Posted by Simon Parke, 02 June 2017, 8.55am
First, the back story.
Seaford station was opened on June 1st 1864, when there were high hopes for the town.
A track extension was planned to take the train through to glamorous Eastbourne.
There was even talk of the town having its own pier.
‘Our own pier!’
Heady days on the coast, dizzy with sand-fuelled anticipation and Victorian promise.
But things didn’t work out for Seaford. Neither the rail extension nor the pier was ever built.
(Brighton probably got the money, Brighton always gets the money…with the wild horse of Seafordian resentment barely reined in.)
Our current train service, and I use the term loosely, is provided by Southern Rail.
The point of Southern Rail is still to be established but there are other unnecessary aspects to the station.
For instance, when waiting for a train at Seaford, the announcer tells you that the train for Brighton will be arriving shortly at this station ‘where it will terminate.’
He probably doesn’t need to say this.
We know it will terminate, the clues are there.
If it didn’t terminate at Seaford, it would need to continue across some trackless ground before smashing through a large brick wall and proceeding eastwards through our local newsagent.
Seaford station is the end of the line.
Though some people think this is a metaphor, given the age of the residents.
Our announcer also tells us that the train will depart from Platform Two.
Again, this is probably unnecessary.
Platform Two is the only platform.
Platform One is now a wild flower conservation area maintained by local residents.
I don’t know why we’ve hung onto ‘Platform Two’.
Perhaps when you have no pier, like a vicar with a small spire, you insecurely grab at size in whatever way you can.
The other thing, as you’ll have noticed, is that the platform at Seaford is long.
It’s very long…it can make for a pleasant if exhausting Sunday afternoon walk.
It’s as long as the platform at Clapham Junction, which is the busiest station in England.
When Seaford station isn’t.
The platform at Seaford stretches as far as the eye can see while the train service stretches only to three carriages… and two of those are empty.
This does baffle people, but the answer, as ever, lies in the low-lying mist of past times.
In the 19th century, there were over fifty private schools in Seaford.
The Victorians swore by the efficacy of sea air for the young.
So at the end of term, there were a large number of school children with huge trunks looking to get away by train, hence the need for an abnormally long platform.
These days, there are no private schools here.
Not even Seaford College which you might have imagined would be here.
But no, ‘Seaford College’ has skulked off to Petworth, in West Sussex, which is another world entirely.
Yet despite this disgraceful act of betrayal, it has kept its name, our name, which may be legal, (I’m sure they have a good lawyer) but is it decent?
I do wonder.
Only the extensive platform remains of those glory, glory days, when the world was young and everything before us.
Now wild poppies grow on Platform One.