18 January 2015

Portslade Railway Station (in Portland Road Hove)

Judy Middleton 2003 revised 2017

 copyright © G. Osborne
Portslade & West Hove Railway Station in the 1950s

In 1838 it was reported that heavy rain had prevented navvies from working on the construction of the railway at Portslade and instead they had sought refuge in the local taverns where they had spent the day ‘in drunkenness and rioting to the great annoyance of the peaceable inhabitants of Portslade’.

First Station

The original station serving Copperas Gap (as Portslade-by-Sea was once known) was located on the west side of the level crossing. It was opened in May 1840 when the new line between Brighton and Shoreham was inaugurated. It appears there was such a lack of passenger traffic that the station closed in 1847 and did not re-open for another ten years.
The 1861 census recorded 38-year old George Heather living with his family at the station. The census states he was a railway clerk while other sources identify him as station-master.
The station had its own cesspool in the garden on the south side. Apparently, it remained in operation until 1911 when a surprised Sanitary Inspector discovered its existence. He ordered it to be filled in at once and the drains connected to Portland Road sewer.

Goods Yard

 copyright © G. Osborne
Portslade's Goods Yard in the 1950s

There was a goods yard on the west side of the level crossing, which was a busy place for many years. At one time it was used as a holding pen for cattle arriving by rail at Portslade destined for the slaughter-house in North Street. Sensitive children living nearby were upset by the constant bellowing of the frightened animals throughout the night. The goods yard closed in 1968.

Untimely Deaths

The year 1864 was an unfortunate year for the station because there were two fatalities. On 4 July Captain Bernt Nikolai Olsen of the brigantine Rederinden, which had just delivered her cargo of timber to Shoreham Harbour, climbed out of his carriage on the wrong side. He had just reached the opposite platform when an express train from Brighton struck him. He was put on board the 8.40 train coming from Littlehampton to be taken to hospital but died before reaching the terminus. The newspapers of the day did not spare its readers from the gory details. Thus we learn that the captain’s forehead was smashed with part of his brain protruding while his left arm and right leg were literally cut to pieces. He was buried in St Nicolas’s Churchyard, Portslade and his headstone bore a lengthy inscription in Norweigian.

In September 1864 the train from Brighton overshot the platform with the result that the passengers were unable to alight. The engine driver blew his whistle as the train backtracked but John Barry Lelliott attempted to get out and was crushed. The jury at the inquest found that the engine driver had been negligent. Lelliott was a brick-maker by trade and he was also the parish clerk of Portslade.

In the churchyard of Christ Church, Worthing there is a gravestone inscription, which also includes a poignant Biblical warning:- John Stapley, who was killed by a Train while crossing the Railway at the Portslade Station 3rd January 1865, in the 62nd year of his age. 'Watch therefore for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come'

In the churchyard of St Leonard’s, Aldrington, there is a tombstone with the following inscription. Sacred to the memory of Charles Nicholas, son of Nicholas and Sarah Stredwick who was accidentally killed at Portslade Station November 28th 1879 in the 16th year of his age.

In 1992 a man was killed on 6 December when he jumped onto the line just before the 7.47 a.m. fast train from Victoria to Portsmouth arrived. Power was switched off for 90 minutes.

On 17 February 2013 Woody Scott, aged 32, suddenly realised he was on the wrong platform for the train he wanted to catch to Worthing and despite the barriers being down, he decided to cross the railway line to reach the opposite platform. Witnesses saw him calmly walking across with his carrier bags of shopping. He was just beginning to haul himself up onto the platform when the train began to move forward. Unfortunately, Scott was in the driver’s blind spot and the driver was only alerted to the situation when people on the platform screamed for him to stop. Scott was trapped between the platform’s edge and the side of the train. He was taken to Royal Sussex County Hospital where he died four days later; the nurses said he had made a heroic effort to hang onto life. (Argus 18/2/13  22/2/13  28/2/13). 

The Second Station

 copyright © G. Osborne
Portslade Station in the early 1900s

A new and more spacious railway station at Portslade was built in 1881. It shares its architectural style with other stations belonging to the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway and it is a handsome building in an Italianate style. Today, it looks in fine fettle after some renovation work and re-painting.

