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History of Kingscote Station - Kingscote in the 1950s

A TASTE OF LIFE IN 1953 AT KINGSCOTE


The Station Master in charge of Kingscote is located at East Grinstead, the station being run by Porter-Signalmen. These are Porters who spend less than 50% of their time in the signal box. They sell tickets and deal with the few parcels in the ticket office, see the few trains safely away from the platforms, keep the station clean and the flower beds tidy, deal with goods paperwork in the ticket office and help to shunt wagons around in the yard. The basic working week is 40 hours, comprising 5 rostered 8-hour turns between Monday and Saturday. The sixth turn or "rest day" may be worked at overtime rate if there is no "rest day relief" man. Sunday is always a rest day. Pay has just risen from £5.16.9 (£5.83) per week.

Kingscote Porter-Signalman Ernie Marshall lives in the station house with his wife Marjorie. They have lived there since William Parker moved out following his retirement in 1951 and they will be the last BR tenants. Rent for the station house is in the region of 15 shillings (75p) a week.

The first trains of the day are the 6.43 to Brighton and the 7.29 to East Grinstead. The last trains are the 9.1 pm to East Grinstead and the 9.20 pm to Haywards Heath. A later train to East Grinstead passes Kingscote, but is not booked to stop.

There are annual Best Kept Station Awards, which are presented (for the Redhill District) during the following year. Kingscote won an Additional Prize for 1952, while Sheffield Park won Second Prize in Class E.

Austerity is still very much the reality of Britain. People eat a healthy, although basic diet. Meat, bacon, butter, cheese, margarine and cooking fats are still rationed, eight years after the end of the Second World War. Tea came off ration in 1952 and this year, eggs, cream and sweets came off - just in time for the Coronation - with sugar in September. The most popular sweets are Spangles and Polo, each "tuppence" or "thruppence" a pack and Bounty chocolate/coconut bars.

Spangles advert from 1953

Meat is still subject to rationing; the weekly meat ration allowance having increased by one penny, to one shilling and ninepence (9p). Bacon and ham are rationed separately; about 4 ounces in total a week per person being allowed. Consequently, country people still keep chickens for eggs and meat. Pigeons are shot for food. Wild rabbits are also hunted for food. They are usually shot, snared or "rooted out" by a terrier dog or ferret. However, care must be exercised when selecting a wild rabbit, as there is an outbreak of myxomatosis, first discovered near Edenbridge (Kent) this autumn.

Few people have a refrigerator, relying on cool larders (like the one off the station house kitchen) and gauze-covered "meat safes". Many homes, including the station house, have no electricity yet. Most food is bought fresh so shopping can be undertaken almost daily. Blocks of ice cream can be bought at sweet shops that have an electric freezer. It is wrapped in newspaper to insulate it for the journey home, but must be eaten within a couple of hours. At the seaside, fairs or carnivals etc., individual ice creams between wafers or in cornets can be bought from the man on his tricycle. This has an insulated box containing "dry ice" (solid carbon-dioxide) in which the ice-creams are carried.

Money is short and the wartime philosophies still endure, so people grow most of their own vegetables and fruit. Typical garden-grown vegetables are cabbages, carrots, broad beans, peas, potatoes, runner beans and marrows. Apple or pear trees, raspberry canes, blackcurrant bushes and rhubarb may also be found in country gardens. People regularly pick wild blackberries when in season. The station house and railway cottages have gardens in which their tenants can grow some food, but many folk have an additional "allotment", like the one at the south end of the gardens of the railway cottages. This allotment boasts some old quince trees. The fruit of these trees can be used to make quince jelly, the fore-runner of orange marmalade. During the War, housewives were encouraged to "preserve" fruit by home canning or bottling in special jars.

There are old apple and pear trees in the station house garden. When the fruit is in season, it can be exchanged with engine crews for some coal off the locomotive. Coal is used to fire the cast-iron cooking "range" in the kitchen (examples of modern versions being the Aga and Rayburn), the clothes washing "copper" in the scullery or to fuel the open fires in the other four rooms.

