Brandon Railway Station
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Statutory Address:
- Mundford Road, Brandon, Norfolk, IP27 0BA
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- Statutory Address:
- Mundford Road, Brandon, Norfolk, IP27 0BA
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Breckland (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
Railway station, built between 1844 and 1845 to designs attributed to John Thomas; extended in the 1870s and 1880s.
Reasons for Designation
Brandon railway station, built between 1844 and 1845 to designs attributed to John Thomas, and extended in the 1870s and 1880s, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
Architectural interest: * for its attribution to John Thomas, a prolific architectural sculptor and architect, who has a number of listed sculptures, memorials, and buildings to his name, many of which are listed at high grades; * for its quality craftsmanship and materials, which directly relate to the vernacular architectural traditions of the area and Brandon in particular, which is rich in the quarrying and workmanship of knapped flint; * for the survival of the majority of the original plan form, which remains clearly legible despite minor alterations in the late C20.
Historic interest: * the connection of the Norwich and Brandon Line and Eastern Counties Railway Line at Brandon in 1845 was a pivotal moment in regional railway and communications history, allowing Yarmouth and Norwich to be connected through to London by rail for the first time; * for the historic relationship Brandon Station holds with the other four principal stations of Norfolk’s Norwich to Brandon Line; Trowse, Wymondham, Attleborough, and Thetford.
The Norwich and Brandon Railway Act received Royal Assent in May 1844, authorising the construction of 37 and half miles of railway between Norwich and Brandon. The line was engineered by George Parker Bidder (1806-1878), and the contractors were Thomas Grissell (1801-1874) and Sir Samuel Morton Peto (1809-1889), cousins. Bidder, Grisell and Peto had recently worked with engineer Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) on the construction of the Yarmouth and Norwich Railway, which was authorised in June 1842, formally opened in May 1844, and amalgamated with the Norwich and Brandon Railway in June 1845 as the Norfolk Railway, running 58 miles in length. At the same time as the Norwich to Brandon line was being constructed, Stephenson, Bidder and Peto were also pressing forward with the Eastern Counties Railway, a line from Brandon via Ely and Cambridge to Newport in Essex, allowing traffic from Yarmouth and Norwich to be connected through to London.
The Norwich and Brandon line and the connection with the Eastern Counties Railway through Ely and Cambridge to Newport, was opened to the public on 30 July 1845. This historic occasion was widely reported in the press, including an article in the Illustrated London News on 02 August 1845, which described the building as ‘built of flint, edged with greystone and brick of the same colour; the style of architecture is Elizabethan and the appearance is particularly neat … At Thetford the station is built in the same style, and with similar materials’. The article was accompanied by lithograph drawings of Brandon and Thetford stations. A contemporary article in the Norfolk News reported: ‘The often talked of and long looked for communication by Railway, between London and Norwich is at length a reality. This very important undertaking has been successfully completed by the united instrumentality of the Eastern Counties Railways and the Norfolk Railway and it is now our pleasing duty to place on record the celebration of that important event.’ The Stamford Mercury on 08 August 1845 declared that the opening of the Eastern Counties and Norwich and Brandon lines was ‘an epoch in the railway history of this country’. All five principal stations on this line (Trowse, Wymondham, Attleborough, Thetford and Brandon) were crafted of knapped flint, and constructed by Thomas and William Piper, builders of Bishopsgate, London (all are listed at Grade II with the exception of Trowse).
The station building was extended in the 1870s and 1880s, with the addition of a first floor to the single-bay section at the east end of the building, presumably accommodating a station master’s house, and addition of a two-bay single-storey section at the west end of the building. Brandon prospered throughout the second half of the C19 and early C20, the railway facilitating swift transport of gun flints for the British Army, and rabbit meat and furs to London, until rabbit farming was decimated by myxomatosis in the mid-C20. Brandon station served important military and communications functions during the Second World War (1939-1945), and was visited by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1941, as part of a visit to East Anglia to inspect military installations, accompanied by the Duke of Gloucester and the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Forces. From 1942, Brandon was used intensively as the main station for the American Air Force based at nearby RAF Lakenheath, which for a time had its own station on a branch line from Brandon. Brandon station was closed to goods traffic in 1966, and became an unstaffed halt in 1967. The north elevation of the station building can be clearly noted in an episode of Dad’s Army (Series 4, Episode 1, ‘The Big Parade’), which aired on 25 September 1970. The cantilevered canopy over the platform was partially removed in the mid-C20, and the remainder removed in the 1980s. The building was most recently utilised as commercial offices, and has stood vacant since 2004.
