Gate House, Knowle Lane, Cranleigh

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UPDATE: Appeal Dismissed 8 December 2016

UPDATE 11 August 2016: An appeal has been made to the Secretary of State in respect of this application WA/2015/2006

UPDATE 17/12/15: This application was refused on 14 December 2015

A planning application is currently being considered for the Railway Gate House Cottage, Knowle Lane (Ref WA/2015/2006 – Erection of 8 x 2 bed apartments with  only 4 parking spaces, following the demolition of the existing cottage)

knowle lane gatehouse new flats 2knowle lane gatehouse new flats

Gate House History

On 2 October 1865, the railway through Cranleigh opened, initially operating a service of four trains each way per day; the West Sussex Gazette noting that the line, ‘…is likely to prove a more picturesque than profitable part of the system of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway.’

The railway was the result of moves by promoters, including the board of the Wey & Arun Canal Company, to profit from what amounted to the “railway mania” of the mid 1860s.

By 1860, an act was before Parliament and, in August 1860 the Horsham and Guildford Direct Railway Act was passed, granting a line through Shalford, Bramley, Cranleigh, Rudgwick and Slinfold. As time went by The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (L.B.S.C.R.) slowly absorbed (Horsham & Guildford Direct Railway Company) H.G.D.R., the two companies funding the £123,000 cost between them.

Both the canal and the railway had been advanced as offering ease of communication between the lands north and south of the Weald and an expectation of good profits from trade between London and the coast, and both had seen the error of this assumption reflected in mediocre returns.

Be that as it may the railway did pick up the local trade and slowly wend its way into the life of the villages along its route, a number of sidings serving local business were built along the route. At Cranleigh a substantial goods yard in the middle of the village became home to three coal merchants, while at Baynards extensive sidings served Lawns brickworks.

While the line was in use for 100 years, latterly, reduced returns and lack of investment saw it being mooted for closure as part of Lord Beeching’s “The Reshaping of British Railways” of 1963. The last regular trains ran through Cranleigh on 12th June 1965.

Where the railway route met the local roads, most were bridged to avoid disruption to traffic but at Cranleigh and Bramley, adjacent to the stations, level crossings were installed instead.

The level crossing at Cranleigh was situated in Knowle Lane, just behind the High Street and east of the station. It was controlled by gates which swung either to block the road (when a train approached) or to block the railway when the road was open for normal use.

The operation of the gate was controlled from a hut by the side of the level crossing and the Gate House cottage was built for the gate-keeper. The Charman family carried out the gate duty until 1960 when it was taken over by May Koster and her husband Harry who was the signalman. When the railway closed they were able to purchase the house from the British Railways and lived in it until 1973.

This cottage is now the only historical remnant of the railway (other than the trackway/Downslink) in Cranleigh, and despite being listed as a building of local merit, is now threatened with demolition.

The Cranleigh Society believes that this unique piece of railway architecture is an important part of Cranleigh’s history, a heritage asset that should be preserved, not demolished.

(Reproduced by kind permission of Chris Budgen)

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