Just the ticket: the joy of England’s railway stations

Just the ticket: the joy of England’s railway stations
The story of the English railway station since its Victorian heyday is that of a distinctively creative free-for-all

When William Tress, architect to the South Eastern Railway, designed a station for Battle in Sussex, he decided to do it in gothic. He gave it pointed gables, the odd buttress, rough coursed stone walls and large windows with churchy tracery, all out of respect to the nearby Battle Abbey and field of the Battle of Hastings. You can’t see the station and the abbey in the same view, but Tress still felt the need to travel back centuries for his style. This was in 1852, the year after the Crystal Palace had shown the world the possibilities of building in glass and steel.

Tress was following the usual approach of the railway age. The stations may have been serving the most powerful and world-changing technology of their time, but the most important thing was to evoke some older, safer period, and to make the buildings look domestic. In the 19th century railways were trebly frightful – they caused terrible accidents, devastated urban and rural environments and prompted gigantic financial collapses and swindles – which was all the more reason to make their public faces look like reassuring old houses. Above all, the horses were not to be frightened, those beasts that were being put out of work.

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Source: Guardian Transport