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Station House Community Connections unveils a National Railway Heritage Award

Station House Community Connections has celebrated a National Railway Heritage Award by unveiling a plaque to be unveiled at Wickham Market Station which is situated in the village of Campsea Ashe, on the Ipswich-Lowestoft East Suffolk Line

Fred Garner, Deputy Managing Director and Sector Director for Rail at Taylor Woodrow, was Guest of Honour at the unveiling.  Members of the NRHA committee, its funders, individual donors and Society members were amongst the guests.

The Taylor Woodrow Partnership Award 2017 was presented to Station House Community Connections in December, by Fred Garner of Taylor Woodrow, and Mark Wild, Managing Director of London Underground at the annual National Railway Heritage Awards ceremony.  The award category is to recognise ‘improvements to or restoration of an historic railway or tramway building or structure in any ownership, in a jointly funded project.’

“I am delighted that the Station House Community Connections are the winners of the Partnership Category in the National Railway Heritage Awards. At Taylor Woodrow, we know how effective teamwork is vital in delivering successful projects, and especially so where historic railway infrastructure and buildings are concerned, because of the many stakeholders that are often involved. Aligning them all to achieve an outstanding outcome for the local community, as has been achieved here, is a real achievement and everyone involved is to be congratulated.” Fred Garner

The Station House, which adjoins the working platform, passed out of railway ownership in 1967 and was empty from 2006.  Station House Community Connections incorporated as a Charitable Community Benefit Society in 2013 and after a 4-year fundraising campaign successfully transformed the House in Campsea Ashe into a new community asset.  There is a strong focus on its railway heritage and modern community function.  It opened, in June 2017, with a café, meeting rooms for hire, networking opportunities, quality wi-fi and broadband, information resources, passenger facilities, as well as education & training activities for surrounding residential and business communities.  Its aim is to increase access to services and assist rural development and sustainability.

Where possible the signature features of railway architect Francis Thompson and its late Victorian influences have been preserved or reinstated.  Originally, the Station House provided accommodation for the Station Master and remaining period features have been retained to preserve the traditional feel.  It's a welcoming place to meet and the new canopy, styled on the original, provides an iconic backdrop. 

Source material included pre-1902 photographs, archival research and frequent visitations to other station houses along the line, some in private ownership, to identify, preserve, and in some cases, reinstate original details.  Where additions and compromises were necessary, the objective was to enhance the traditional aesthetic.

Reinstated:

·         The platform canopy in the Great Eastern Railway tradition that had replaced the original by the late 1880s.  This includes the colonnades and decorative fascia.  The colonnades at neighbouring Woodbridge station were found to be similar and provided the template design for the cast iron columns and Japanese-style spandrels that were sand cast at Hargreaves Foundry in Halifax.

·         The north- and south-end supports for the canopy complete with projecting brickwork to continue the Italianate influence.

·         Cast iron guttering complete with 30 cast iron lions.  These lions were another characteristic feature of the station houses designed by Francis Thompson along the East Suffolk Railway between Melton and Halesworth including the branch lines to Framlingham, Snape and Aldeburgh.  A mold was made from an original lion at Snape station house and cast at Hargreaves Foundry in Halifax

·         Sugg lights were another feature of the line. The Pembroke pendant lights now hanging, are a 1930’s variation chosen to echo the curves of the cast iron spandrels.

·         Sash windows

·         Deep skirting board profiles

Preserved:

·         The original Suffolk white bricks exposed after the external paintwork of the 1990s and earlier rendering on the platform side was stripped back.

·         Interior archways that are a characteristic feature of the station houses along line

·         Mantle-pieces and fire place surrounds

Added:

Additions were motivated by the need for level access both into and around the building:

·         Concealed ramp

·         Raised ground floor

·         The exterior colours were inspired by the LNER livery colours, original patches of which were uncovered during the refurbishment. 

·         The interior colours have been inspired by William Morris (1834-1896)

The Railway Heritage Trust provided 40% of the funding for the canopy design and build. The remaining funds for the canopy and house refurbishment came from The Big Lottery Fund through Power to Change; Suffolk County Council; Suffolk Coastal District Council; and the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP), 14 other national and local grants, as well as private donors and fundraising events. 

“The standard and quality of all the projects shortlisted for the ten awards was outstanding.  We are proud to be amongst the winners and truly grateful for the recognition.  The Station House really has been the work of many and the support of our funders has been tremendous.  The goodwill and enthusiasm from volunteers and our Society members has been inspirational.” Robert Webb, Secretary of Station House Community Connections.

Cllr Geoff Holdcroft, cabinet member for Economic Development at Suffolk Coastal District Council, said: “It’s positive to see how this once disused building has been transformed with such great support by the community. We were pleased to support this project because local people have worked hard to ensure this building maintains its importance at the station. We hope that with this community focus the building will remain an integral part of the station for years to come.”

Sue Wilcock