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History of Kingscote Station
– Station Staff

We are fortunate to be able to share with you some views and memories from the early 1920s of Kingscote station. This page features some of the staff who worked at the station during the period, while historic views of the station and its environs are on this separate page.

Our collection of photographs are copies of those taken by Leonard (Len) Mead, son of the Kingscote Stationmaster at the time. Len developed and printed these photographs in a makeshift darkroom in the cupboard under the stairs of the station house. He visited the station with his sister during its restoration in 1987 and continued to visit until his deat h in 1993. His ashes lie under an apple tree planted in his memory in the station garden.

Len is shown here at Kingscote in a contemporary view. As he scratched his name across the back of the negative, the photo was printed in reverse. He is, in reality, standing at the south end of the up platform, with the up home signal and the chimneys of the railway cottages in the background.

Len Mead

William George May Mead

The Stationmaster

William George May Mead (Len's father) moved to Kingscote from Hever in 1915. He had started in the signal box at Clapham Junction and moved on to Victoria where he became Chief Clerk. He first became station master at Wivelsfield and his next post was at Hever. After his tenure at Kingscote, Mr Mead went on to Emsworth (near Portsmouth) and finished his career at the Parcels Office at Brighton.

A Stationmaster was a man worthy of respect in the community, expected to set an example to passengers and staff. He therefore wears full uniform. Note the heavy boots worn even by the Stationmaster and the chain for a pocket watch. In the 1920s wristwatches were rare and expensive, and unsuitable in manual industries such as railways. The informality possible at a quiet station like Kingscote is perhaps shown by the cigarette Mr Mead has not quite hidden in his hand while he has his photograph taken.

Mr Mead was the last Stationmaster, since when he moved on in 1926 Kingscote came under the control East Grinstead, an early foretaste of future economies.

The Booking Clerk

Charlie Browning stands by the Station porch at Kingscote. The stained glass panels and carved pilasters did not stand up well to the Sussex weather and were replaced by wooden boarding at all stations on the line. Clerks were not issued with a uniform. Charlie had started at West Hoathly but, according to Len, had not 'settled down' there. Stationmaster Mead saved the situation by having him moved to Kingscote under closer supervision. Charlie stayed on the railway until his retirement circa 1970 from his position as Assistant Chief Clerk in the booking office at Brighton.

Charlie Browning

Charlie Browning

Charlie Browning is shown in this view, captioned by Len as a "learner clerk". He is doubtless wearing what the smart young man of the 1920's was wearing at the time! We originally believed the location to be at the south end of the up platform, but now (due to the presence of the large plant pot and the return in the fence) we consider that it is outside the entrance to the station house.

Alfred Hillman latest

Alfred James Hillman, Porter–Signalman

Alfred lodged with the Mead family in the station house; his own family (father, James and mother, Nellie) lived at 13 Highlands, Cuckfield. Families frequently took in a paying lodger who was often treated, as Alfred was, like one of the family. Alfred (born 1899) befriended the younger Len Mead (born 1900) and appears in two further photographs.

Porter Signalman was a job common at small stations when the infrequent train service did not warrant either a full-time signalman or a porter. It was a stepping-stone between the general labouring duties of a porter and the more responsible position of full-time signalman at a busier station. Alfred later moved on to become signalman at Arundel Junction.

Alfred wears the regulation 'sleeved waistcoat' supplied to railway staff until the 1970s. He carries a paraffin-lit handlamp which was used to give signals to a guard or driver at night; it could show white, red or green by turning the top to bring coloured glass between the flame and the lens. He is standing in front of the door to the Porters' Room Room. The section of tree trunk at the left was for chopping kindling wood on. The rag hanging on the nail was to wipe one's hands on, as there was no running water in the Porters' Room – water having to be brought from the pumphouse in a bucket or churn.

The photo below left shows Alfred on the steps of Kingscote signalbox at the northern end of platform two. The sawmill and its rail connections can be seen in the background.

Below right, Alfred proudly displays his First World War medal ribbons. One is the the British War Medal 1914–1918 (the campaign medal); another is the Allied Victory Medal, while the third is the Military Medal (a gallantry medal), awarded to him in 1918 for 'Bravery in the Field' during his service on the Western Front in France or Belgium in the 6th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment. He had been conscripted on 26th November 1917 (conscription having been introduced in 1916) and was discharged on 16th March 1919. Conscripts were often sent to regiments with little apparent connection with their home.

Len Mead told us that the Military Medal was awarded for Alfred's actions in covering a retreat by firing his Lewis (machine) gun until the ammunition was used up and only then 'running like hell' after his comrades! The photograph was taken only a few years after the end of what was then called the 'Great War' – in which nearly 750,000 young British men had died and many more been maimed, gassed or mentally injured by 'shell shock'.

Note Alfred's 'LB&SCR Porter' cap badge, with number to identify the member of staff.

Alfred Hillman Alfred Hillman

William Parker, Porter–Signalman

William was another Porter Signalman like Alfred Hillman. Len described him as 'a bit religious'. Born in 1886, he started his railway career in 1910 at Barnham Junction, moving to Kingscote five years later. He originally lived in one of the pair of station cottages (located in the lane just south of the station) but moved into the station house when Stationmaster Mead and his family moved away in 1926. He soon also took on the duties of booking clerk as the station's trade no longer justified a separate clerk. William Parker retired in October 1951, after 36 years in the same job at the same location.

William Parker

William Thorpe

William Thorpe, Porter–Signalman

William (Bill) Thorpe was a Porter Signalman (according to Len's caption) "in the last few years at Kingscote". We know very little about him, except that he moved on to Angmering station as a Signalman and was known to be there between 1947 and 1960. Bill is shown, probably once again outside the entrance to the station house, wearing the contemporary uniform of the Southern Railway.

If you know of any further information on the railway career of Bill Thorpe, or any of the other staff shown in these photographs, we would be pleased to learn it.

The Ganger

'Pedlar' Miles was the 'Ganger' responsible for the 'gang' of men who maintained the track at Kingscote and for a mile or two either side. Short in stature, his stride was not long enough to comfortably step from one sleeper to the next when walking his 'length' of track each morning. His solution was to walk on the top of the rail with a stick to balance him. He lived in the other railway cottage at Kingscote, next to William Parker. He is shown standing in front of the door to the station coal store.

'Pedlar' Miles

Son of the Stationmaster at Dormans station

The Odd Shot

Len's caption for this view reads: "The picture just shows the end of the Goods Shed. The man in the photo was the (6ft 4ins tall) son of the Stationmaster at Dormans station. Just a pal of mine." We do not know the name of the man, but 6ft 4ins was extremely tall for the 1920s. If you know of any further information on him, we would be pleased to learn it. Other items of note in this view are the end of the original signalbox and the roses trailing through the paling fence of the up platform.

The history of Kingscote station continues on this page.

© Copyright Roger Barton and Martin Skrzetuszewski, September 2004.

With thanks for past assistance from Klaus Marx and Robin White.

Recommended reading:
An Illustrated History of the Lewes & East Grinstead Railway by Klaus Marx, published by Oxford Publishing Company, 2000 (ISBN 0860935477) contains ten pages of text on and photographs of Kingscote station.

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