Part of the National Heritage Protection Plan’s Transport and Communications Activity has been completed with the listing of 48 signal boxes. English Heritage has undertaken a national overview of signal boxes in response to Network Rail’s re-signalling plans announced in 2011. This envisages the concentration of railway signalling in 12 signalling centres and the consequent closure of mechanical signal boxes on the national rail network.
The Signal Box Project continues our good working relationship with Network Rail and is informed by contextual research from John Minnis, Senior Investigator with the Heritage Protection Department of English Heritage, who has compiled a report identifying the most significant remaining examples of signal boxes.
We selected 53 signal boxes for assessment for designation from the remaining 500 Network Rail boxes and 48 of these have now been listed.
The project ensures that all signal boxes which deserve protection on a national scale and which are not on a preserved line, will have been designated and can be appropriately managed through the planning process. It is not anticipated that other boxes currently in Network Rail ownership will be added to the list unless significant new information about their interest comes to light.
48 New Designations
Signal boxes were built from the mid-19th century to a great variety of different designs and sizes to meet traffic needs by signalling contractors and the railway companies themselves. The project aims to protect a representative sample of the principal types.
Below are some examples of boxes recently listed. For full information on all the new designations see the National Heritage List for England.
Garsdale, South Lakeland, Cumbria, listed Grade II
Garsdale signal box is a good example of a larger Midland Railway box which is still in its original position. Its special interest is mainly its historical connection as it was the source of a signalling error which caused the 1910 Hawes Junction Disaster, where the Scottish Express ran into the rear of two light-engines resulting in the deaths of 12 passengers. As a result of this disaster, the Midland Railway changed its signalling practices to prevent similar accidents happening again
Hebden Bridge, Calderdale, West Yorkshire, listed Grade II
This signal box, built in 1891, survives well and has a strong visual and functional association with the adjacent Grade II-listed railway station. It is a good example of a standard Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway signal box.
Thetford, Breckland, Norfolk, listed Grade II
Thetford signal box was built for the Great Eastern Railway in 1883. This design was of brick in contrast to many other GER designs which are timber or partly timber. The Thetford box is an important element in one of the finest surviving station complexes in East Anglia having strong group value with the Grade II-listed station buildings and the station master’s house.
Aylesford, Tonbridge and Malling, Kent, listed Grade II
Aylesford signal box was opened in 1921 and was one of the last signal boxes of the South Eastern & Chatham Railway Company before it became part of Southern Railway in 1923. It was the first, and indeed the only, signal box to be built to this new design by that company and went on to become the standard design for the Southern Railway.
Shepherds Well, Dover, Kent, listed Grade II
Shepherds Well signal box, dated around 1878, was both designed and built for the London, Chatham & Dover Railway. It is the only surviving example of the standard design signal box produced between the late 1870s and early 1880s by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway. It survives with the original windows and decorative end bargeboards intact.
Marston Moor, Moor Monkton, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, listed Grade II
Marston Moor signal box is a rare, little altered example of a ground level signal box. These simple signal boxes were once very common across the country but no examples of ground level boxes have been listed. Dated to 1910, the box is set on the former platform of Marston Moor station and although very simple in design, it is an effective piece of attractive architecture in terms of overall form, massing and detailing.
Bournemouth West Junction, Poole, Dorset, listed Grade II
Bournemouth West Junction signal box, was built in 1882 for the London & South Western Railway and is one of the few remaining examples of this type that has become increasingly rare on the former LSWR network.