Unique Real Estate - Converted
and De Gaulle held a top secret meeting here four days before the D-Day
landings: all aboard for a converted railway station with an intriguing
June 2nd 1944, just four days before the Allies landed on Normandy's beaches,
a train carrying Winston Churchill and members of his war cabinet pulled
into a cutting close to Droxford station in the Meon Valley, Hampshire.
met with Eisenhower and De Gaulle to discuss the invasion of Europe, which
was scheduled for June 5th. Storms were lashing the coastline and a decision
was needed: Ike and company repaired to nearby Southwick House and decided
to hold off for twenty-four hours. The invasion went ahead on June 6th
was chosen for the rendezvous because there was a tunnel near the cutting
and it was hoped that if the Luftwaffe made an unwelcome appearance the
allied leaders would be able to take cover there and escape the bombers.
The rest, as
they say, is history, but so too, alas, is Droxford station and the 22
mile Meon Valley line from Fareham to Alton that was part of the London
to Portsmouth route. Opened in 1903, this once busy route, baptized the
Strawberry Line because whole trainloads of the fruit would be loaded at
Wickham and Mislingford, closed to passengers in 1955 and to freight in
When Elizabeth and Colin Olford bought
the station in 1984 it was being used as a training centre for truck drivers
but the couple immediately saw its potential and outbid a crowded auction
room to win the right to convert it into a unique home.
The job took almost two years but
Old Droxford Station House, complete with the station platform and canopy
and two acres of lovely wooded grounds is now a quirky and unusual family
|"Three of the five stations
on the line have been converted," says Elizabeth, "but ours is the only
one that retains the platform and canopy, the original ticket hatch and
the arched sliding doors that lead from the waiting room to the platform.
"The property was in good condition
- train stations were built to Board of Trade standards so structurally
it was very sound. We tried to keep as many of the original details as
possible. We removed a false ceiling in the waiting room to expose the
lovely vaulted timbered ceiling, and the original stone fireplace was also
intact behind a projection screen"
"The train tracks were gone but
we used the carriage way approaching the station to create a wild flower
walk. It's lovely to sit out on the platform under the canopy - we live
here in the summer time."
The signal box in the gardens is now
a fern garden and pond, and there's also a barn-style portal frame building
built across the line that looks like an original engine shed but which
is a more recent addition.
|The garden, indeed,
is one of the property's real assets and has historical associations that
stretch back well beyond the clandestine meeting between Winnie and Ike.
In one corner, a Jute burial site
dating back to circa 400 AD was unearthed by the navvies building the line
and archaeologists later discovered ancient long swords that are now housed
in the British museum.
"It's a garage
with a workshop and mezzanine level that we had built," Elizabeth explains.
"Our architect copied the decorative timber work on the canopy above the
platform - apparently the design is unique to every line so we decided
it would be good to keep it."
|Finding A Railway
Station - The closure of the Meon Valley line was part of a large scale
rationalisation of the railways instigated by Dr. Richard Beeching, the
chairman of British Railways from 1961 - 1965.
Beeching recommended the closure
of one third of Britain's 18,000 mile railway network, mainly rural branches
and cross country lines, a policy known as the 'Beeching Axe'.
In 1955, according
to the website Disused Stations, the British railway system had 18,000
miles of track and 6,000 stations. By 1975 this had been cut to 12,000
miles of track and 2,000 stations, "roughly the same size it is today."
there are a lot of railway stations out there that are now used as homes
but finding a derelict one for conversion is no easy task. Ray King, editor
of the magazine The Traction and Rolling Stock Advertiser and the website
Rail Properties, explains:
of finding a derelict station in a prime location miles from anywhere that
they can pick up for £40k - but these just don't exist anymore. Most
properties are now in private hands and have been converted. The resale
market is the mainstay."
in the resale market there are still some beauties to be had. How about
the lovely Ripple station, part of the Malvern to Tewkesbury line, which
has featured in books, in Country Life and which was the location for the
1970's BBC programme "The Survivors"?
Or Dent Station
in Cumbria, part of the Settle & Carlisle Line and officially the highest
main line station in England. Perched 1150 ft above sea level, the views
are breath-taking. Ray will also sell you a whole railway carriage,
should you want an unusual home office, playroom, or extra living space
and he's also the man to call for all your railway-related needs: old carriages,
signal boxes, bits of track and even whole viaducts.
Buying a Railway Station or Train Carriage
1. Is the track
still in use? About 50 per cent are - so weigh up the pros and cons: noisy
trains running past your house versus a very handy form of transport (important
in more remote branch lines and locomotive outposts).
2. The more
period details, original features and interesting historic associations,
the more sought-after and expensive the property - and remember, competition
will be strong.
3. Be prepared
to move: it's no easy thing to match a prospective buyer with a railway
station in a specific area.
4. Grand designers
take note: stations lend themselves more readily to traditional conversions
than to open-plan extravaganzas. If you want loft-style living, consider
an old goods shed: their large single volumes are akin to barns (Ray cites
one in Yorkshire with a huge open-plan interior and one whole wall made
5. Check for
covenants: if the line is still in use you may be restricted in what you
can do and may have to grant access to maintenance workers etc.
were usually built to high standards and companies and lines have specific
styles, motifs and materials: it's advisable to know about these before
you start any building work or start making changes.
7. If you fancy
a carriage in your garden, remember that they are big and very heavy: the
cost of transport and craning the thing in will often be more than the
cost of the carriage.
8. There are
lots of websites selling railway related memorabilia so you can have a
lot of fun tracking down interesting items to decorate the property.
On the market
Available through Powell
Pas de Calais, France
+ Notaires Fees. A converted railway station currently used as a sculptor's
studio and available for immediate occupation.
comprises a main hall and mezzanine, separate garage, garden and 1.34 hectares
of additional land"
Available through Lauristons
|Chiswick View, Chiswick, London
"A stylish two bedroom maisonette
on the top (3rd) floor of this converted railway sub station. Benefits
from a private balcony, contemporary decoration and furnishings and enjoys
secure underground parking.
The property is well located, 1 mile
from Turnham Green tube, with Chiswick High Road within easy reach"
over 160,000 properties for sale and rent from more than 3000 estate agent
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