Former booking office to the original Watford Railway Station, built in 1837 for the London and Birmingham Railway. It was designed by George Aitchison Senior and constructed by William Starie of London. The station closed in 1858 and the booking office was subsequently remodelled and extended, probably as a residential dwelling. Now (2017) used as an office. The interior is of lesser interest.
Reasons for Designation
The former booking office at Watford Station, built in 1837 by Robert Aitchison Snr for the London and Birmingham Railway, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Despite alteration to the 1837 building and the loss of some original fabric, the surviving booking office has a strong neoclassical domestic style which reflects Robert Stephenson’s vision for constructing a line which was engineered to picturesque principles;
* Opened in 1837, it forms part of the pioneering first-phases of railway development in England;
* The building has a strong functional and historic relationship with the Grade II-listed south entrance to Watford Tunnel (1837), which stands 1.3km to the north-west.
The London and Birmingham Railway was authorised by an Act of Parliament in May 1833, with construction beginning six months later. The engineering of the railway was entrusted to Robert Stephenson (1803-1859), who was already known for his work with his father, George Stephenson, on the Stockton and Darlington Railway (1823-1825) and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (1829-1830), along with several minor lines. The first section of the 112½ mile long line to be completed, from Euston Station in London to Boxmoor in Hertfordshire, opened on 20 July 1837, and thereafter openings followed in three phases culminating with the completion of the whole route on 17 September 1838. Surviving today as the southern section of the West Coast Main Line, the railway is acknowledged as one of the first intercity lines in the world, and the first railway to be built into London.
Along with the terminus stations of London Euston and Birmingham Curzon Street, the railway opened with 16 intermediate stations which fell in two classes, first and second, with the distinction being that ‘first-class trains’ (comprising just first-class accommodation) and mail trains stopped only at the first-class stations, while ‘mixed trains’ stopped at every station. The small market town of Watford was equipped with a first-class station. However, as the most direct route for the line would have been through the grounds of Cassiobury House (built in 1546 and demolished in 1927) and the Grove (built around 1720 and now a hotel), which was not popular with their respective owners, the Earls of Essex and Clarendon, the line swept in a quarter circle around the town, with the station being built on the north side of St Albans Road. It was constructed in 1837, between March and May, to the designs of George Aitchison Snr (1792-1861), as were the other intermediate stations, with William Starie of London as the builder. A contemporary plan of the station shows that the booking office had a square plan while the waiting rooms to the rear trackside were accommodated in a rectangular block. Two flights of steps led down to the trackside, though the station was not equipped with platforms when it opened.
A description of the station was published in the ‘Bucks Herald’ on 7 September 1839. It states that it was 'fitted up with a booking-office, passengers room, ladies’ waiting rooms (elegantly furnished), inspector’s-room, porters’ room, stationary engine-house, with an engine of four-horse power, used to throw up water into the tank above for supplying the locomotive engines (on their requiring it) on their arrival at the station; a repairing-house [engine house], fitted up with furnaces, lathes, and all necessaries for that department'. By December 1839, as described in the ‘Railway Times’, a large inn known as the Clarendon Arms had been built above the waiting room block. Its rear elevation is illustrated on an undated sketch of the station, along with a platform on the east side of the track and a footbridge (probably connecting the station to a second platform on the west side).
The station was used by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on a trip to visit the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, in November 1843, when they travelled by road from Windsor Castle to take a train from Watford to his home in Tamworth. It was also used on a number of occasions by Queen Adelaide, the widow of William IV, when she was resident at Cassiobury House during the 1840s. It was remodelled to provide her with a royal waiting room.
In May 1858 the station was closed and replaced by a new station, renamed Watford Junction, some 200m down the line at its junction with the new branch line to St Albans. The original station site was subsequently redeveloped to accommodate the laying out of a third line through the town in 1859. This included the demolition of the waiting room block and Clarendon Arms along with the platforms and footbridge. The booking office, however, was remodelled and extended, probably as domestic accommodation, to form a rectangular plan structure. A new engine house (now demolished) was also rebuilt to replace the original building.
