About Bishopstone station

The History of Bishopstone Station

Lewes to Newhaven passenger trains started in 1847 and 27 years later a single-track line was extended on to Seaford. This is late for a seaside town and is one reason why Seaford never developed tourism to the extent of towns such as Bognor, Margate or Worthing.

In 1904, the line from Newhaven to Seaford was doubled, you can see this clearly in the brickwork of the rail bridge at Buckle.

July 1935 the first through train on the new electrified line ran from London to Seaford. Steam trains were also run on the line until the early ‘60’s.

In 1936 the Guildhall Development Company planned a large housing development in Bishopstone with, at its heart, a new station and a Grand Avenue. The company paid Southern Railway to build a new station ¾ of a mile east of the old Bishopstone Halt situated at Tide Mills. However, by the start of the Second World War, only 50 odd houses had been built, and austerity post-war scuppered any plans for a major housing development. However, in the late 1960’s two smaller housing developments were built on Hawth Hill and Rookery Hill.

As a result, Bishopstone Station is a large suburban station, placed in a small community on the edge of Seaford. It was built with half a dozen w.c.s, three waiting rooms, a WH Smith kiosk, two ticket windows and a Parcel Office.

Bishopstone station opened in autumn 1938 at a cost of £6170. It was designed by James Robb Scott, the chief architect of Southern Rail, who also built Surbiton and Goring-by-Sea stations in a similar style. The building is late Art Deco blending with Modernism, with the use of glass, brickwork and concrete and a combination of flat and curved surfaces with a raised octagonal booking hall roof. The hall is top lit by glass pavement lights supported by a concrete grid. The steel footbridge has a reinforced concrete roof built in situ. The bridge was originally fully glazed with Crittal windows, enabling passengers to remain dry between the ticket hall and their train.

In 1940, just two years after it had opened, the flat roof of Bishopstone station hall was altered to incorporate a well camouflaged gun emplacement. The two gun turrets are connected by a concrete lined low passageway, which was accessed by an internal ladder. They were designed for machine guns, which would have provided gun  cover for the Ouse estuary across Seaford Bay with Newhaven Fort providing cover from the opposite side. The flat low-lying estuary and beach would have been a place at high risk of enemy invasion. Bishopstone is the only railway station in the country with gun turrets. More detailed information about the gun turrets can be found on http://www.pillbox.org.uk/blog/251798/

On 3rd July 1940 the 17.37 train from Seaford was machine-gunned by an enemy plane between Bishopstone and Tidemills. The driver, Charles Pattenden, was killed and the aircraft dropped six bombs nearby shattering the windows of the carriages injuring several passengers. Mrs Terrell from Newhaven said that ‘It happened so quickly. All the windows were smashed and we had lots of splinters of glass in our hair. My son (Ronald, a babe in arms) had a cut near one eye and the back of my coat was marked as if it had been scorched.’

On the 1st of January 1942 the old Bishopstone Beach Halt at Tidemills finally closed. A few decades later in 1975 one track was removed leaving just a single line from Newhaven to Seaford and leaving Bishopstone with just one platform.

The last station manager, Una Shearing, retired in the late 80s. She was the last railway employee to work at the station. Una was also a VIP guest at the opening of the Old Parcel Rooms community hub in November 2022.

The station never functioned at its full capacity and for many decades the east wing incorporating the Ladies Waiting room, a newspaper kiosk and the toilets stood empty. In the early 1980’s a village shop was opened in the west wing in the old ticket and parcels offices and became well known as Linda’s Stores, which was run for much of its life by Seaford’s former Mayor, Linda Walraven. The shop closed down a decade ago and for a short period another business was run in that space. However, by 2018 the whole of the Grade 2 listed station building was empty, its condition steadily deteriorating.

Access to the two gun turrets which afford 360 degree field of fire.

Below are articles featured in the local magazine Sussex Scene about the History of Bishopstone Station and the work being done by FOBS to bring about its restoration.