Supporters are hoping it will soon be restored to its former glory
Interesting photographs have emerged of what a crumbling Derbyshire railway station, which is one of the world’s oldest, used to look when it was open.
Plans to renovate Derbyshire’s Wingfield Station – one of the UK’s most at risk buildings – are gathering pace but the race is also on to pull together as much of the history, both in photographs and writing, of the building as possible.
Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust, with an initial National Lottery grant, has taken over renovating the 1839-40 building after Amber Valley Borough Council compulsorily purchased it.
The completed project will include interpretation boards telling the history of the station, near Alfreton, which is the sole survivor of architect Francis Thompson’s creations and therefore the earliest station in the UK and world.
Quite a lot is already known about the historic site and, earlier this year, the South Wingfield Local History Group staged an exhibition as part of the drive to restore the building and to draw attention to the group’s work.
It was the history group which claims to have broken “the nearly 40 year-long log-jam” of attempts to restore the building, by reminding English Heritage (now Historic England) of their own report called Midland Main Line Statement of History and Significance Consultation Version / August 2014, prepared by Alan Baxter Associates.
Thompson also designed Derby’s Midland Hotel, together with the world’s first railway complex in the town, which included the station, attached to a large three-bay glazed train-shed, together with workers’ houses, and a locomotive roundhouse and workshop.
In keeping with the North Midland Railway’s progression through mainly rural areas from Derby, the stations were designed as a series of picturesque buildings to reflect their location and included lodges and gate-keeper’s lodges.
Wingfield is the only station to survive and curiously was built in the style of a Tuscan villa – particularly popular with anyone wealthy who had been on the Grand Tour to Europe and had seen them for themselves.
It originally consisted of the station building and the station master’s house to the south and a small building was added to the north of the station, probably not long after it was originally built, to be used for parcels.
The North Midland Railway opened its line from Derby to Rotherham (Masborough) and Leeds in 1840. At Derby it connected with the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway and the Midlands Counties Railway but in 1844, the three companies merged to form the Midland Railway.
The companies did not yield the expected profits, partly because of the fierce competition between them and it became the first large scale railway amalgamation.
The station was closed in 1967 and became privately owned. But concerns about its condition over the ensuing 50 years led to Amber Valley Borough Council stepping in and purchasing it and handing it over to DHBT.
In 2012, the Victorian Society described the station as a “maimed beauty deserving better” and one of the ten most important buildings at risk in the country.
The Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust (DHBT) has been awarded a round one National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £137,000 to start the restoration project, which will save the building for future commercial and community use.
Detailed proposals are then considered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund at second round, where a final decision is made on the full funding award of £592,600.
Well-known Derby architect Derek Latham is chair of the DHBT which has restored about 90 buildings around the county previously.
He said: “This building has been on the list of places needing restoration for a long time and the previous owner showed no sign of wanting to look after the place. In fact it took three days to empty the building when it was vacated finally.
“Initially, we are carrying out a health and safety survey of the building and then making sure it is weather-proof because currently the building is letting in the rain.
“Then we will start to get working parties involved in spring to clear some of the area around the building.
“After that we will be looking at a planning application and applying for the second phase of Lottery funding.
“This is such a splendid building built in the style of an Italianate villa similar to a place you would see travelling in Tuscany. There was a passion for this style of architecture at the time it was built.”
During the restoration of the nationally-significant buildings, DHBT will offer a host of activities, such as living history events detailing the story of the station and the North Midland Railway line, bursary placements for young people’s training in traditional skills and open days for the public and local community.
The trust will also be recruiting volunteers to help with the project as well as collecting memories and experiences of those who used to work, or had families who worked at the station or on the local railway.
Credit for this article goes to Derbyshire Live.
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