Published: 11:27, 28 October 2021
| Updated: 11:30, 28 October 2021
A charming Victorian signal box destined to be demolished has been saved following a successful campaign by villagers.
The 19th century hut in Chartham, near Canterbury, was due to be knocked down when the manually-operated barrier crossing becomes automated next year.
But campaigners rallied to protect the beloved wooden box, which dates back to 1888, calling on Network Rail to preserve it.
And people power has won out, with the organisation confirming the hut will now be retained after the works at the crossing are carried out.
In an email to parish council clerk Chenice Howard-Sparkes, it said: ""I am pleased to be able to tell you that Network Rail has taken into consideration the views of the local parish council and residents regarding their request to retain the old gate box once the new level crossing is operational, and have therefore taken the decision on this occasion to retain the decommissioned gate house."
Ms Howard-Sparkes shared the news with residents on Facebook, saying: "I'm sure you will agree this is great news!
"Network Rail will retain ownership of the signal box, so they will continue to be responsible for maintenance, etc, going forward."
The signal box sits beside one of just three remaining manned crossings in Kent, with the others in Wye and Grain.
All three are being automated for safety reasons.
Among the villagers who wanted to see it saved is Claire Slater, who lives nearby.
She says the box is part of the history of Chartham and a much-loved feature.
She said today: "I'm so delighted and relieved to hear the excellent news that the Chartham signal box will be preserved for future generations.
"The box is an integral part of this village and its history, having been here for over 130 years, and it would have been such a shame to see it disappear, as so many other heritage buildings have done.
"I know from the many comments and messages I received, that people in Chartham and the wider area would have been very sorry to see it go.
"Thank you to everyone who supported saving the signalb ox, and to the parish council and Network Rail.
"It's wonderful that this important piece of our heritage has been saved."
A signalman operating the crossing
The Chartham signal box is manned 24 hours a day by three staff on shifts, who operate the gates up to 100 times a day.
Network Rail had said money spent on preserving it would be better used on improving services for rail users.
It announced earlier this month: "While we understand a desire to preserve the box, we have also communicated the disbenefits in maintaining an unused asset at a cost and the impact it may unintentionally have on investment to benefit rail users."
But a spokesman confirmed news of the u-turn this morning.
He said: "Network Rail has met with and listened to the views of Chartham parish council and residents about the importance of the gate box to them and have decided to retain it once it is no longer in use at the end of 2022, maintaining it as at is at present with measures taken to ensure it is secure and safe.”