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The Chichester to Midhurst Line

Natalie Trickett




NATALIE TRICKETT writes about this local disused line, which has been partly converted into a popular cycle path.

In a bid to find somewhere safe for my 4 and 6 year old children to learn to ride their bikes this summer we came across the Lavant part of the Chichester to Midhurst disused line. I remember it from when I was younger, but back then it hadn’t long been out of use and was a muddy track that had recently had the sleepers, rails and ballast ripped up - so it looked more like a warzone than a nice place to take a stroll with the family!

When my husband suggested we take them for a ride along there I wasn’t overly keen, not imagining for a moment that almost 11 years later it would be any more that a strip of mud and overgrown bushes visited only by the local dog walkers. So you could imagine my surprise when we parked up in Lavant down by a relatively new housing estate and the route was now known as ‘Centurion Way’. We found it now to be a beautifully kept wide tarmac path and iron sculptures hanging from a footbridge to mark the starting point.

When the footpath from Chichester to Lavant was redeveloped in 1995 a competition was held for local schoolchildren to name the path. The winning name was 'Centurion Way, chosen because the path passes by some roman monuments and cuts across a roman road. Halfway down the route there is the outline of an old roman amphitheatre, which over time is now grassed over, making it the perfect place to have a picnic, and often has local events held there during the summer like fairs and horse shows. it’s such a beautiful place to visit, so if your ever in the area it's well worth a look!

History

Midhurst Station

The Royal Train passes Midhurst Station in 1906.

The Chichester to Midhurst line opened in 1881 to improve the link between Chichester and London. It was operated by the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) as a passenger line. Along the line there were five stations:

  • Chichester - Which is the only station on the line that is still operating.
  • Lavant - In 1935 the decline of the railways meant the line between Chichester and Lavant wasn’t profitable. passenger services were closed and it become a freight-only line transporting sugar beet and gravel until 1970. In 1972 parts of the line were reopened to service a local quarry but was closed in 1991 when the contract ran out and the quarry closed. During this time Class 73 electro-diesels were used to transport the gravel from the quarry. With no further use for the line the track was removed in 1993. Lavant Station has since been converted into flats.
  • Singleton - Singleton Station was built with four platforms, designed to accommodate the footfall for Goodwood Racecourse. Unfortunately for Singleton this traffic was over calculated, as most people preferred to get off at Chichester for Goodwood. it was however one of the most visited station by the LB&SCR Royal Train as the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) used to 'weekend' at West Dean House, a large manor house near Chichester. Singleton station is now the main house of a local vineyard.
  • Cocking - Now a privately owned property.
  • Midhurst - Midhurst Station, which connected The Chichester Line to other branches to Petersfield and which was demolished to make way for a housing estate.
Midhurst Map

A diagram of the track layout at Midhurst in 1908. Midhurst actually had two stations, one run by the LB&SCR - marked in green - and the other by the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) which ran a branch to Petersfield, shown in blue.

The Line Disaster

On the morning of 19th November 1951 a pipe running under the railway became blocked causing a backlog of water to build up from the stream that ran down to South Pond, just south of Midhurst. When the large build up of water eventually broke through it took the embankment and railway line with it. The locomotive Ex LB&SCR C2X - No.32522 hit the gap and derailed, with the crew managing to leap clear with only seconds to spare before disaster struck. Due to the large amount of damage the line between Cocking and Midhurst was abandoned.

If you phone us to place an order you're likely to speak to Natalie, unless she's off hiking down a disused line...

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