Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust to save the country’s oldest railway station

Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust

In September 2022, the team at Planning & Design Practice were lucky to be invited to tour Wingfield Station, the flagship restoration project for the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust. Here, Lucy Godfrey, Project Co-ordinator for Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust discusses the rich history of the station and the Trust’s labour of love to preserve and restore the station.

Wingfield Station, in South Wingfield near Alfreton, was built in 1839-40 to the designs of Francis Thompson. It forms part of a series of railway structures built for the North Midland Railway, which was designed by two of the most important and influential engineers of the railway era, George and Robert Stephenson.

The line is considered to be one of the best preserved examples of the pioneering phase of railway development in England, and Wingfield Station thus forms an early, rural railway ensemble of outstanding interest.

It’s the sole survivor of Thompson’s notable sequence of picturesque stations between Derby and Leeds. It is a subtly proportioned building with a delicacy of detailing that was greatly admired by contemporary commentators, who appreciated its refined architectural qualities.

Also sitting within the grounds of the Station is the Grade II listed contemporary station master’s house and the slightly later Parcel Shed building.

Wingfield Station had been in private hands and at risk for many years. In 2015, thanks to the considerable efforts of the South Wingfield Local History Group, it was afforded Grade II* listed status in recognition of its national significance. Only 8% of all listed buildings are designated Grade II* or Grade I.

Despite the dilapidated state of the Station, because it closed in the 1960s, it had not suffered the extensive modernisation that many other old stations have. As such, it is a remarkably rare, unaltered example of an early station building.

Since 2015 Historic England had assisted Amber Valley Borough Council in its discussions with the owner. When it became clear the Borough Council had to use its legal powers to get the building repaired, Historic England stepped in to provide technical advice and grant funding.

Historic England also encouraged the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust (DHBT) to work up a conversion project and secure finance in order to take on the building. A Compulsory Purchase Order was approved by the Secretary of State and Wingfield Station passed to the DHBT in December 2019.

DHBT secured initial development funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in order to undertake the necessary design development and surveys that were necessary for converting the site to office use.

In 2021 the DHBT got a further boost when Historic England awarded funding via their ‘Repair Grants for Heritage at Risk’ scheme. This enabled the DHBT to appoint a conservation contractor to undertake urgent repairs and ensure any further loss and damage to this significant building was mitigated.

This phase of work required considerable liaison with Network Rail, due to the close proximity of the live railway line to the works. Derbyshire contractors, ASBC Heritage and Conservation Specialists, began work in October 2021, with one of their first tasks being the erection of scaffolding on the trackside elevation of the building. This work had to be completed within a specified period of time during a Saturday night/Sunday morning when Network Rail were able to grant them ‘possession’ of the track.

In June 2022 ASBC completed the urgent repairs, which primarily focused on repairs to the trackside elevations, the roof and chimneys of the Station and the roof of the Parcel Shed. Just prior to Practical Completion, DHBT received the welcome news that they had been successful in securing a £667,000 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, meaning that the restoration project can be completed and a sustainable long-term use of the building as office space can be secured.

This phase of the project will provide meaningful heritage training and skills development opportunities as well as encouraging people to learn about, share and celebrate their heritage.

Alongside an 8 week public opening period, a range of planned activities will be delivered at Wingfield including a volunteer programme, public events and wildlife conservation initiatives. On-site interpretation will include recreating the 72 miles of the original North Midland Railway from Derby to Leeds on the existing granite sett roadway, with station markers at appropriate intervals. Following occupation, the offices will be open to the public for at least 6 days each year and the grounds will be accessible at all times.

As the final capital works are not set to commence until 2023, the DHBT team are planning a number of free public tours of the Station – the next ones are at 11am and 2pm on the 12th October. For further information about Wingfield Station and to book a place on a tour, please head to the DHBT’s website or follow them on social media @dhbtrust

The DHBT have also launched a ‘Friends of Wingfield Station’ scheme to help them raise the £250,000 required to ‘match fund’ the Heritage Fund award. You can support this project from as little as £1.50 a month and play an important part in securing the future of this significant building, described by the industrial architect, Christian Barman, as ‘one of the most perfect of all station houses’.

Wingfield Station from September 2021 – prior to works commencing.
A comparison showing progress to date.
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