I visited this railway station for the first time in March 2022, and at that time it seemed that the building was undergoing some demolition within. I subsequently found out that this was part of a regeneration project, which was to create a community hub.
Fast forward to January 2023, and I attended an open day at the Station which not only celebrated the opening of this community space, but also asked the local people what they would like to come from the rooms within the building.
A potted history
Opened in 1884, it was one of many which appeared on the Maidstone and Ashford railway. From the outset it had a crème brickwork building with icicle style valance, and this is pretty much the same today.
Hollingbourne is quite a rural station, but this did not stop it from having an extensive goods facility. All sidings were on the London bound side, one of which was a dock line. The others were around 500 ft in length, all of which connected with the London bound line.
A through brick goods shed was inbetween the dock and other sidings, however access to the building was only to be done by running in the opposite direction on the London bound line to join with the connection to the yard. A bit of an inconvenience, but space constraints were to blame.
A signal box, typical of the time was placed at the east of the Ashford bound platform. This not only controlled the yard, but a significant portion of the line to and from the station.
Nothing much changed until the 1960’s, when the goods yard closed, just before electrification came to the line in 1961. This electrification meant a concrete footbridge needed to be installed at the same time to remove the need of the foot crossing.
The signal box continued in use until 1984, when the Maidstone East panel took over block signalling duties, and the semaphore signals were replaced with 3 aspect colour ones. Also at this time the station building was cleaned and refurbished.
Around the 1990’s however the ticket office was closed, but thankfully the building was kept, and even had a re-roof at some point. Fast forward to 2021 and the Kent Community Rail Partnership in association with Sustrains put forward a plan to convert the majority of the building to community use. The plan was accepted in April 2021.
So here were are today with the help of Southeastern railway, Kent community rail partnership and of course the local community, especially Maria Domican who has worked tirelessly throughout to bring this building back to life.
The new community hub
Now lets take a look at the transformation that has occurred to the station building. The shutter and window work is excellent, but before we see more of the finished product, here are a few photographs taken during the extensive building work.
This final photo of the vaulted ceiling shows the extent of the roof.
Unfortunately due to the inevitability of how much the rooms would cost to heat if the ceiling remained this high, a decision was made to put in a false ceiling, although as you can see it is still of quite a height. The timbers can be accessed however through a hatch.
The area you see above is the main hall, which could be used for many events. Everyone attending the open day was asked to fill in a questionnaire, which asked the community what they would like to see within the building, and I am pleased to report that many were indeed filled in and handed back.
The area above is the kitchen, which when fully fitted, should be able to cater for commuters and school children in the morning. It will however require volunteers to be run, something which the organisers are looking for. Of course there is direct access to the main hall from here.
A book library seems to have already been set up in the main hall, which is great.
This smaller area above is to be found the other side of the hall, and could possibly be used as a small office space, perhaps for those working from home to come and sit quietly.
Off of this room is a fully accessible toilet, to which a baby changer may be installed in the near future.
The station at Hollingbourne has really been transformed into a fantastic community hub, and the interest from the community on the day was fantastic to see. I really hope that the space will be used regularly. I have some links below If you wish more information or to even volunteer.
Kent Community Rail Partnership
A link to my YouTube video is below
Many thanks for reading and if you can :
“Get out there, Get on the Railway and see where it takes you” (c)