Brighton Station: opened 1840

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

a) OPENING: Brighton’s railway station stands on a huge man-made plateau 130 feet above sea-level, and opened as a very simple, open structure at the same time as the branch line to Shoreham on 11 May 1840. By the time the London line opened in September 1841, a much larger building had been completed, designed by David Mocatta in Italianate style with a saw-tooth roof 250 feet long over the platforms. The facade, although now largely obscured, remains much as originally designed with three-storey wings and a clock, but the elegant colonnade of nine arches is now merely echoed by the present arched windows and doors.

b) ENLARGEMENTS AND IMPROVEMENTS: In 1845, when Queen’s Road was constructed to provide better access to the station, the railway company built the bridge over Trafalgar Street; it was widened in 1863 and again in 1875. In 1852-4 the station itself was enlarged and the platforms extended, but the greatest change came in 1882-3 when the canopy was added over the road in front of the station and the magnificent arched roof was erected. Designed by H.E.Wallis, the roof is 590 feet long and consists of one small and two large iron and glass spans supported on slender, scrolled, iron columns. Alterations to the main building were carried out at the same time by F.D.Bannister and included the addition of the concourse clock and the extension of the eleven platforms to take two trains each.
The platforms were again extended in 1932 to accommodate twelve-car electric sets, but were renumbered one to ten when the short platform four was filled in; platform ten closed in 1971 when the adjacent car-park was opened. At one time there was also a carriage ramp running from Trafalgar Street to the former platform seven, now six. Only platform three has access to all three lines, and then only for four-car trains. On 30 September 1935 Brighton Central Station was renamed simply Brighton Station.
In 1973-5 British Rail made plans to rebuild the station completely with an office complex and hotel above, but the Department of the Environment recognised its architectural merit by listing it in April 1973 after a vigourous public campaign by opponents of the proposals; in 1988 it was included in the West Hill conservation area. Some improvements were made with the opening of a travel centre in December 1979, a new ticket office in August 1980, and a new electronic indicator board in 1987 to replace the wooden indicator which was originally used at Victoria until 1927. A restoration of the exterior also commenced in 1987, and the details of the facade and canopy are now splendidly highlighted. Always one of the busiest of provincial stations, Brighton now handles over seven million passengers per year.

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

Comments about this page

  • If the South Eastern Railway had had its way, there would have been another Brighton Station, I believe, in the Old Steine Area.  They wanted to build their own line from London to Brighton, approaching the town  from the east.  The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway put a stop to the plan when it was blocked by the building at great expense of their Kemp Town branch.

    By John Goddard (02/08/2015)

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