Gas is produced from coal and its supply is generally restricted to urban areas near the gasworks. There is a gasworks in East Grinstead but no pipes are laid in this direction.

There is no mains water at Kingscote yet. Most houses in the area have or share a well. The station's water supply (from its well behind the down platform) has been shown to be now unfit for drinking, but still satisfactory for washing. Drinking water is delivered to the station by train in small galvanised churns. You can see these standing on the up platform in the photo below.


Up platform, 1955

This view of the up platform was taken by Mr. G S Robinson on 1st. April 1955. We do not have the name of the member of station staff in attendance although it could well be Ernie Marshall. Note that the wartime white striping (applied to reduce accidents during the night-time "blackout" when the station platforms would have been in total darkness) is still quite clear on the canopy columns and telegraph pole. Signal bell codes and telephony were carried along bare copper wires suspended from these poles on insulators. Note the wooden steps (again, painted white) to gain quick access to the goods dock and also the porters' board crossing between platforms.


There is a ready supply of lamp oil (for the signal lamps, station and platform lighting) in the station Lamp Room. One of the Porter-Signalman's duties is to light the lamps at dusk, extinguish them in the morning, refill the tanks and trim or replace the wicks.

Ordinary people still walk fair distances in the country although most have bicycles. Motor cars are a common sight, but most people do not own one. One of the modern family motorcars on sale is the Morris Oxford (similar to but larger than the Minor). Public transport is important. Local people catch the train to go to the cinema in East Grinstead. They may cycle in or use a bus to go shopping. The green London Transport 473 bus runs from Horsham to Edenbridge via Turners Hill and East Grinstead. Modern London Transport single-deck, diesel-engined buses (RF or GS) operate the route and the stop is at the end of Station Road, on the main road. Most lorries are powered by petrol engines. They are not fuel efficient, are inherently slow and are additionally subject to either a 20 or 30 mph. speed limit. Some local deliveries, particularly brewers' drays, are still horse-drawn.

King George VI, who led us through the Second World War and whose picture hangs above the ticket window in the booking hall, died in February last year. His eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was crowned Queen in June in a spectacular ceremony which was transmitted live by radio to every corner of the Empire. The event overshadowed the climbing of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing on 29th. May. For the first time, a Coronation was covered by the new media - television. Queen Mary, the mother of King George VI, passed away earlier this year.

Televisions are expensive. A Ferguson 998 table top set with a 12 inch screen costs 49 Guineas (£51.45). A similar 17 inch set costs 69 Guineas (£72.45) while a 17 inch floor-standing "console" set costs around £100. They can be rented but, unlike radio sets, they require mains electricity. Radios are normally powered by lead-acid cells or batteries known as "accumulators". These have to be charged up regularly and would probably have been taken to the local bicycle shop or garage for this to be done; or perhaps one of the local farms has a petrol dynamo. For the majority of the population who did not have access to a television, a feature film "A Queen is Crowned" was made and was shown soon afterwards at local cinemas.

Among the films being shown at the cinema earlier in the year were the war film, The Cruel Sea (starring Jack Hawkins and Donald Sinden) and comedy, The Titfield Thunderbolt (starring Stanley Holloway, George Relph and John Gregson). Summer saw the release of the popular comedy, Genevieve (starring John Gregson, Dinah Sheridan, Kenneth More and Kay Kendall).

Some homes may have a (clockwork) gramophone, which you need to wind up with a removable handle in the side. The circular 78 r.p.m. records are not that cheap but are growing in popularity. The New Musical Express introduced a "Top 12" record sales chart last year. This year, two of the most memorable records at "number one" are "I Believe" by Frankie Laine and "Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes" by Perry Como, although "(How Much Is That) Doggy In The Window" by Lita Roza was number one for one week in April.

