Exploring the route of the old Dyke Railway: Part IV

Maple Gardens
Now quite pleased with themselves, the boys cycle through the twitten (old Sussex word for alleyway) by the side of Maple Works and into MapleGardens.  Tiarnan checks the virtual view and finds again the arrangement of industrial buildings and tree lined boundary show the old route.   They cycle back down the twitten, along  Old Shoreham Road and into Hove Cemetery.

Virtual view of area
The virtual view of this area shows Hove Fire Station at the top of English Close.  Prior to 1879 the first location for Hove Fire Station was in Brunswick Street West.  Around 1879 Hove Fire Station was relocated to George Street, where it remained for over 40 years.  By the 1920’s, with the size of fire appliances increasing, Hove Corporation Fire Service had outgrown the building in George Street.  In 1926 another move was made to a purpose built station in Hove Street, which was to remain their home for the next 50 years.

Closure of the Dyke Railway
Devils Dyke, which is 700ft above sea level, had been a popular beauty spot since the time of Prince Regent, the summit providing superb panoramic views for many miles around.  Prior to the opening of the railway, the only means of reaching the beauty spot were either, walking, horseback or a very uncomfortable horse and carriage ride. 

Final demise after 51 years
The building of the railway brought huge crowds during holiday times, when the weather was good.  However if the weather was poor, and during the long period “out of season,” the railway lost its main source on income!  Additionally, gradually there was fierce competition from motorised transport.  It was for these reasons that on 31st December 1938, after 51 years of steam engines puffing their way up and down the line, that it closed. 

Decayed after WWII
With WWII coming so quickly after closure, there were far more important issues to consider than the old railway track, which soon fell into decay.  Following the war the old track bed behind MapleGardens and Elm Drive slowly became overgrown and forgotten.  Although much forgotten by most, some residents gradually took advantage of the situation and bit by bit back gardens began to encroach on the old, overgrown, disused line.

Old track transformed
By the mid 1970’s another move was planned for Hove Fire Station, this time to the area of land behind Maple Gardens and Elm Drive!  When the surveyors turned up to set out the levels for the new fire station, beautifully manicured lawns, fertile vegetable gardens, green houses and garden sheds were where the old track bed. should have been!  This setback was eventually resolved and finally in 1976 Hove Fire Brigade moved to the new station in English Close.


Comments about this page

  • Having followed 1,2,3.and now 4, I thought it was time to add a bit. I was born at 92, Rowan Avenue on the 10th of March, 1936 and the railway ran at the the end of our back garden. At that point the cutting was quite deep. I can remeber the bridges at Old Shoreham Road, Hangleton Road, West Way and Northease Drive. There was a foot bridge over the line where one walks through from Rowan Avenue into the the cemetery with a small halt a few yards north as you walk up the path at the bottom of the Knoll Park. This path follows the line of the railway up to Hangleton Road. If one follows the foot path down by the side of Churchill House and up Kingstome Close you will be on the line. You would then have to enter the school grounds where they have an area of grass on top of the line just inside their site at the top of Northease Drive. From there you would have to go up Poplar Avenue to where the obviouse foot path next to the Down Man pub where the foot path takes you along the line to just north of the Brighton and Hove Golf Club where it leaves the line and joins up with the road and footpath to the Dyke. I would add that from where the line goes north past the club house it is private and one would need permision to go to the end where signs of the old platforms are still there. Our local historian Trevor Povey has run walks to the end and is an expert on the line (Contact via Hangleton and Knoll Project ?) and has photos etc. I will leave it at that to see how the expedition goes.

    By David Smart (22/11/2009)
  • I have a question regarding the bridge at Northease Drive. In the ‘James Gray Collection’ which is held by the Regency Society, there is a photo showing the disused cutting filled up to road level, leaving only the abutments visible. It has a comment added by James Gray stating that the bridge was removed in 1949. My question is whether or not the entire bridge was actually removed in 1949? I ask this because it would appear from the photographic evidence that since the cutting had already been filled up to road level sometime around the mid 1940’s. It would appear to have been easier to simply remove the abutments (which would have been the only part of the original structure still visible at that time) and to re-surface the road accordingly, than to re-exacvate the infill (which after all had only been dumped there a few years earlier!) in order to remove the entire structure. I’d be really interested to know if anyone can shed any light on this as I often walk past this spot and have often wondered!

    By Stu Berry (24/11/2009)
  • That’s a very interesting point Stu. Shall we wait until the team get to Northease Drive, and see if they uncover the answer?

    By Peter Groves (24/11/2009)
  • Devils Dyke was my playground as a child and my friend and I often went up there however we found part of the devils dyke railway in the 1970’s and as a lover of history I studied a lot of local history including, about the old Dyke railway and as a child I wanted it restored, building from hove station up to devils dyke . I realised it couldn’t be re- built exactly as it was, but I kept asking that it be done going round a different route . I love the history of the dyke as well as all local history. My laptop hasn’t worked for a while during lockdown hasn’t been able to get fixed. I may need a new email my number is 07930275133.

    By Sarah Forrest (15/04/2021)
  • I was puzzled by the assertion that “when the surveyors turned up to set out the levels for the new fire station, beautifully manicured lawns, fertile vegetable gardens, green houses and garden sheds were where the old track bed. should have been.” I used to live in Holmes Avenue, quite close to where the fire station is now and remember that the site was previously an overgrown embankment, which I assume carried the Dyke railway, rather than gardens. The embankment was visible between houses in Maple Gardens and was cleared so that the fire station could be built.

    By Nick Szczepanik (28/04/2021)
  • Hi Nick, I was told this by a guy I know who lived in Elm Drive close to Maple Gardens. After the railway closed in 1938 the old track became overgrown, no doubt the rails were pulled up for the war effort or reused in some other way. Gradually over 40 years peoples gardens began to encroach on the old track bed……………until the surveyors turned up!

    By Mr Peter Groves (28/04/2021)

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