Railway signal boxes granted Grade II listed status

Bury St Edmunds Yard, Edmundsbur​y, Suffolk Built in 1888, the Bury St Edmunds Yard signal required four resident signal men to work the levers
Skegness, East Lindsey, Lincolnshire The Skegness signal box in East Lindsey was at the end of the Poacher line which ran from Nottingham
Hebden Bridge, Calderdale​, West Yorks Hebden Bridge signal box was fitted with 36 levers and is one of only a handful of Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway boxes to survive
Totnes signal box The decommissioned signal box in Totnes, Devon, has been converted into a cafe
Downham Market, Kings Lynn and West Norfolk The Downham Market signal box in Norfolk has been well preserved with wood blocks cut to resemble stone
Grain Crossing, Medway, Kent The Grain Crossing signal box in Medway, Kent was responsible for the diverging lines on the approach to the now disused Port Victoria

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Twenty-six of the "rarest" signal boxes in England have been granted Grade II listed status by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said interest in trains and railways was one of the country's "most endearing and enduring national preoccupations".

The joint venture, between English Heritage and Network Rail, is part of a 30-year plan to modernise the railways.

A number of mechanical boxes are being replaced by regional operating centres.

"These are very special buildings, at one time a familiar sight on our railway system," said English Heritage's senior investigator John Minnis.

The preservation of 26 "highly distinctive" signal boxes would provide a "window into how railways were operated in the past," he added.

David Sillito visits a signal box in Norfolk

Hebden Bridge signal box, which was built in 1891, will be preserved as it has a "time warp quality" and has retained its original 1914 signage.

English Heritage said some of the listed buildings could be "rejuvenated" as cafes or museums, such as the 1923 signal box in Totnes, Devon.

In the 1940s there were more than 10,000 signal boxes in the UK. Now fewer than 500 mechanical signal boxes are still in use, according to Network Rail.

The "difficult and expensive" operating buildings limit the "potential of the rail network", it said.

Network Rail said modernisation plans were aimed at improving railway technology so there are fewer delays and higher capacity.

Signal platforms were first introduced in the 1840s, but British engineer John Saxby first created a building housing levers in 1857.

They were designed by private contractors and railway companies, such as Great Western Railway, leading to a huge variety of designs.

The new designations are as follows:


  • Hebden Bridge, Calderdale, West Yorkshire
  • Hensall, Selby, North Yorkshire


  • Bournemouth West Junction, Poole, Dorset
  • Lostwithiel, Restormel, Cornwall
  • Marsh Brook, Shropshire
  • Par, Restormel, Cornwall
  • Totnes, S Hams, Devon


  • Brundall, Broadland, Norfolk
  • Bury St Edmunds Yard, St Edmundsbury, Suffolk
  • Downham Market, Kings Lynn and West Norfolk, Norfolk
  • Skegness, East Lindsey, Lincolnshire
  • Thetford, Breckland, Norfolk
  • Wainfleet, East Lindsey, Lincolnshire
  • Wymondham South Junction, South Norfolk, Norfolk


  • Aylesford, Tonbridge and Malling, Kent
  • Canterbury East, Kent
  • Cuxton, Medway, Kent
  • Eastbourne, East Sussex
  • Grain Crossing, Medway, Kent
  • Littlehampton, West Sussex
  • Liverpool Street, City of London
  • Maidstone West, Maidstone, Kent
  • Rye, Rother, East Sussex
  • Shepherdswell, Dover, Kent
  • Snodland, Tonbridge and Malling, Kent
  • Wateringbury, Maidstone, Kent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    This sounds nice but why are so many of the signal boxes situated in the southern half of the country, specifically Kent and Norfolk? Are there no signal boxes 'up North' worth saving? Wouldn't it be rather strange to travel most of the country and not see one box, then head into Kent and suddenly be inundated with them? Strange.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    I was really glad to see this. As I understand it, until very recently Victorian heritage wasn't valued this way. This year our (Beeching axed) station was listed. We have at least the outside of everything (station house, waiting room, goods shed) BUT not the signal box (which was sadly a victim of arson).

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    I have to say nearly all the railway legacy is destroyed. It has an odd characteristic in that people don't seem to realise how much they love it until it's actually gone. A famous line, the Somerset and Dorset at Highbridge and Burnham-On-Sea, (I used to live there, features in Betjemen's documentary) has not only vanished, but the mark it should have left on the town architecture is also gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Very pleased to hear of this positive outcome. It will teach our children the historical significance of our railway heritage. Over the years many of the signalboxes have found their way onto our preserved heritage steam railways. It nice to see them saved for future generations to enjoy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Listing a building does not ensure it gets looked after. When Woking signalbox - an Art Deco style brick structure which has a preservation order on it - was replaced, Railtrack (as it was then) simply locked the door, put an "Asbestos" warning on it, and walked away. Nobody has been in their since.


Comments 5 of 8


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