The design of Brandon station building is attributed to John Thomas (1813-1862), an architectural sculptor, ornament mason and architect. Left an orphan at the age of thirteen, Thomas was apprenticed as a stonemason and was chiefly engaged in the stone-carving and the lettering of gravestones. At the end of his apprenticeship, about 1831, he joined his much older architect brother, William, in Birmingham, and from his office he designed and executed a gothic monument in Huntingdon. This caught the attention of Sir Charles Barry who engaged him to execute the Pugin-designed stone-carving of the Edward VI Grammar School in Birmingham. In the later 1830s he worked chiefly as a stone-carver for Edward Blore and for the North Midland Railway, but in 1841 Barry again sought him out for the Palace of Westminster where he was appointed Superintendent of stone-carving in 1846. Royal patronage followed in 1848 with the commission from Prince Albert for large bas reliefs of 'Peace' and 'War' at Buckingham Palace, followed by further work at Windsor, and a sculptural programme for the Sultan's Palace at Constantinople. Thomas has many listed statues and memorials to his name, and contributed sculpture to many highly-graded listed buildings, including monumental lions for Robert Stephenson's Britannia Railway Bridge across the Menai Strait (1846-1850, Grade II), the Atlas Fountain at Castle Howard (1850, Grade I), Leeds Town Hall (1853-1858, Grade I), and Prince Albert’s Dairy at Windsor (1858, Grade II*).
In parallel with his sculpture, Thomas successfully practised as an architect designing a number of buildings in the 1840s and 50s, including a number of lavish country residences for wealthy engineers, developers and business men. Amongst his works are a collection of buildings at Somerleyton in Suffolk for the aforementioned Sir Samuel Morton Peto, a successful and wealthy civil engineer, developer and MP. There his work included the rebuilding of Somerleyton Hall (begun in 1844, Grade II*), and addition of a number of estate and village buildings, including a stable court (Grade II*), parish church (Grade II*), and picturesque estate cottages around the village green (all Grade II). Peto also commissioned Thomas to help with his design of a new coastal resort at Lowestoft, where he is credited with the design of the Marine Parade, Esplanade, a pair of statues of Triton (1849, both Grade II), and the Royal Hotel (1849, demolished in the late C20). Elsewhere, Thomas was commissioned with the rebuilding of Preston Hall and its gardens at Aylesford in Kent for civil engineer and railway developer Edward Betts (1850, Grade II), and Headington Hill Hall, Oxford for James Morrell, a local brewer (1856-1858, Grade II*). Thomas died in London in 1862, his health reputedly undermined by difficulties with the Shakespeare memorial at the International Exhibition of that year.
Railway station, built between 1844 and 1845 to designs attributed to John Thomas, and extended in the 1870s and 1880s.
MATERIALS: the roof covering is of Welsh slate, and the walls are constructed of roughly-coursed knapped flint, with grey-yellow gault brick dressings, and courses of brickwork and stone coping to the parapets.
PLAN: the single-storey building runs on an east-west axis, and is arranged in a somewhat symmetrical plan of five sections, each section stepping back from the central entrance of the former booking hall. A first floor was added to the easternmost section of the building in the 1870s or 1880s.
