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Concern over declining state of Thetford Signal Box

It is one of just six signal boxes of its kind left in the UK, but fears are growing about what the future holds for the 140-year-old survivor from the Victorian era.
Thetford Signal Box

It is one of just six signal boxes of its kind left in the UK, but fears are growing about what the future holds for the 140-year-old survivor from the Victorian era.

With boarded-up windows and peeling paint, concern is mounting over the state of the Grade II-listed Thetford Signal Box.

Railway bosses are being urged to take action to safeguard the signal box, which has stood at the side of the line to the west of the town’s railway station since 1883.

Thetford Town Council raised concerns, at a recent meeting, that the signal box, built for the Great Eastern Railway, was falling into disrepair.

Town councillor Stuart Terry, also deputy leader of the Labour group at Breckland Council, said: “We have all been saddened over the last few years to see the signal box fall into disrepair with windows now boarded up and the paint beginning to peel.

“The signal box is in a prominent position for all passengers accessing the station as it is visible from the pedestrian footbridge as well as the car park.

“It is also noticeable as you arrive at Thetford by train and for many signifies their arrival at the station.”

The signal box is designated at Grade II by Historic England, who say it is a good example of the GER Type 4, the key feature of which is their brick construction, in contrast to many other GER designs which are either all timber or timber upper sections on brick bases.

The heritage body says there are only six surviving examples of that type, including at Thetford and Attleborough.

Signal box numbers peaked at around 12,000-13,000 for Great Britain, just prior to the First World War.

But by 1970, the number of them had dropped to about 4,000. By 2012 only about 750 remained in use.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We are aware of Thetford Council’s concerns about the redundant signal box and we share their interest in maintaining the grade II listed structure for future generations.

“We have a schedule of inspections, repairs and renewals to make sure the fabric of the building is maintained and address any safety issues that may arise which may impact the operational railway which is our main priority.

“We are always open to having discussions with other interested parties to seek opportunities to improve their appearance or find a new use for them for the benefit of the local community.”

A railway town

The signal box forms part of Thetford Railway Station, with that complex of buildings also listed by Historic England at Grade II.

The station, made of knapped flint was built by the Norwich and Brandon Railway.

But, a month before its opening in 1845 it became part of the Norfolk Railway – later incorporated into the Great Eastern Railway.

Historic England said the 1845 station building is a “striking example” of the neo-Jacobean style, with a “high level of architectural coherence through the use of flint and gault brick”.

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