The Rotherfield & Mark Cross Station was serviced by
the line known as the TUNBRIDGE WELLS & EASTBOURNE RAILWAY and was
opened in sections:
OPENED: Act 18th June 1846; Polegate-Hailsham, 14th May 1849;
Hailsham-Heathfield, 5th April 1880; Heathfield-Eridge, 1st
September 1880; Redgate Mill Junction-Eridge incorporated with Uckfield line as double track, 1894.
CLOSED: Heathfield-Redgate Mill
junction, 14th June 1965; Hailsham-Heathfield, 14th June 1965;
Hailsham-Heathfield, 26th April 1968; Polegate-Hailsham,
9th September 1968.
Length (Eridge to Polegate): 20½ miles.
One of the last expansions of the London & Brighton
Railway (which became the LB&SCR on 27th July 1876)
was to obtain an Act to permit the construction of a
line from Eastbourne to Hailsham, and trains began to
run on this short section in 1849. Thirty years later
a scheme was proposed to join Hailsham to Eridge where
there had been a station since 1868 and thus provide
a direct route between Eastbourne and Tunbridge Wells.
Before the opening date the venture had been absorbed
by the London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR)
in 1876 to enlarge their empire and to protect themselves
against the perennial threat of the South Eastern Railway.
The branch in due course became known as the `Cuckoo
Line' after the Cuckoo Fair held annually at Heathfield
on 14th April. Hailsham might have been an important
junction had the LB&SCR built their Ouse Valley line
from the viaduct north of Haywards Heath across to Uckfield,
Hailsham and St Leonards. The powers obtained in 1864
were hampered by the national financial crisis of 1866
and two years later the project was abandoned.
The station in its' heyday.
|The Cuckoo Line was single throughout with
overline bridges wide enough for two tracks. Gradients
were fairly severe as, for example, the fall at 1 in 88
from Redgate Mill junction towards Rotherfield. There were
two short tunnels, the longer, just north of Heathfield
being 200 yards. In the years after the opening throughout
there were seven trains each way on weekdays, with one
additional train between Heathfield and Eastbourne, and
two on Sundays. This service continued through the years
and the number of trains was unchanged at the Grouping.
Despite the difficulties after 1945 the service was maintained
and even improved, as British Rail were running thirteen
trains in each direction in 1964, with seven on Sundays.
The railway had been viewed with disfavour by Dr Beeching,
and although Mayfield and Hailsham stations were conveniently
placed, it must be admitted that the remainder were somewhat
remote from the villages they were intended to serve. In
1880 this was not such a defect, as the public would regard
it as normal to take a horse-drawn conveyance to and from
The first engines on the branch were Craven 2-4-OTs which
were duly replaced by Stroudley D1
0-4-2Ts and one particular E1
0-6-OT named Barcelona, No 157. From 1892 the D3
0-4-4-Ts designed by R. J. Billinton appeared, and after 1923 Wainwright's H
class 0-4-4Ts were to be seen on the Cuckoo Line as indeed they were
all over the south-east of the Southern Railway system. After 1951 the
standard 2-6-4Ts, built at Brighton, took over. In due course, diesel
multiple-unit trains supplemented steam, but for the last runs on 12th
June 1965 BR sportingly produced No 80144 to do the honours.
On 1st September 1897 a derailment occurred between Heathfield
and Mayfield. The 8.18 from Eastbourne was being hauled by Dl 0-4-2T No
297 Bonchurch when it left the track, followed by the six coaches. The
driver was unfortunately killed, but there were no other casualties. It
was considered that the track was not substantial enough for high-speed
Following the complete closure of the line, some of the trackbed
has become footpath, the best known section being the Cuckoo Trail, starting
at Heathfield, and other sections have become part of the A267 around Mayfield,
as the trackbed originally followed the line of the A267 for long stretches. Click
Here for more details of the these walks and footpaths.