Above: The newly renovated Deptford Station, October 2014. The hoardings still have to be removed but the station is open for passenger access.
In the early part of 1836 London saw the opening of its first railway, on the 8th February. Called the London and Greenwich Railway, it was constructed on a long brick-built viaduct carrying two railway lines – one ‘up’ line to London and the other the ‘down’ line. Although it was called the London and Greenwich Railway, it opened with trains only running from Deptford Station to London Bridge Station, with an intermediate station at Spa Road, in Bermondsey. The two lines extending to Greenwich, also on a viaduct, were not completed until the end of the year.
Since that momentous day there have been several changes to the stations just mentioned. The terminus at London Bridge Station, which started with just two lines (and therefore two platforms) has been extended and rebuilt on several occasions. Spa Road Station closed some time after 1900. When Greenwich Station first opened, it was a terminus but, when the line was extended further east, the station was dismantled and rebuilt in almost the same form on a new site a short distance from its first position. This was because the extended railway lines followed a new alignment.
We now need to consider Deptford Station. It is situated in Deptford High Street, having access from street level to viaduct level via long ugly staircases. What was acceptable for the Victorians was hardly suitable access for the 21st century. The fact of the matter is that Deptford Station has never moved in position since the day it was first opened. The station was, however, rebuilt in 1927 but on exactly the same site.
Above: Roundel erected in 1986, commemorating 150 years of the railway line.
As such it was able to claim that it was the oldest station in London and was also one of the stations on London’s first railway. Near the pedestrian entrance were two plaques – each one recording these two facts. The round plaque was placed in position to mark the 150th anniversary of the London and Greenwich Railway. The other rectangular plaque was put in position a short time later.
Above: Plaque to the oldest working station in London.
During 2014 there have been ongoing works to bring the station up to modern standards. Instead of the entrance being from the pavement beside Deptfrod High Street, a new entry has been built a short distance away, beside what will eventually be a large open square. The old cramped station entrance has been demolished, along with the old staircases. New, more stylish staircases have been installed along with a lift for each of the two platforms. The work on the station is completed (as of October 2014). The only part of the new design still awaiting completion is the access path from Deptford High Street to the new station entrance.
The other question still to be answered is what the workmen have done with the two plaques that were on the old station wall beside the pavement of Deptford High Street. They are are nowhere to be seen at the moment but is to be hoped that they will be on display when all the other work has been finished.
Although the station entrance and access to the platforms have been much improved, the original platforms are still in the same position that they always were and the viaduct has, of course, remained unchanged. At platform level, apart from a ‘lick’ of paint and some welcome additional glazing, with stainless steel trims, the basic platform layout is the same as before.
Deptford is an ‘up and coming’ place with parts being gradually ‘gentrified’ as the years roll by. The smartening up of its station, on such an historic spot, is to be welcomed. Deptford has had a lot of ‘bad press’ over the years and this small step will help add further impetus to regeneration of the High Street and the area in general.