Heighington, County Durham
Heighington Railway Station
4 Oct 2023
Heighington, County Durham
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Current status is
Designer (if known):
This is potentially the oldest railway station building in the world.
Previously thought to be from the mid-1830s, it's now known to be a public house from 1826-27 serving as a proto-railway station for Heighington before they were really a thing. The original building was a public house overseeing the coal depot here. Railway stations weren't really a thing - folk just hopped on, but this building provided a logical resting stop for those waiting to hitch a ride north or east. There may have been benches and a separate refreshment area alongside the public house itself, though this is speculation.
The inns were designed by John Carter, a mason from Heighington who also oversaw the construction of bridges along the line. This particular building was completed in 1827 and was leased out from the start of that year.
A piece from the Durham Chronicle of 15/09/1827 reveals how the site was used as a station building:
"To that spot persons come, in the most stormy seasons, at all hours of the day and night, to load and unload goods, and to await the arrival and departure of the numerous coaches which now traverse the railway. It is, indeed, the only place, for a considerable distance, where such individuals could procure any refreshment; but a license for this house was also refused".
There are also coal drops at the site from when it was a depot, only adding to the rich history of this site. This continued to be in use well into the 20th century.
The actual platform was next to the building, where the steps led out onto a much lower platform. In early to mid 19th century carriages had a long step which allowed access, rather than a heightened platform like nowadays.
It's genuinely really sad to see it like this - I think it closed during COVID, but the recent upgraded listing will ensure its protection for years to come. The station continues to be used, though is a must more austere affair and does not make use of the old station building.
Listing Description (if available)
The 1850s survey gives us an indication as to how rural Aycliffe Lane was. The building pictured above was the only building at the station, with part of it used as a base for the coal depot which featured a loop siding and reverse siding. The signal box had not yet been constructed, though there is 2 small rectangular buildings over the way which may indicate an earlier one. The depot will have allowed transfer between the villages either side of the station. It's likely people probably hitched a ride over too on the horse wagons.
The 1890s map shows a slightly more developed site, with sidings and crane north of Heighington Lane alongside the current signal box. Station cottages have also been built for the workers of the station and depot, though these have since been demolished. The sidings were also greatly reconfigured, incorporating larger loops and one terminating siding.
The area in the 1910s bares a similar resemblance to that in the 1890s, and is yet to see any development as there is today. The surroundings are still overwhelmed by farmland, with Menom Hall to the right and Spring Well Farm to the west.
The station building in 2023 has sadly closed due to COVID. Some of the original stone can be seen against the railway.
The station building and railway in 2023, taken from a safe location. The original platform was just outside the building.
The original platform can be seen here, which also shows a public convenience, station clock and LNER notice board. This was probably taken in the 20s or 30s. Unknown source.