A navvie working on the upgrade of the level crossing at Berwick Station told me that the signal box was due for demolition in February. Horrors! Apart from its being about the nicest building in the place, this is another example of hideous corporate philistinism.
I’d read about the struggle to save Polegate Signal Box, and began to assemble troops for a similar mission in Berwick. Happily, I discovered that the Box has just been listed.
Signal boxes in this area, including the Berwick and Polegate ones, were made by Saxby and Farmer in the 1870s and 1880s. An English Heritage report says of Berwick (a “small Type 5 box”):
“Berwick (1879, retaining its original 1879 lever frame, one of the oldest still in regular use on the rail network), although it has had its sashes replaced in uPVC, is part of a group that includes a station building of 1846, extended in 1890, a rare surviving example of a waiting shelter of 1877, station cottages of 1846 and 1892, in all one of the most complete wayside country station ensembles.”
That is, I think, its main reason for being listed: it’s an integral part of a rather charming “station ensemble”. Perhaps this is what the author meant by his criterion of “group value” in determining which buildings should be listed (other criteria were the usual rarity and novelty factors) . I do feel, however, that another criterion needs to be added – one which is relevant to Berwick, but also to Polegate – and that is the importance in the development of the area. Both Berwick Station (part of Berwick, but some distance from its mother, Berwick Village) and Polegate exist because of the railway. The signal boxes aren’t just one of the oldest buildings in the places but are the manifestation of the reason for the places. This is especially true of Polegate, where the original station is long-gone, and the second station is now a pub.
However, this ain’t a criterion, and English Heritage won’t list Polegate. Incredibly, EH gives one reason for not listing it as its having PVC windows. First, Network Rail should have been prevented from replacing any of their signal box windows with PVC (read my rant about PVC!); secondly, windows are easily replaced. This ain’t a reason – it’s a typically limp-wristed EH excuse. (They are a pretty feeble lot.)
Network Rail have yet to get back to me on the fate of the Berwick Box. Meanwhile, we’re thinking about alternative uses.