Charles Tillstone

Charles Tillstone was station-master at Portslade for a period of eighteen years. He retired in 1898 and was presented with a small ‘token of affection and regard’. It was remarked that during his time in charge there had not been a single accident to passengers. He was given a cheque for £20 and an illuminated list in album form of the names of people who had subscribed to his gift; it was said to comprise some fifty of the principal inhabitants.
The presentation took place at the house of Samuel Isger in Carlton Terrace because Mr Isger had been the man chiefly responsible in organising the subscription list.
Charles Tillstone did not leave the locality and became sub-postmaster of Portslade.

copyright © J.Middleton
 The photograph of this solid-looking charabanc dates from around 1927. In the background note the serrated edge 
of the wooden canopy over the entrance to the station, which no longer exists.

F.W. Shepherd

The Shepherd family had a remarkable record of service to the railways. F.W. Shepherd spent 49 years on the railway before he retired on 17 August 1938 as station-master of Portslade. His father had been an inspector on the railways for 40 years while his brother served as a treasurer at Waterloo Bridge. It was stated the family had a record of 140 years of railway service.

copyright © G. Osborne
The Brighton train leaving Portslade Station in the 1930s

An Expanded Name

In 1927 Hove Council asked the Southern Railway Company if the name of the station could be changed from Portslade Station to West Hove and Portslade Station; after all technically the building was on Hove territory. Sir Herbert Walker replied that the public might be confused to have stations named ‘Hove’ and ‘West Hove’. But in principal he had no objection to the name change.

Maud’s

In the 1950s and 1960s there used to be an old railway carriage parked on the forecourt called Maud’s. It was here a woman ran a little workman’s cafĂ© that opened at 5 a.m. and provided a welcome hot cup of tea. But there was no running water and all the water for the tea urn had to be fetched. 
 
copyright © J.Middleton
 This beautiful horse chestnut tree pictured in May 2003 once adorned the station forecourt. Unhappily, it was felled
 in 2012 probably due to disease. The fruit and vegetable stall was located near to where Maud’s used to be.

Level Crossing Gates

 copyright © G. Osborne
Portslade's old style level crossing and signal box in the 1950s

The old-style level crossing gates lasted until the 1960s; they were white-painted wooden cross-bar gates with a central red disc. In 1967 these were replaced with new drop-style barriers. The signalman activated a button, flashing lights switched on and around seven seconds later the barriers came down.
In November 1967 a bus driver and a dustcart driver were fined for driving through the warning lights, which they asserted they did not see until it was too late to stop.
In December 1967 a Ministry of Transport divisional road engineer and British Rail official came to inspect the site. As a result of their deliberations, it was decided to install muted warning bells and new, stronger, flashing lights. The lights on the south would also be moved closer to the barrier.
On 14 June 2000 the level crossing gates were raised just after 11.45 a.m. and only three cars drove across when the barriers came down unexpectedly trapping a skip lorry belonging to Cleaning Service Group of Burgess Hill. The barrier sliced into the gap between the cab and the main part of the lorry and the driver was unable to move forwards or backwards. Fortunately no trains were due. Police set up diversions and buses were re-routed. Naturally the barrier was badly damaged and needed replacing.  An investigation was launched. 

Public Address System

In 1985 a new public address system was installed costing thousands of pounds. But it lasted less than a month before it was scrapped because there were so many complaints about the noise. Announcements began to be broadcast at 6 a.m. and were audible to every household in Hallyburton Road.

Portslade Signal Box

The signal box was located on the north west side of the level crossing and it was closed on 14 May 1988. It dated back to the later part of the 19th century. Just in case there was any doubt as to its antiquity, someone wrote on the brick base in large numbers ‘1878 to 1988’.
Trevor Eastland was the last man to pull the levers in Portslade signal box, which closed at the same time as ones at Shoreham Station and at Eastern Avenue, Shoreham.
In future the level crossing would be controlled via a computer panel at Lancing. The three boxes mostly contained original machinery and were stripped for spare parts.

Straight to London

On 26 May 1988 Commex launched a new service whereby passengers embarking at Portslade could travel directly to London.

Station- masters

1858 – George Heather (still there in 1867)
1870 – George Stoner
1874 – Robert Lay (still there 1878)
1880-1898 – Edward Charles Tillstone
1909 – C.S. Siley
1938 – F.W. Shepherd retires
1990s – Adam Phayer

(This information was collected from Directories and Press articles and it is not complete).

copyright © J.Middleton
 Portslade Railway Station was photographed on 29 December 2014.

Sources

Argus
J.Middleton Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Hove Council Minutes

Thanks are due to Mr G. Osborne for allowing me to reproduce four of his wonderful photographs.
  
Copyright © J.Middleton 2015
page layout by D.Sharp