargeboards and finials. The local flint contrasts subtly with the gault brick dressings, creating a textured finish of some aesthetic appeal;

* Interior: although the internal ground floor partitions have been knocked through to create an open plan area, it is still possible to discern the original plan form comprising three bar areas and an off license, which provides important evidence of the early use and configuration of the tavern;

* Architectural context: it is one of the four contemporary station buildings of 1845 that achieve a high level of architectural coherence through the use of flint and gault brick, and the repeated application of certain details, such as the blocked brick window surrounds, gabled porches and angled chimney stacks. The hierarchy of the complex is moreover articulated by the varied architectural treatment of the different elements, presenting valuable evidence of the social workings of a mid-C19 station complex;

* Rarity: the completeness with which the station complex has survived is rare. There are numerous stations throughout the country that retain three building types but only approximately forty in which a group of four or more types survive, whereas Thetford retains nine. Very few stations have survived with this number of buildings, and Thetford thus provides an almost complete picture of an early station that continued to evolve throughout the second half of the C19;

* Group value: the tavern forms a key element in one of the finest surviving station complexes in East Anglia. It has strong group value with the main station building, former station master’s house, railway workers’ cottages and signal box, all listed at Grade II. Although the bridge and good shed at Thetford are not listed, they would appear to be of local interest as they make an important contribution to the group of railway buildings.

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