This was once a
delightful country station, demonstrating the charm and antiquity which can now
only be found at the likes of East Farleigh and, still to a large extent, Bexley.
Today, however, this decidedly depressing site is situated within the capital’s
inner suburbs, now displaying as much refinement and elegance as the rebuilt
Euston. Kidbrooke came into use on 1st May 1895, after a reluctant SER
eventually decided to cooperate with local landowners and forge a third North
Kent suburban route to London, this time via Bexleyheath. Taking Barnehurst as
an exception (the station here being built around a deep cutting), the
layouts and architecture along the line were completely standardised, wooden construction
being used throughout. The main station buildings at all stations on the route
were positioned on the ‘’up’’ side, and were typical single-storey SER clapboard
affairs; the only bricks of significance featured in the chimney stacks and, of
course, within the platforms. Simple these buildings may have been, they were
not without elaboration: each had attached to their platform-facing elevations
an ornate arched-roof canopy, identical in design to those still in evidence at
Paddock Wood. The ‘’down’’ platform at Kidbrooke was host to a diminutive
curved-roof waiting shelter, as per the other stations along the line – an
identical example still survives at Welling. The platforms were without a
dedicated footbridge until after the formation of the SE&CR, a track foot
crossing instead being in use.
The SER drafted in the contractor ‘’Evans, O’Donnell & Co’’ to signal the Bexleyheath line, and one of this company’s familiar cabins emerged about 50 yards to the west of the ‘’up’’ platform, on the opposite side of the road bridge. Two-storeys high, with a timber upper half and a brick base, the signal box overlooked the site’s only siding, which trailed off the ‘’down’’ line in a westward direction, immediately beyond the footbridge. This somewhat token-effort affair was improved upon during the SE&CR’s reign: in World War I’s penultimate year, a large military storage warehouse came into use, about 300 yards west of the station. Situated on the ‘’up’’ side, it was fed by a single-track connection from the ‘’down’’ line, intercepting the ‘’up’’ track by means of a diamond crossing. Whilst the SER tended to undertake the signalling task itself, especially in its earlier years, come the turn of the century the rate at which such infrastructure was required (during the ''railway mania'') forced the company to seek outside help.
The original SER stations on the Bexleyheath line were subject to rebuilding programmes under the Southern Railway during 1931, continuing this company’s improvement of suburban lines after the 1926 electrification. However, Kidbrooke escaped such treatment and retained its 1895 buildings, although as will later become clear, this was no blessing. Under the Southern Region, the first course of action involved lengthening the platforms at their eastern ends with prefabricated concrete in 1954, to accommodate ten-car EPB formations. Coinciding with this was the replacement of the metal lattice footbridge with an austere prefabricated concrete example, the product of Exmouth Junction Concrete Works. The typical SER station soldiered on, but of course, subsequent degrading was always on the horizon. This began with the withdrawal of goods facilities on 7th October 1968, concurrent with the closure of the yards at Eltham Well Hall and Bexleyheath. The signal box had its swansong on 14th March 1970, as a consequence of colour-aspect light signalling coming into use, its functions transferring to the panel at St Johns. 1972 became the most significant year in the station’s recent history: all original SER structures were obliterated and replaced by dreaded CLASP portacabins and shelters. The once peaceful and rural surroundings had been transformed into an urban area of high-rise flats, and Kidbrooke had well and truly been swallowed up in suburbia.
27th January 2007
The light of the rising sun is reflected off the Exmouth Junction-manufactured prefabricated footbridge
in this early morning London-bound view of Kidbrooke on 27th January 2007. The main text recounts
the depressing decline of this once country-like station, but this view at least provides some good news:
the CLASP structure of the ''up'' side is no more. It has been replaced by a modern brick-built single
of typical Network SouthEast design. David Glasspool
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