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1844: Proposed tunnel under Cuckfield

From a longer article in Mid Sussex Times 27 June 1986:

... There had been much debate over which route should be taken when the London to Brighton line was first considered. When Sir John Rennie's plans were first presented to Parliament the line was to take a different route to that which we know today.

Had the earlier idea been accepted, the trains would have crossed the Ouse Valley more to the west by a series of embankments with only a short viaduct over the stream itself.

Cuckfield ridge would have been pierced by a 1,450 yard tunnel (Balcombe tunnel is 1,141 yards) to be entered in a dip just north of Cuckfield Hospital. This gave the possibility of a station just south of the village - perhaps in a cutting near Courtmead Road.

Southwards, a series of embankments would carry the track to Burgess Hill with the probability of a station in the area of St John's Common, possibly near the junction of West Street and Royal George Road.

Beyond, the route would have passed close to Hurstpierpoint village with a tunnel under the Downs near Wolstonbury Hill. Trains would re-emerge to join where the present-day line exists in a cutting south of Pycombe.

Unfortunately for the Unfortunately for the promoters, this route, although the most direct, threatened to split the country estates of Cuckfield Park, owned by the Sergisons, and Danny Park, south of Hurstpierpoint. Objections were raised which Parliament apparently supported.

In 1837 Joseph Locke with engineer JU Rastrick resurveyed the route and finalised the 7½ mile deviation that is currently used.

When the last section of the line from Haywards Heath to Brighton was opened on September 21, 1841, Burgess Hill station was very much a temporary affair.

It consisted of a small log cabin and so few passengers used it that it closed two years later. The material used for its construction was sold by auction for £6. But its disappearance was felt and there arose a demand that it should be replaced. A new station was opened a year later in May, 1844.

In 1889 new goods offices and sidings were completed on the west side of the platform since those on the east side gave problems to horses where the incline was too steep for heavily laden vehicles...

Colourised photograph: Navvies posing in front of timbering shoring up the north end of the Gill's Corner railway tunnel during its reconstruction in 1892. National Railway Museum

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

Visit Cuckfield Museum, follow the link for details



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