History

ImageWilliam Clarke Park sits on layers of landfill which during the 1970s was piled over where, for the previous 100 years, deep in its cutting had lain the rails of the old Kemp Town branch line.

Below is a short history of the line courtesy of www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk
story by John Blackwell, St Peter's Area Edito

The Kemp Town Branch opened on August 3rd 1869, ostensibly to provide a link to the fashionable suburb of Kemp Town on the eastern outskirts of Brighton.This short branch of just over one mile cost some £100,000 to construct. This was an enormous sum in those days, but hardly surprising as much of its length was on a viaduct or in a tunnel.

It was never financially justifiable and was actually built by the railway company (the London Brighton & South Coast Railway) to protect its territory, and in particular the Brighton traffic, from rival schemes. Passenger traffic ceased on 31st December 1932 but goods traffic, especially coal, survived until 1971.

Following closure, the entire branch was bought by Brighton Corporation. After 30 years nothing of railway origin remains, except the tunnel, yet the route can still be easily followed. Following the route of the branch line. The branch diverged from the Brighton-Lewes line just east of the tunnel under Ditchling Road, and ran through what is now Centenary Industrial Estate off the Hollingdean Road. This was formerly the site of a small goods yard and in the south eastern corner, at the junction of Richmond and D'Aubigny Roads, Lewes Road station was opened on September 1st 1873.

Lewes Road station could also be accessed by a covered flight of steps from Lewes Road. Immediately to the east was a fourteen arch viaduct that crossed Lewes Road and two arms of Melbourne Street. The section crossing Lewes Road and Melbourne Street was demolished in 1976 and the western portion (now covered by Sainsbury's) went in 1983. After a short stretch of embankment, now removed, a fine bridge, demolished in 1973, crossed Hartington Road. St Martin's School and Viaduct Court mark the crossing. On entering a recreational area, from Hartington Road opposite Shanklin Road, immediately to the east was the site of the short-lived Hartington Road Halt that opened in 1906 but had closed by 1911.

From this point one can walk almost to the entrance, of the 945m (1,024 yd) tunnel, now sealed, which passes below Elm Grove and Queens Park Road before emerging to the east of Freshfield Road. At the intersection of Pankhurst Avenue and Down Terrace is a small iron ventilator, some 30cm (12 inches) high, which is allegedly connected to the tunnel below. Kemp Town station was situated in Coalbrook Road and was of similar design to those at Portslade and London Road (Brighton). Behind were a long single platform and an extensive coal and goods yard. Today Freshfield Industrial Estate covers the site but the tunnel portal can still be discovered.