Very little is known about the buildings post-railway history other than it being occupied as a dwelling house by William and Rose Messenger from around 1930 to around 1980. In the 1980s it was converted to office accommodation for a used car dealership.
Former booking office to the original Watford Railway Station, built in 1837 for the London and Birmingham Railway. It was designed by George Aitchison Senior and constructed by William Starie of London. The station closed in 1858 and the booking office was subsequently remodelled and extended, probably as a residential dwelling. Now (2017) used as an office.
MATERIALS: of Flemish bond brick with brick stacks and a slate roof.
PLAN: the building stands on a north-west to south-east alignment and has a rectangular plan. A boundary wall runs south-east from the left-hand return to St Albans Road. Adjoining the west side of the wall is a lean-to privy house.
EXTERIOR: the building is of single-storey and comprises a three-bay main range with an outshut adjoining the south-east gable end. All the window and door openings have gauged skewback arches with cambered soffits while the windows have stone lintels. The windows to the rear elevation are all early-C21 replacements.
The building's principal elevation faces north-east and is divided into three symmetrical bays. The right-hand bay is of original brown brick while the remaining two bays and the outshut are all of later-C19 purple/brown brick. The centre bay has a four-panelled door with ovolo-moulded fillets and rectangular fanlight. It is flanked to the right by a six-over-one unhorned sash and to the left by a six-over-six unhorned sash. Both have painted reveals. Above is a cement rendered parapet which is carried round to the gable ends to form a minimal pediment. The gabled north-west elevation and the north-east face of the outshut are both blind. To the roof there are four later-C19 stacks of purple/brown brick with terracotta pots.
The rear elevation faces south-west across the West Coast Main Line railway and is also of three symmetrical bays. The left-hand bay and centre bay are both of original brown brick while the right-hand bay is of later-C19 purple/brown brick. The centre bay has a narrow, four-over-four unhorned sash while the two flanking bays contain six-over-six unhorned sashes. Above is a cement rendered parapet. The outshut also has a single six-over-six unhorned sash.
INTERIOR: the interior is of lesser interest and unless otherwise stated all the fixtures and fittings date from the later-C19 remodelling of the building.
Situated behind the entrance door is a small vestibule with a late-C20 glazed door. From here a short corridor runs across the depth of the building on a north-east to south-west alignment. It has two rooms off to each side of which the ground level on the south-east side is slightly raised. At the west end of the corridor is a small toilet of C20 date. All but the north-east corner room, where the door has been removed, are accessed through four-panelled doors with moulded architraves. The rooms all retain plain skirting boards, late-C20 suspended ceilings and, with the exception of the south-east corner room, plain, wooden fire surrounds to blocked fireplaces. In the north-east corner room there are in-built cupboards with panelled doors on either side of the north wall fireplace while its east-facing sash window has a deep reveal with hinged and panelled shutters set within a moulded architrave. The north-west corner room has a moulded picture rail running round the north, east and west sides whereas the plaster ceiling, plywood floor and window joinery all date from the early-C21. The window joinery in the south-west corner room also dates from the early-C21. In the south-east corner room there is a deep window reveal with hinged and panelled shutters and a moulded architrave. Situated beneath the window sill is a cupboard with panelled doors. At the centre of the south wall there is a mid-C20 tiled fireplace with a late-C20 gas fire. To the right-hand side of the fireplace is a four-panelled door providing access to the outshut. This has an encaustic tiled floor and is fitted out with late-C20 kitchen units.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: adjoining the left-hand side of the outshut is a later-C19 boundary wall which runs for a distance of 7.4m in a north-west to south-east alignment to St Albans Road. It is of Flemish bond brick with a braced and ledged door beneath a cambered head at the right-hand side.
The privy house built against the rear (south-west) side of the wall is not of special interest.