Thursday, 26 February 2009

Bishopsbourne Station

There is a decommissioned train line, the Elham Valley Railway, running south from Canterbury to the coast near Folkestone. Survey maps from the 1890s and 1920s show a branch line from Canterbury West to a Canterbury South station and then on to Cheriton Junction (Canterbury South was actually south of the city centre, though the still operative Canterbury West is in the north while Canterbury East is south. I keep thinking of the line from ‘Substitute’ by the Who where ‘the north side of my town faced east and the east was facing south’). Remains of the Elham Valley line , which closed in 1947, are shown on the current survey maps though it now consists largely of tunnels and embankments the rails having long been removed. Some parts of the line are now private property, others are so overgrown that they would be impossible to traverse anyway. But, miraculously, there’s still a station at Bishopsbourne (though the building is privately owned) complete with signals and platform buildings. Bishopsbourne itself is a short diversion off the A2. Joseph Conrad once lived there and you can make out a blue plaque on a white building on the northern side of the village. It was also a home (or at least a holiday home) for Jocelyn Brooke, author of the wonderful Orchid Trilogy of autobiographical novels (his more modest residence is also marked out). I used a passage from this book describing a mysterious water tower, another piece of industrial archaeology once visible from the village and now obscured by trees, in my own Crab & Winkle:

It was an extraordinary structure: not ‘functional’ at all . . . but built with the solidity . . . of a stockbroker’s villa in Surrey . . . Four columns of brick-work, converging at their summits, formed four corresponding arches: the tower had the look of an arcade or a viaduct folded in upon itself to form a quadrilateral . . .


1 comment:

em said...

hey laurie - kate and i went there on saturday. we walked from bridge and round. we took a photo of 'conrad hall'. nice photos!
em