Banstead, the second station on the branch, is sited on top of a long cutting (formed by the building of the railway) which at this point is some 30 feet deep.

First mentioned in an Anglo-Saxon charter of AD 967, Benestede is recorded as a settlement in the Domesday Book from 1086, most likely taking its name from the Anglo Saxon bene ("bean") and stede, which refered to an area which was populated but had no official status as such. It was good farming land, and the gentry, church and finally crown who owned the manor in succession found it to be a very profitable feudal property before it was passed on to the Carew family by Henry VIII. A village had by then formed out of the previously scattered hamlets, but even though Banstead Downs (which for many centuries covered all the open land stretching from Epsom to Croydon and Reigate) had its spell of horse racing in the 17th century (Samuel Pepys recorded three personal visits in 1663) and the town also gained a certain reputation as a health resort for its "wholesome air", Banstead's population remained low until the late 19th century. This changed with the advent of better roads and the coming of the railway, even though the latter really didn't have that much to do with Banstead village proper.


Opened in 1865 together with the branch, Banstead station is in fact over a mile away from Banstead village (which is probably why it changed its name to Banstead & Burgh Heath in 1898 until the Southern Railway reverted this back to the original name Banstead in 1928).

The Ordnance Survey map of the area from 1888 shows the railway curving away from the village and passing through the open countryside with no housing to speak of other than a few scattered farms - true to its original purpose and intentions, namely to provide access to the Epsom Downs racecourse. There were obviously hardly any potential passengers along the line anyway, the total population in the parish of Banstead being 1,270 in 1851.

But railway lines were a driving force of change, and even though the original planners of the Banstead & Epsom Downs Railway had never strived to attract housing developments alongside their lines of track, this was precisely what happened, as the Ordnance Survey map from 1896 illustrates. Banstead village had grown only very little, but a substantial set of new houses had been built between Warren Farm and the railway line for the Kensington & Chelsea District School.

Built between 1878 and 1880 this was a residential institution serving the purpose of providing "education and apprenticing of poor children" as set out in the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, and the railway line was actively involved in the construction work.

"The first village of any size erected by the Poor Law authorities will be that at Banstead, Surrey (...) The site of this village is a long strip of ground comprising upwards of 27 acres, adjoining on one side the Epsom Downs Branch of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (...) The material for the buildings is brought on to the ground by means of a siding from the London and Brighton and South Coast Railway, temporary lines of rails being laid down through the length of the main avenue; and the trucks are unloaded wherever the material is required." (The Building News, 8 August 1879)

The first children moved to Banstead in September 1880; the site was renamed Beechholme in 1951. The school closed in 1974, and the site was redeveloped as a housing estate.


  This picture seems to be the oldest existing public photograph of Banstead station, produced as "Post Office Series" postcard #358 and probably showing the station c.1900. The station buildings from 1865 remained in their original condition right up until 1935, when the constant rise in traffic called for some alterations.

The station is located in what historically was an agricultural hamlet of Banstead village, called Nork Close. The estate was sold in 1923 to the Halden Estates Co. Ltd. from London who started the housing development in what quickly became a sprawling residential area which included a row of shops in what came to be called Nork Village (and which was only a short and easy walk from the railway station) as well as detached and semi-detached houses on Nork Way and Warren Road (which took its name from the old Warren Farm, indicated on the old OS maps above).

Nearly four million houses were built in England between 1919 and 1939, and the vast majority of these (nearly three million) were built in the growing areas of suburbia and offered for sale, not rent. The number of owner-occupied houses in Britain thus soared from around 750,000 in the early 1920s to more than 3,250,000 by 1938 (Gardiner, 2010), and the countryside along the Epsom Downs branch saw an increasingly intensive building activity.

The Halden Estates Co. Ltd. advertised their houses with a poster proclaiming the simple message of "Nork - live there!", and although the company itself collapsed in April 1925 (ultimately leading to the formation of the Nork Resident's Association), the residential area continued to grow. In 1927, the line had seen the purchase of 3'000 season tickets - by 1933, this figure had grown to 13'000 and was still rising (Kirkby, 1983).


Above: The V&A Collection
Left: Banstead Public Library

This view of the station, taken around 1930, shows the improved road surface and added lettering on the roof of the station building to guide pilots into Croydon airport. The house on the left was the station master's residence, whilst a small bookstall is squeezed in between the two larger buildings.
Even today, the road-level frontage of Banstead station remains almost unchanged. In the view below (taken in April 1995), Banstead Road, which crosses the railway line in the cutting below in the form of a sharp s-curve, has clearly been upgraded, but the buildings have survived virtually intact, even though the station has lost its two chimneys.

The station building in 1936, shortly after the considerable (interior) enlargement and modernization, with the road-level frontage of the building almost unchanged (H. F. Wheller)

The original layout of the station building had the entrance leading directly to the booking office, with covered stairways on both sides of the building leading down to the platforms. These had been lengthened in the 1930s and provided with canopies in the 1950s.

A 1938 view of Banstead with a 3SUB on a Victoria to Epsom Downs service. The goods yard can be seen in the foreground, Banstead signal box is partly hidden by the train. The station building is situated to the right of this picture. (Lens of Sutton)

Banstead goods yard closed at the end of 1964, and the the introduction of track circuit block and colour light signalling in 1969 made Banstead signalbox redundant. The most dramatic change however came about on October 3rd 1982, when the entire branch was reduced to single track as a result of the destruction of Epsom Downs signal box by fire in November 1981.

The comparison of the 1961 (Lens of Sutton) and 1995 photographs show the amount of change at Banstead which happened as a result of the singling of the line. The station building, however, has remained virtually the same for decades in terms of outward appearance, apart from losing one of its two covered stairways. The interior, however, has seen a steady reduction of room space serving railway use, with large parts of the building now boarded up.

Banstead station in 1961
(Ben Brooksbank, licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

It had been a long time indeed since passengers had been able to board a train and take first class seats at Banstead, but this once more became an option for as long as the Class 377 (dubbed "Electrostar" and actually intended for outer-suburban and main-line service) showed up occasionally on the branch for a while in 2007 (this unit was on its way to London Victoria on 6 October of that year).


For more information on the local history of Banstead see the website of the Banstead History Research Group



GARDINER Juliet (2010) The Thirties: An Intimate History of Britain, Harper Press

KIRKBY J.R.W. Kirkby (1983) The Banstead and Epsom Downs Railway, Locomotion Papers Series, Oakwood Press


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