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Pulborough Signal Box

A Grade II Listed Building in Pulborough, West Sussex

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Latitude: 50.9586 / 50°57'30"N

Longitude: -0.5155 / 0°30'55"W

OS Eastings: 504353

OS Northings: 118732

OS Grid: TQ043187

Mapcode National: GBR GJ7.VWD

Mapcode Global: FRA 96TK.T4W

Plus Code: 9C2XXF5M+CQ

Entry Name: Pulborough Signal Box

Listing Date: 15 August 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1413381

Location: Pulborough, Horsham, West Sussex, RH20

County: West Sussex

Civil Parish: Pulborough

Built-Up Area: West Chiltington Common

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Pulborough St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Chichester

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Signal box of Saxby & Farmer Type 5 design, built 1878 for the London Brighton & South Coast Railway, situated at the northern end of Pulborough Station. Some later alterations.


MATERIALS: yellow brick piers with red brick panels, timber framed windows. Hipped slate roof with overhanging eaves supported on timber brackets. Glazed timber porch with felt clad mono-pitch roof, approached by timber stairs.

PLAN: rectangular-plan (two bays long by a single bay wide) two-storey structure.

EXTERIOR: tall ground-floor locking-room with red brick recessed panels between yellow brick piers. Each of the two panels in the main elevation (south-east wall) have a central three-course horizontal yellow brick band that rises over a four-pane round-headed timber-framed window to form a rubbed brick round arch with a projecting keystone. The rear two-storey brick elevation has a central yellow brick chimney stack flanked to either side by plain red brick panels to the ground and first floors. The end walls have plain red panels and the locking room is entered by a door in the south-west elevation with a flat concrete lintel. The operations room is reached by a two-flight timber stair with an extended timber landing carried on cast-iron London Brighton & South Coast Railway brackets produced by Taylor Brothers of Sandacre. The landing is occupied by a secondary glazed, timber-framed and weather-boarded porch. The first-floor operations room is timber-framed, with the original four-pane rounded-corner sliding Yorkshire windows extant in the two end elevations. The six sliding four-pane windows to the main elevation are modern timber replacements; nevertheless the original distinctive rounded-end toplights remain extant, albeit painted over. Similar toplights exist in the end walls, although those in the south-west elevation are obscured by the porch. The hipped slate clad roof with dark grey ridge tiles has a galvanized steel ventilator set centrally in the ridge. The overhanging eaves have timber plank soffits and are carried on distinctive timber brackets with cuboid stops.

INTERIOR: the operations room is entered from the porch through the original four-panel timber door, with the top two panels glazed. The room is equipped with a secondary 1905-pattern London Brighton & South Coast Railway lever frame, with slots for twenty-nine levers; however, only twenty-five are occupied by levers. The present lever frame faces the rear of the operation room, whereas the original faced to the front, similar to that at Berwick Signal Box (East Sussex), and a fireplace (now blocked) was set centrally in the back wall. The blockshelf survives with working late-C19 ‘up’ and ‘down’ block instruments and gongs, together with block indicator dials. These are supplemented by a 1980s period track circuit diagram and modern computers. Two British Railway (S) signal cable tensioning wheels remain in situ and a suspended fibreboard ceiling has been inserted.

The locking room houses signal cable pulleys, the mechanical locking-frame trays and modern electrical relay locking, together with a range of electronic signalling relays, some of Southern Railway manufacture, pre-dating nationalisation, and wall mounted transformer boxes manufactured by W.R. Sykes and Co. Ltd., Clapham, London.


From the 1840s, huts or cabins were provided for men operating railway signals. These were often located on raised platforms containing levels to operate the signals and in the early 1860s, the fully glazed signal box, initially raised high on stilts to give a good view down the line, emerged. The interlocking of signals and points, perhaps the most important single advance in rail safety, patented by John Saxby in 1856, was the final step in the evolution of railway signalling into a form recognisable today. Signal boxes were built to a great variety of different designs and sizes to meet traffic needs by signalling contractors and the railway companies themselves.

Signal box numbers peaked at around 12,000-13,000 for Great Britain just prior to the First World War and successive economies in working led to large reductions in their numbers from the 1920s onwards. British Railways inherited around 10,000 in 1948 and numbers dwindled rapidly to about 4000 by 1970. In 2012, about 750 remained in use; it is anticipated that most will be rendered redundant over the next decade.

Pulborough Station stands on the Three Bridges/Arundel railway line. It was first opened on 10 October 1859 and progressively grew with additional traffic deriving from a branch line to Midhurst via Petworth that was opened in 1866. The station reached its maximum size and complexity in the first half of the C20, with the completion of an island platform in December 1900, together with extensive sidings, a coal yard, cattle pens, a turntable, and goods shed. The 1876 1:2,500 Ordnance Survey map does not indicate the position of a signal box, but a small rectangular-plan cabin is depicted a little to the south of the turntable that was located to the north of the station.

The present Pulbrough Signal Box, a Saxby & Farmer Type 5 design, was built in 1878. Saxby and Farmer introduced its Type 5 design in 1876 and signal boxes continued to be built to the design until 1896. It was a widespread design and appeared on more than a dozen railways, including the London, Chatham & Dover Railway, the Great Eastern Railway and also in Ireland and overseas. It was particularly associated with the London Brighton & South Coast Railway, where John Saxby had commenced his career and with which he had pioneered the use of mechanical interlocking of points and signals.

The closure of the Midhurst branch-line, due to a growth in competition with road traffic, resulted in the closure of the goods yards during the mid 1960s; however, the volume of passenger traffic has ensured that the signal box has remained in operation.

Reasons for Listing

Pulborough Signal Box, a Saxby & Farmer Type 5 London Brighton & South Coast Railway signal box built in 1878 on the Crawley to Littlehampton railway line, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historical interest: the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway has particular association with John Saxby where he commenced his career and with which he pioneered the use of mechanical interlocking of points and signals;
* Architectural interest: it is the only example of a two-bay, six windows width Saxby & Farmer Type 5 signal box in the country;
* Intactness: the exterior is relatively unaltered apart from the re-aligned stairway and porch entry;
* Survival of operating equipment: contains a London Brighton & South Coast Railway 29 lever frame and locking rack, circuit diagram, block instruments, gongs and indicators, semaphore cable tensioning wheels and pulley blocks, and Southern Railway electrical signalling relays;
* Context: it forms part of a group of well preserved station buildings.

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