The radio is used sparingly, but many wives insist on listening to the 15-minute episode of "The Archers" every weekday evening on the Light Programme. There is an hour-long "Sports Report" at 5 p.m. on Saturday evenings during the football season. Children listen to "Children's Favourites" on Saturday morning with Uncle Mac. Billy Cotton's Band Show is regular listening on Sunday afternoon. The news can be heard on the Home Service where there are five broadcasts a day, but some people in the country rely on a neighbour or friend passing on the previous day's newspaper to keep them abreast of happenings further afield.

In June, Blackpool won the FA (Football Association) Cup; the team including a 38-year old Stanley Matthews. In August, England beat Australia at cricket to win the Ashes - the first time since 1932.

BR advert

Tragically, on the night of 31st. January, over three hundred people were killed during floods in Essex, Norfolk and Lincolnshire, and the ferry "Princess Victoria" was lost in the Irish Sea. Even more (over 1800) died on the same night in Holland.

During the year Welsh poet Dylan Thomas passed away, as did also Django Reinhardt, the jazz guitarist and Hank Williams, the American "country music" singer.

John Christie was hanged in July at Pentonville prison, for the murder by strangling of his wife and six other women at his home in Notting Hill, London.

Around the world, Josef Stalin, the wartime leader of the USSR died in March. He has been succeeded by Nikita Krushchev. Britain has recognised the Republic of Egypt under General Naguib.

Many families have more than just a passing interest in what is going on round the world. Young men between the ages of 18 and 26 are still required to undertake two years of National Service. The army is presently involved in combating Mau-Mau terrorism in Kenya and troops have just been sent to British Guiana. Fortunately, in Korea (where British troops formed part of the United Nations army fighting the North Koreans from 1950) an armistice was signed on 27th. July at a place called Pan-mun-jom.

There is a little bit of local talk about the declaration in November that Piltdown Man was a hoax. In 1911, what seemed to be the remains of an early man, supposedly some 500,000 years old, were discovered near the local village of Piltdown, near Uckfield. This creature was hailed as an almost unique example of the "missing link" between the apes and man for many years. However, recent chemical tests carried out by Oxford University and the British Museum revealed that all the bones had been stained to make them appear fossilised; and that the jaw of the skull was from an orang-utan!

Not so many people have telephones, particularly in the country. It is expensive to rent the line and instrument, even if the wires have been run near to your home. In Britain, the telephone system is run by the GPO (General Post Office). There is a coin-operated call box for public use inside the booking hall of the station. However, it is unlikely that many of your friends have a telephone yet.

The post is fairly reliable (with next-day delivery to most places in Britain) and there is a post box in the front wall of the station. A network of rail "Travelling Post Offices" traverse the major routes of the network overnight. Mail to and from London, Dover (for the Continent), the West, Wales, the North and Scotland is carried and sorted on the train and dropped off en route. The Royal Mail is also carried in bags on many ordinary passenger or parcels trains during the day. Urgent messages may be sent by telegram from the post office in East Grinstead. A telegram message would be delivered to you, after receipt at the post office, by a GPO motor-cyclist.

British Railways were actively recruiting during 1952 (the advert above is from a popular magazine during that year). The railways were seen as a secure job - a job for life - but things were changing........


The day before closure

This view of the station looking in the "down" (away from London) direction was taken by Denis Cullum on 27th. May, 1955 - the day prior to closure. Note the concrete milepost (15 miles - measured from Culver Junction) and the short piece of vertical rail at the end of the platform fence. This was painted with red and white stripes and denoted the boundary point between permanent way gang's responsibilities. A siding did once exist between the two seen here and there was an end-loading facility on the end of the goods dock. This probably existed during WW2 to assist with the unloading of tanks or other tracked vehicles, which were stored prior to "D-Day" in the woods off the road uphill from the station.


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© Content copyright Roger Barton and Martin Skrzetuszewski.
Created 9 January 2008 by Nick Beck, and last updated 2 August 2013.
Photographs from the Bluebell Archive.
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