April update on the extension of the Crab and Winkle Line from Whitstable Station to the sea.
In 2006 we won planning approval for 2 bridges over the railway line at Whitstable and over Old Bridge Road and Teynham Road. In autumn 2007 we submitted a planning application to extend the line down behind Clare Road and Station Road to the sea. Many supported the application, but there were some who raised objections about the proposed planting and the width of the path. Following that consultation, we have been looking again at the proposals and discussing details with Kent County Council, Canterbury City Council and Sustrans and considering the points made by residents and others. KCC has asked their contractors to look at the topography and geology of the land as part of preparatory work in advance of handing in the revised application – tree surveys have also been completed as has some landscaping design; some ecological work, including a bat survey, is planned for April once the weather improves. And members of the Trust are meeting Sustrans and council officers to discuss how to raise the funds required to build the bridges and the footpath, if planning permission is granted. The plans are now being amended as a result of this work and we’re expecting the plans to go before the Council’s development control meeting in the summer.
CRAB & WINKLE TUNNEL WINS LISTING FROM ENGLISH HERITAGE
The Victorian tunnel that runs on the old Crab and Winkle Line under the University of Kent has won a Grade II* listing from English Heritage, meaning that it is of particularly special architectural and historical interest and warrants every effort to preserve it.
The railway tunnel, which was built between 1826 and 1830, is 757 metres long and formed part of the world’s first regular passenger railway which opened between Canterbury and Whitstable on 3rd May 1830. The railway closed in 1953 and the tunnel under the university partially collapsed in 1973. In 1997, the Crab and Winkle Trust was formed to promote the history of the line and to bring the route back into public use. There is now a well-used footpath and cycle path along much of the original line which connects Canterbury and Whitstable and is part of National Cycle Route 1.
The Crab and Winkle Line Trust applied in 2007 to get the tunnel listed status and have now been told that the Secretary of State has awarded the tunnel the second-highest grade II* status. English Heritage said that they decided this because:
• “It is a substantially intact and very early structure from the pioneering days in the development of the passenger railway;
• “Although modest in their architectural form, the two distinct portals and distinct tunnel forms are a physical manifestation of experimentation in early railway tunnel construction;
• “Albeit by a narrow margin, it is the world’s first modern railway tunnel on the first passenger steam railway and as such merits listing in a higher grade for its more than special historic significance.”
English Heritage, in their recommendation, particularly notes the historic importance of this railway:
• “The Stockton and Darlington Railway of 1825 was the first public railway to be empowered by Parliament to convey goods and passengers …. However, the Canterbury & Whitstable can claim to be the first to have steam locomotive-hauled passenger trains, as the passenger service on the Stockton and Darlington at this time was still horse-drawn.
• “Tyler Hill tunnel can indeed claim to be the first modern railway tunnel in history … for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which also contained a tunnel at Edge Hill in Liverpool, opened to operation four months later in September 1830.”
John Burden, Trustee of the Crab and Winkle Line Trust, and local resident, said:
“We’re delighted that we’ve managed to get the tunnel listed. It’s not only an important part of local history, but Canterbury’s contribution to the Industrial Revolution which of course had global significance. Today the tunnel is blocked at its northern end and its southern portal is a roost for three species of bat. The Grade II* listing from English Heritage will ensure that this important historical asset gets the attention and preservation it deserves to safeguard it for future generations.”
The world’s first regular passenger railway line, which became known as the Crab and Winkle Line, opened in 1830 between Canterbury and Whitstable, running till 1953. The world’s first season tickets were issued at the Canterbury station office to take regular travellers to the beach at Whitstable ‘for the summer season’.
A local charity was formed in 1997 to bring back the disused and overgrown railway into public use, as a footpath and cycle path. A route opened in 2000 along about 40% of the original line. A university, two secondary schools, half a dozen primary schools and a medical centre are along the route of the now much-used path.
English Heritage listed the tunnel, which runs under the University of Kent by St Stephen’s Hill, Canterbury, was listed by the Secretary of State as grade II* on 24th December 2007.
The full English Heritage report, with background, an assessment of the tunnel and its detailed recommendation, is available from the Crab and Winkle Line Trust.