Community rallies round to save heritage signal box
Hebden Bridge’s Victorian signal box, disused since 2018, is set to be looked after as a community-run heritage feature for the town. Locally based charitable trust Calder Valley Community Land Trust has received the news that it is to receive a £99,600 grant from the The National Lottery Heritage Fund for an innovative project focused on preserving the building and creating a heritage centre.
The signal box dates back to the days of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, and still has the original L&Y signal lever frame in place where it was installed in 1891. The building has been empty since the signalling was modernised in 2018 and has suffered low-level vandalism. The importance of the building has been recognised in the grade II listing which it has received from Historic England.
The grant follows three years of work by the Community Land Trust, in partnership with the Friends of Hebden Bridge Station, to find a sustainable future for the signal box under community ownership.
Under the proposals, Calder Valley Community Land Trust will oversee the restoration of the interior of the box. Among other things, a computer simulation will be installed, allowing visitors the virtual experience of using the existing signal levers to ‘take’ a ‘train’ through the Hebden Bridge section of track.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund are also supporting the appointment of a Project Officer who will work with local people, including schools and youth organisations, to enable visitors to better understand the importance of the signal box’s heritage. A series of oral history recordings will be made of the experiences of former signal operators. The ground floor of the box will be adapted, available for visitors looking for quirky overnight accommodation. Income from paying guests will help to fund maintenance of the fabric of the box.
Under the proposals, Calder Valley CLT will take on the legal custodianship of the building from Network Rail on a 25 year lease. The CLT’s charitable objects permit us to hold key public buildings on behalf of the community, and the CLT already holds the Fielden Hall community centre in Todmorden.
Dale Clarke, Property Services Manager for Network Rail, said: “We are delighted to be working with Calder Valley Community Land Trust to preserve the historic signal box. This funding is a huge step towards a heritage project which will allow the Grade II listed building to be enjoyed by people in the community as well as visitors to Hebden Bridge for years to come.
The CLT has received £4,500 from Hebden Royd Town Council, to commission initial architectural feasibility work. Following a tendering exercise, the CLT has appointed local architect Jacquie Milham (Architectonic Design) to work with us. We applied to planning for change of use and listed building consent this May.
We also acknowledge the funding commitment already received from the Railway Heritage Trust towards the refurbishment costs.
A new Hebden Bridge Signal Box Preservation Group has recently been established, to work closely with the CLT and the Friends of the Station. If you’re interested, let us know by emailing email@example.com.
There’s a good webpage article in the Yorkshire Post (also run in the Hebden Bridge Times) about our project (including a video). You can read it/see it here.