We are fortunate to be able to share with you some views and
memories from the early 1920s of Kingscote station. This page
features some of the staff who worked at the station during the
period, while historic views of the station and its environs are
on this separate page.
Our collection of photographs are copies of those taken by Leonard
(Len) Mead, son of the Kingscote Stationmaster at the time. Len
developed and printed these photographs in a makeshift darkroom
in the cupboard under the stairs of the station house. He visited
the station with his sister during its restoration in 1987 and
continued to visit until his deat
h in 1993. His ashes lie under
an apple tree planted in his memory in the station garden.
Len is shown here at Kingscote in a contemporary view. As he
scratched his name across the back of the negative, the photo
was printed in reverse. He is, in reality, standing at the south
end of the up platform, with the up home signal and the chimneys
of the railway cottages in the background.
William George May Mead (Len's father) moved to Kingscote from
Hever in 1915. He had started in the signal box at Clapham Junction
and moved on to Victoria where he became Chief Clerk. He first
became station master at Wivelsfield and his next post was at
Hever. After his tenure at Kingscote, Mr Mead went on to Emsworth
(near Portsmouth) and finished his career at the Parcels Office
A Stationmaster was a man worthy of respect in the community,
expected to set an example to passengers and staff. He therefore
wears full uniform. Note the heavy boots worn even by the Stationmaster
and the chain for a pocket watch. In the 1920s wristwatches
were rare and expensive, and unsuitable in manual industries such
as railways. The informality possible at a quiet station like
Kingscote is perhaps shown by the cigarette Mr Mead has not quite
hidden in his hand while he has his photograph taken.
Mr Mead was the last Stationmaster, since when he moved on in
1926 Kingscote came under the control East Grinstead,
an early foretaste of future economies.
The Booking Clerk
Charlie Browning stands by the Station porch at Kingscote. The
stained glass panels and carved pilasters did not stand up well
to the Sussex weather and were replaced by wooden boarding at
all stations on the line. Clerks were not issued with a uniform.
Charlie had started at West Hoathly but, according to Len, had
not 'settled down' there. Stationmaster Mead saved the situation
by having him moved to Kingscote under closer supervision. Charlie
stayed on the railway until his retirement circa 1970 from his
position as Assistant Chief Clerk in the booking office at Brighton.
Charlie Browning is shown in this view, captioned by Len as a "learner clerk".
He is doubtless wearing what the smart young man of the 1920's was wearing at the time!
We originally believed the location to be at the south end of the up platform, but now
(due to the presence of the large plant pot and the return in the fence) we consider
that it is outside the entrance to the station house.
Alfred James Hillman, PorterSignalman
Alfred lodged with the Mead family in the station house; his own family (father, James and mother, Nellie) lived at 13 Highlands, Cuckfield. Families frequently took in a paying lodger who was often treated, as Alfred was, like one of the family. Alfred (born 1899) befriended the younger Len Mead (born 1900) and appears in two further photographs.
Porter Signalman was a job common at small stations when the infrequent train service did not warrant either a full-time signalman or a porter. It was a stepping-stone between the general labouring duties of a porter and the more responsible position of full-time signalman at a busier station. Alfred later moved on to become signalman at Arundel Junction.
Alfred wears the regulation 'sleeved waistcoat' supplied to railway staff until the 1970s. He carries a paraffin-lit handlamp which was used to give signals to a guard or driver at night; it could show white, red or green by turning the top to bring coloured glass between the flame and the lens. He is standing in front of the door to the Porters' Room Room. The section of tree trunk at the left was for chopping kindling wood on. The rag hanging on the nail was to wipe one's hands on, as there was no running water in the Porters' Room Room water having to be brought from the pumphouse in a bucket or churn.
The photo below left shows Alfred on the steps of Kingscote signalbox at the northern end of platform two. The sawmill and its rail connections can be seen in the background.
Below right, Alfred proudly displays his First World War medal ribbons. One is the 19141919 Victory Medal while the other is the Military Medal, awarded to him in 1918 for 'Bravery in the Field' during his service on the Western Front in France or Belgium in the 6th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment. He had been conscripted on 26th November 1917 (conscription having been introduced in 1916) and was discharged on 16th March 1919. Conscripts were often sent to regiments with little apparent connection with their home.
Len Mead told us that the Military Medal was awarded for Alfred's actions in covering a retreat by firing his Lewis (machine) gun until the ammunition was used up and only then 'running like hell' after his comrades! The photograph was taken only a few years after the end of what was then called the 'Great War' in which nearly 750,000 young British men had died and many more been maimed, gassed or mentally injured by 'shell shock'.
Note Alfred's 'LB&SCR Porter' cap badge, with number to identify the member of staff.
William Parker, PorterSignalman
William was another Porter Signalman like Alfred Hillman. Len
described him as 'a bit religious'. Born in 1886, he started his
railway career in 1910 at Barnham Junction, moving to Kingscote
five years later. He originally lived in one of the pair of station
cottages (located in the lane just south of the station) but moved
into the station house when Stationmaster Mead and his family
moved away in 1926. He soon also took on the duties of booking
clerk as the station's trade no longer justified a separate clerk.
William Parker retired in October 1951, after 36 years in the
same job at the same location.
William Thorpe, PorterSignalman
William (Bill) Thorpe was a Porter Signalman (according to Len's caption)
"in the last few years at Kingscote". We know very little about him, except
that he moved on to Angmering station as a Signalman and was known to be
there between 1947 and 1960. Bill is shown, probably once again outside
the entrance to the station house, wearing the contemporary uniform of the
If you know of any further information on the railway career of Bill Thorpe,
or any of the other staff shown in these photographs, we would be pleased to
'Pedlar' Miles was the 'Ganger' responsible for the 'gang' of
men who maintained the track at Kingscote and for a mile or two
either side. Short in stature, his stride was not long enough
to comfortably step from one sleeper to the next when walking
his 'length' of track each morning. His solution was to walk on
the top of the rail with a stick to balance him. He lived in the
other railway cottage at Kingscote, next to William Parker. He
is shown standing in front of the door to the station coal store.
The Odd Shot
Len's caption for this view reads: "The picture just shows the end of the Goods Shed. The man in the photo was the (6ft 4ins tall) son of the Stationmaster at Dormans station. Just a pal of mine." We do not know the name of the man, but 6ft 4ins was extremely tall for
the 1920s. If you know of any further information on him, we would be pleased to learn it. Other items of note in this view are the end of the original signalbox and the roses trailing through the paling fence of the up platform.