Network Rail is restoring the Victorian signal box at Chartham, near Canterbury

A rare Victorian signal box once threatened with demolition is now being given a new lease of life after a campaign by villagers to save it.

Contractors have refurbished the charming timber-framed building in Chartham, near Canterbury, restoring its original historic appeal.

Contractors at work on Chartham signal box

The building was due to be demolished by Network Rail when the manual crossing gates were automated in 2022, along with the junctions at Wye and Grain.

But a campaign by residents, backed by the parish council, forced a change of heart from the company which had previously said the box, built in 1888, would be a liability to maintain.

Last week, Network Rail contractors began a full restoration of the building, repainting it in the old Southern Railway heritage colors of green and stone, and starting work inside.

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It is a welcome sight for villager Claire Slater, who lives nearby and led the campaign to save the ‘treasured’ structure.

“I am absolutely delighted and the workers are doing a fantastic job,” she said.

Claire Slater campaigned to save Chartham signal box from demolition

“It was certainly worth saving for the village and we now hope it can be put to good community use.”

Chartham Parish Council had previously made a bid to have the signal box listed by Historic England, but this was not accepted.

Now councilors are in discussions with Network Rail about the possibility of leasing it in the future for some sort of community benefit.

Chairman Tim Clark said the council had been working with the company since it was announced the box would be demolished for the new cross gates.

“We prevented that and they agreed to update the box, but it took a while to get there.

The restored windows of Chartham signal box
The wooden building has been freshened up

“The box needs to be maintained by the railway company due to its proximity to the line and the contractors have examined the historic colors to ensure it is appropriate for a heritage box.

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“We have also encouraged the preservation of some of the levers and other artifacts and hope to incorporate these into some form of feature display.

“I personally bought a Grade II listed sign for Chartham signal box at auction and we hope to get it back, although Network Rail would prefer it to be displayed internally.

“Our first thoughts are about a series of small group activities that also champion the history of the box. “But we haven’t seen a draft lease yet, so the parish council can’t be sure that we can still be involved.”

“Once we are clearer about the lease agreement, we hope to have a broader meeting with the village.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Network Rail colleagues are currently redeveloping and preserving the historic signal box in Chartham.

“We are working closely with colleagues at the council who are planning to take over the signal box, possibly as a children’s library, and we have left some railway memorabilia at the council’s request, such as the old signal levers. to support their future plans for this signal box.”