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Opened in 1854 as a grand terminus station, closed in 1979, then a museum, and now empty, North Woolwich railway station is up for sale.
Once all fields and empty, as the area industrialised following the construction of the nearby docks, a new railway was built which ran from Stratford to North Woolwich over a few years, opening the North Woolwich extension in 1847.
Although the noted railway architect, William Tite was commissioned to design the station in 1847 it didn’t actually open until 1854. Apart from busy worker traffic, it also had a short burst of wider popularity when the Royal Pavilion Gardens opened. The station was partially damaged during World War II, restored, but then the decline of the docks meant a small metal shed ticket hall was built beside it in 1979 to replace the grand building.
The grand old station building was converted to a museum and opened by the Queen Mother on 20th Nov 1984 — who arrived on the Flying Scotsman!
It was a curious old museum, quite small but rather nice. On my only visit, having organised a group of a dozen or so people to go to the nearby Crossness pumping station, we took in this museum as well, and the manager’s eye nearly popped out of his head when he saw us walk in. I think we may have been the largest group of people he had seen in years.
The railway line was still operational though, and the small shed-like structure served as the Silverlink station for many years. The line finally closed on Saturday 9 December 2006 and the last train left at 11.37pm. The museum survived for a few more years, until Crossrail came along and the museum closed in November 2008, with the site cleared by 2011.
There was some talk of turning it into a heritage railway, but that was curtailed by the conversion of the tracks for Crossrail.
Although the museum and its contents were passed to the House Mill in Bow, in 2010 it was suggested for an arts centre, and in 2016 there was talk of a social enterprise occupying the site, in 2017 there was again talk of conversion into an arts centre, but it was costing the owners £20,000 a year to maintain, so it was sold to a property investment firm, Sav Group in 2018 for £395,000, plus £5,000 for the railway land behind.
The new owners record the property as being retained while a planning strategy was developed, but have instead decided to put it up for sale instead. It’s now being sold for offers in excess of £1 million – which is not bad if you’re the current owner, and maybe a bit of a sore point if you are the former owners.
However, if you’re thinking it’ll make a nice home, or flats conversion, think again.
The building and grounds are classified as D1 on the planning register – which is for non-residential institutions. It could be possible to seek a conversion to residential, but the buyer would be taking quite a risk that the application is refused.
It seems that the current investor owners, as they are selling up, may have faced the same problem.
If you think from looking at the photos, hang on, it’s a home already – that’s live-in guardians – people who live in empty offices and the like for reduced rent and act as local security.
The building is also listed, which limits what can be done with it, as the railway turntable is a rarity in still being in situ, and protected, as are various details of the building itself.
Any new owner can’t dig down for new foundations either – as the land underneath the old station is owned by Crossrail – as its eastbound tunnel passed directly under the building.
It’s a pity it can’t be a home for a rich railway geek, as apart from the old station building itself, the amount of ex-railway land would make for a gigantic back garden. That said, if a rich railway geek were to buy it, I’d bet the planning officers might be a bit more interested in changing the planning status to preserve the old building and its railway turntable.
If you’ve got a million quid, then Strettons want to hear from you.
This article first appeared on www.ianvisits.co.uk
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