Cranleigh station

Cranleigh station
Published Mon, 2015-06-15 11:35

The popular branch line that once used to operate from Guildford southwards through Cranleigh to Christ’s Hospital, one of the features on our first DVD covers.


Cranleigh station with a Guildford to Horsham auto-train. The locomotive is motor-fitted ex-LSWR Drummond Class M7 0-4-4T No 30052, which would be withdrawn in May 1954. © Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons License

The railways first reached Guildford when the London & South Western Railway opened a branch from Woking to the town on 5 May 1845. It was destined to remain a branch until the Reading, Guildford & Reigate Railway, which was operated by the South Eastern from opening and taken over by the larger railway on 17 June 1852, opened through the town on 4 July 1849. To the south, Horsham was served initially by a single-track branch opened by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway on 14 February 1848. The station was relocated on 10 October 1859 in connection with the opening of the line from Horsham through to Pulborough and Midhurst. The Pulborough (Hardman Junction) to Arundel and Ford Junction opened on 3 August 1863, thus creating a through route from Three Bridges to the coast, and the Leatherhead-Dorking line was extended to Horsham on 1 May 1867.
There were initially two proposals for the construction of a link line between Guildford and Horsham. Of these the most important was the Horsham & Guildford Direct Railway. The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway was aware both of this plan and of the competing proposal by the Wey & Arun Junction Canal Co to convert its canal between Guildford and Pulborough into a railway. Initially the LBSCR was minded to oppose the Horsham & Guildford Direct Railway in parliament; however, following a request from the new railway that the LBSCR operate the line from opening, the larger company’s opposition to the scheme ended and an agreement was signed to that effect on 21 June 1860. Although there was opposition from many of the affected landowners along the route, parliamentary sanction was obtained on 6 August 1860 for the construction of 15½ miles of railway from Peasmarsh Junction, near Guildford, and Stammerham Junction, to the south of Horsham (where Christ’s Hospital station would be opened on 28 April 1902 following the relocation of the famous school to the country). The HGDR was granted running powers from Peasmarsh Junction over 1½ miles of LSWR metals in order to reach Guildford station.
Although nominally independent, the HGDR was very much a project backed by the LBSCR and thus it faced opposition from the LSWR. Of the railway’s £123,000 capital, no less than £75,000 was subscribed by the LBSCR and the LBSCR also appointed three of the new railway’s directors. From 28 April 1862, the board agreed that the HGDR’s business should be conducted from the offices of the LBSCR and, on 29 July 1862, agreement was reached for the LBSCR to acquire the smaller railway. This was officially sanctioned by the LBSCR Additional Power Act of 29 July 1864.
By this date construction of the single-track branch had progressed since work first commenced in early 1862. Work was, however, slow and several deviations to the original plans were made that required official sanction.  By March 1863 some six miles of land still required to be purchased and the threat of a £12,000 penalty imposed in the original Act for late opening was becoming ever greater.
However, by the date of the LBSCR’s take-over, work was still not completed and it would not be until mid-1865 that work was completed. Originally, it had been hoped that the line would open on 1 June 1865 but this was further delayed as a result of the Board of Trade inspection. As a result, the line did not open officially until 2 October 1865. There were five intermediate stations — Bramley (& Wonersh from 1 June 1888), Cranleigh (Cranley until 1867), Baynards (the location of the only passing loop on the branch until 1876 when one was installed at Bramley and 1880 when facilities at Cranleigh were improved), Rudgwick and Slinfold. At the southern end, there was a curve that permitted trains from the Cranleigh line to head direct towards Pulborough and the coast; this was not, however, to last long, being removed by 1 August 1867.
In 1923 the Cranleigh line, along with the rest of the LBSCR network and the lines of the LSWR, passed to the newly formed Southern Railway at Grouping. Services over the line remained steam-hauled throughout the period, although there were proposals to include the section from Cranleigh to Peasmarsh Junction within the Southern’s ambitious electrification plans. However, these were not progressed. The journey time between Guildford and Horsham by through train was around 50 minutes; although most services ran over the entire branch, there were a number of additional services that operated simply between Guildford and Cranleigh.
Nationalisation in 1948 saw the branch become part of British Railways (Southern Region). Whilst there had been some limited line closures throughout the country prior to World War 2, the continuing deterioration of the railway’s finances, particularly in the late 1950s, resulted in the desire of the then Conservative Transport Minister, Ernest Marples, and Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, to see the huge losses reversed. The appointment of Dr Richard Beeching as chairman of the newly created British Railway Board quickly followed by his infamous report, The Reshaping of British Railways, in March 1963 resulted in the threat of closure to many lines throughout the country. One of the routes he advocated closure of was that from Peasmarsh Junction to Christ’s Hospital. It was announced in September 1963 that, unless objections were received, the line would close on 11 November 1963.
There were the inevitable objections with the result that closure was delayed. IN 1964 the Conservative government, by now led by Sir Alec Douglas-Hume, had been defeated by the Labour Party under Harold Wilson; Wilson’s party had campaigned with a policy of opposing the Beeching cuts and so there were hopes that the new administration would reverse the closure policy. These hopes were, however, to be dashed and, on 14 June 1965 passenger services between Peasmarsh Junction and Christ’s Hospital were withdrawn and the line closed completely from the same time (freight facilities from stations along the line had all been withdrawn during 1962).
Thus ended the life of the Guildford & Horsham Direct Railway; closure occurred a few months before the line would have celebrated its centenary. Although dismantled and redeveloped in part, the growth in the population of places like Cranleigh has ensured that there remains pressure for the line to be restored either wholly or in part. Whether that it practical or cost effective remains to be seen. However, if the line does reappear it will be very different to the rural backwater that it was when a steam-operated line.