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Listed Building
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Ordnance survey map of HEIGHINGTON SIGNAL BOX
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County Durham (Unitary Authority)
Great Aycliffe
National Grid Reference:
NZ 27111 22536



1029/0/10005 HEIGHINGTON LANE 23-APR-07 Heighington Signal Box

GV II Signal box. Opened 1872, lever frame replaced 1906, extended circa 1912. Designed for the North Eastern Railway Central Division, possibly by Thomas Prosser, then the company's architect. Follows the earliest standard design for the Central Division, termed the Type C1 by the Signalling Study Group. Two storey in red brick laid to English Garden Wall bond with the first floor stepped in with two courses of plinth bricks. The gabled Welsh slate roof has its ridge parallel to the track.

Trackside (Front) Elevation Continuously glazed at first floor level, divided slightly irregularly with timber mullions and subdivided with regular, narrow glazing bars. The lowest of the three runs of panes is blind. The far left window is a horizontal sliding sash, each sash being 3x3. The windows sit on a plain stone string course that encircles the building. The trackside elevation on the ground floor is plain brickwork. About 1.5m in from the left gable there is an intermittent vertical run of queen closer bricks which marks where the signal box was extended.

Left Gable Stair and external first floor porch, both in timber, the porch with a 2x2 window. Glazing in a similar style to the trackside elevation, extends from this front elevation to the porch. The roof overhangs on flying moulded rafters supported by the exposed ends of the purlins and wall plates. The purlin ends are embellished.

Right Gable The right gable is similar to the left gable without the stair, but has a doorway and slit window on the ground floor, both with plain stone lintels.

Rear Elevation Rear wall includes a stack that is slightly offset to the left of centre. The very top of the stack has been rebuilt. There is a horizontal sliding sash at the left end of the first floor of a similar design to the trackside glazing. Below there is a 2x3 slit window under a plain stone lintel. At the right end at first floor there is a window without glazing bars which is presumed to be a modern replacement.

Interior This includes an 11 lever frame by McKenzie and Holland, Worcester, installed in 1906. At the time of the inspection this lever frame was still operational.

History Heighington, opened in 1872, dates to the initial phase in the development of signal boxes (the late 1860s -1870s) and follows the earliest standard design produced by the Central Division of the North Eastern Railway, under the direction of the NER architect Thomas Prosser, a design now known as the Type C1. The lever frame inside the signal box is thought to date to 1906 and was shortened to the current 11 levers by 1987. The extension to the box is believed to have occurred in circa 1912 to accommodate signalling controls for a new electrified line serving Newton Aycliffe station.

The signal box has additional group value with the former railway station across the line and level crossing. The NER Central Division developed out of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, and it was at Heighington that George Stephenson's Locomotion No.1 was first put on the rails to haul the world's first passenger service in 1825. The station buildings, originally known as Aycliffe Lane, date to 1826-27 and were originally designed to include a public house to act as a waiting room. These buildings survive complete with the associated low platform, and although they no longer form the station, still continue in their other original use as a public house.

Summary of Importance Heighington signal box is one of the earliest surviving signal boxes in the country, at most four are thought to pre-date it in Britain. It follows the earliest standard design of the Central Division of the North Eastern Railway (which developed out of the Stockton and Darlington Railway), featuring a ridgeline that was parallel to the track to allow easy future extension. This approach was widely adopted nationally and Heighington, which was almost seamlessly extended in circa 1912, is a good illustration of the merits of the design. The signal box is well preserved and retains an increasingly rare pre-First World War lever frame.

The signal box is listable in its own right but has additional group value with the listed former railway station buildings, dating to 1826, that lie immediately across the track. In addition Heighington has special historic interest as it was here in 1825 that George Stephenson's Locomotion No.1 was first put on the track of the Stockton and Darlington Railway to inaugurate the world's first passenger service.

Thus Heighington Signal Box, being an early well preserved example, fully meets the criteria for Listing in Grade II.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

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