Historic Derbyshire Railway Station to Be Renovated
Derbyshire, Wingfield Station. (Image Credit: victoriansociety.org.uk)

Historic Derbyshire Railway Station to Be Renovated

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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.

How the station used to look in its prime (Image credit: Midland Railway Study Centre, Derby)
Group chair Philip Smith said: “This report clearly recognised the historic and architectural value of the building and its need for immediate restoration. This resulted in a prompt re-listing of the buildings from Grade II to Grade II* – which triggered the involvement of Amber Valley Borough Council and led to the subsequent compulsory purchase order.” Wingfield Station was built as part of the North Midland Railway which ran from Derby to Chesterfield and onwards towards Rotherham and Leeds. It was originally surveyed by railway pioneer George Stephenson in 1835 and Parliament gave its assent to the construction of the line by passing an Act the following year – 1836. But it was George’s son, Robert, who saw the line through to completion in 1840 and who was responsible for engaging Francis Thompson to design the 24 stations earmarked for the line from Derby through to Leeds.
Wingfield Station as it is today ahead of restoration (Image credit: Derby Telegraph)

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.

Earlier views in the 20th century (Image credit: Derbyshire Live)

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.

Early drawing of Wingfield Station which first appeared in the Leeds Intelligencer in 1840 by Samuel Russell. (Image credit: Midland Railway Study Centre, Derby)

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.

Floor plan of Wingfield Station main building (Image credit: Bench Architects of Buxton.)

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.

One of the old fireplaces inside the building (Image credit: Derby Telegraph)

“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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