EXTERIOR: The station building is generally single-storey in height, with a two-storey domestic block at the east end of the building. It is arranged in five sections, with a pitched slate roof to each section, descending marginally in height as the building extends east and west from a central booking hall. There are six plain rectangular chimney stacks on the ridge line, all but one sitting on a parapet over a dividing wall. The north elevation to the car park and south elevation to the platform each have a somewhat symmetrical elevation arranged in five sections, with each section stepping back by approximately 0.5m from a central entrance bay. The elevations are constructed of roughly-coursed knapped flint with grey-yellow gault brick dressings, and courses of gault brick and stone coping to the parapets (some replaced by red brick). The entrance bay of the north elevation has a pronounced gabled parapet with kneelers, containing a pointed arch window over a lean-to canopy (the covering of which has been replaced by corrugated sheeting), supported by cast-iron brackets on moulded corbels. The entrance bays of the north and south elevations each have a central two-leaf three-panelled door flanked by a tall, narrow sash window on each side, stepping back to a wider six-over-six pane sash window on each side. The three-bay sections to the east and west of the central booking hall step back by approximately 0.5m and each contain three windows (boarded over but containing four-over-four pane sash windows). The eastern section has an inserted doorway on its north elevation (presumably inserted in the 1870s or 1880s when the station master's accommodation was extended) with a flush-panelled door and a rectangular overlight. At the east end of the building, the former single-storey bay was extended in the 1870s or 1880s with the addition of a first floor, presumably as station master’s accommodation. The extension is of random-coursed knapped flint, with courses of gault brick to the first floor over the platform. The east gable has a dentilled brick cornice to the eaves, two central horned sash windows and a stair window to the first floor, and three central sash windows to the ground floor, the central window of which is wider. A former door opening to the platform appears to have been blocked in the late C19, possibly for the privacy of the station master. A single-storey yellow brick extension with a pitched slate roof was added to the north elevation of the station master’s house in the late C19 or early C20. Along the platform elevation, a cantilevered and corniced canopy, projecting at its centre, originally hung from the three central sections and eastern section, however this was removed in the mid-C20 and 1980s, and its cavity infilled with red Fletton brick. A two-bay section was added to the west end of the building in the 1870s or 1880s, and is accessed via a door from the platform (door replaced). Also constructed of random-coursed knapped flint with gault brick dressings, its west gable features a chimney stack with three offsets.
INTERIOR: Access to the interior was limited in July 2020, due to the poor condition of the roof and floor structures, and this description has been informed by photographs provided by the owner, and a plan of the building drawn in 2014. The original plan form appears to survive relatively intact, with a former booking hall in the central section, which retains timber panelling, certainly along its west wall (July 2020). The east side of the former booking hall has been partitioned to create an office and a corridor, which runs east along the north wall and into the east section, which contains two rooms with fire openings (fireplaces removed). The single-bay section at the east end of the building contains a single room on the ground floor, the fireplace of which has been removed. A door opening on the north wall provides access into a single-storey annex, presumably a former kitchen (not accessed in July 2020). A stair rises along the north wall to first floor accommodation, which was added in the 1870s or 1880s (not accessed in July 2020). It is understood that the section west of the former booking hall also contains two rooms, however this was not accessed in July 2020 for safety reasons. The westernmost section of the building, built in the 1870s or 1880s, is accessed from the platform, and retains a plain late-C19 fireplace on its west wall.
Books and journals
Fell, Mike G, 'Brandon Station' in Back Track, , Vol. 34, No.8, (August 2020), 454-460
'Brandon, Norfolk' in The Great Eastern Railway Society Journal, , Vol. 87, (July 1996), 35
'The Eastern Counties Railway - Opening of the Line to Cambridge and Ely' in Illustrated London News, (02 August 1845), 73-77
Dad's Army, 'The Big Parade', Season 4, Episode 1, aired 25 September 1970, accessed 14 August 2020 from https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5rrhwr
Dictionary of Scottish Architects, ‘John Thomas’, accessed 02 July 2020 from http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=207846
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 'John Thomas (1813–1862)', updated 28 May 2015. Matthew, H.C.G., Harrison, B. and Goldman, L. eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2014), p.2004, accessed 08 July 2020 from https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/27225
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
End of official listing