Exactly 50 years ago this week, on Saturday 12 June 1965, at 6.00pm, the last timetabled train from Horsham to Guildford steamed out of Horsham station.
It stopped at Christ’s Hospital, then headed west on what is now the Downs Link footpath, calling at Slinfold, Rudgwick, Baynards, Cranleigh, Bramley & Wonersh, before joining the main line into Guildford station.
Extra carriages were added as many passengers wanted to join in a nostalgic goodbye to a line that had lasted just 4 months short of a century. British Rail’s Lord Beeching had once more wielded his famous axe.
It was conceived as the Horsham & Guildford Direct Railway, construction began in 1862, and opened on 1 October 1865, by that time run by London Brighton and South Coast Railway, the company with a monopoly of services via Horsham. Rudgwick station opened late, on 1 November.
The Sussex Agricultural Express (2 Oct. 1865) said, “An event so important as the opening of this line might well have been celebrated by some public demonstration, but the timetable was simply issued and the first train left Horsham for Guildford at 6.35am with about a dozen passengers who had the benefit of being carried free.
“But inspection of the track decreed that Rudgwick Station could not be used since the gradient on which it was built was too steep at 1 in 80.
“This caused an uproar amongst local people who claimed that they were being isolated and villagers threatened to call out the fire brigade to ‘quench the Government Inspector’s fiery spirit!’”
Rudgwick Preservation Society has entered into the spirit of remembering the line and station.
The Medical Centre, which is built on the site of the former station, has had an information board recounting interesting information accompanied by photographs which have become faded over time, provided by the society, for many years.
This has now been renewed and updated with newly discovered photos. Another board, focussing on the line through the parish, has been presented to The Milk Churn Coffee Shop, visited by many using the Downs Link, and located at The Brickworks, Lynwick Street.
Both boards have been sponsored in part by Bookham Harrison Farms Ltd who own the coffee shop, for which we are very grateful.
On 26th May, an evening walk around Rudgwick from the Milk Churn, taking in the old village on the hill, and linking up with the railway from the A281, through the station, to Baynards Tunnel attracted 45 walkers, and several dogs.
Afterwards Rob Bookham kindly provided his signature dish of Sussex Charmer cheese on toast, a feast to rival that provided by local landowner James Braby on the opening of Rudgwick’s late-opening station almost 150 years ago. No fire was quenched, but thirst was - with local Firebird Brewery products.
If any reader can provide either photographs or memories of Rudgwick’s railway or station, my society will be pleased to hear from you. Contact us via our website www.rudgwick-rps.org.uk.
Report and picture contributed by Roger Nash, Rudgwick Preservation Society.