History of Gravesend Central Station

This page is published by kind permission of the author, Dave Collins & friend


Gravesend had its first railway station, (a terminus of the line from Strood, and built near the river) which opened on 10th February 1845 and closed when the current through station opened (at the time the connection from London & Dartford was completed)

Gravesend Terminus – Station Master there was a Mr. J Weeks:

Only 14 months before the opening of the new station, the Gravesend residents did not know the intended location of the station or the route the new line would be taking, so it would appear that the station was built very quickly: 30th May 1848 article ( The new station opened only 14 months later, but nobody spotted it being built apparently?)

The station in 1849

The current station was designed by Samuel Beazley who was an architect, author and a playwright, he also designed the Adelphi Theatre in London, many other theatres, London Bridge terminus station, Canterbury West station and most stations on the North Kent line, including Erith.

The current Gravesend Station (North Kent) opened on 30th July 1849, and the first Station Master (who must have been appointed when the station opened) was William Hillam, who was Station Master from the opening day until 1850.

(he later transferred to become Station Master at Marks Tey, Essex by 1856, apart from that no further information on him so far found).

As persons with railway experience were limited in those days, it’s quite likely that William Hillam was from a military background, as his successor George Anderson was.

He had a couple of newsworthy incidents at Gravesend in 1850, one involving theft of a piece of rail, and one concerning a detective smoking a pipe on a train (allegedly) :

Residents of Gravesend Railway Station, 1851

George Anderson who was born, c.1805 in Co. Sligo, Ireland, was the next Station master, probably by late 1850

He lived in the station house in 1851 with wife Hannah, (born, Ramsgate, 1799) and family, daughter Elizabeth, B.1833, son George, B.1834,daughter Mary, b.1836 all of whom were born in Corfu, Ionian Islands (now Greek) where father George was serving with the 88th Regiment of Foot (The Connaught Rangers, also known as “The Devils Own”) The regiment served in the Ionian Islands from 1825 – 1836, George was there for all, or some of that time, at least from 1833.

Also living in the station house were son Thomas William Anderson, born Bolton, Lancs 1838 (a headquarters for Georges regiment) and twins Edward & Henry, both born 3 Claremont Place, St Lawrence, Ramsgate, 5th August 1840, all lived in the station house in 1851

The SM, George Anderson had attained the rank of Sgt. Major with the Army.

But had left the Army by 1840 when he and the family were living in Leigh, Kent in 1841 and he was by then a police officer, followed by his appointment to the Gravesend S M position.

15th March 1851, rough stuff at the station involving the S M:


Son Henry married twice and became a railway clerk.

Son Thomas William returned to the North West (Liverpool) and became a ships steward.

Son George b .1834 died of dysentery (7 months) in Milton Military Hospital, Gravesend on 24th June 1861, he had followed his father into the Army, and he’d served with the 52nd Regiment of Foot (the regiment had recently been serving in India, where George had probably became ill.

Daughter Mary became a schoolmistress in Deptford, married in 1864 (but divorced her husband schoolmaster Samuel Brenchley in 1874 for beating her up and committing adultery with two different women, one of whom he next married!)

Daughter Elizabeth (also a schoolmistress) went on to marry a Dutchman (John James De Loecker (in Deptford, 1865) and they had daughter Georgina Elizabeth Jeanette Mary De Loecker (1870 – 1923)

(John James De Loecker was a railwayman, a clerk for the SER).

It is not yet known what happed to George Anderson, by 1861 his wife Hannah, (schoolteacher) is shown as a widow and living in Deptford with daughters, Mary & Elizabeth, so quite how long he was at Gravesend is not clear, 1854 at the latest, and dying before 1861

On Sunday 22nd June 1851 (when Mr Anderson was the Station Master), Charles Dickens passed through the station at around 08:30 and it led to this tale as reported by Dickens:

The Anderson family grave in Brockwell Cemetery, SE London. George Anderson is not buried here, but remembered on the stone.

Gravesend station W H Smith opens 1859 (now Pumpkin)

Residents in 1854

From late 1854 the Station Master was Lewis Portch, who was born in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire in 1817 and family, wife Mary Jane (nee Wearn).

Previously Lewis had been a grocer and a licensed victualler running the Crown & Sugarloaf (renamed as The Punch Tavern in 1848, and still existing now) public house at 99 Fleet Street, St Brides, London between 1841 – 1843 and after his railway career ended he and his wife went back into the pub trade running the Windsor Castle public house in Harrow Road, 1880-1899.

By 1844 Lewis had become an inspector for the Eastern Counties Railway and was a witness at a trial at the Old Bailey:

LEWIS PORTCH , Inspector of the Eastern Counties Railway. On the 6th of March, I saw the prisoner get in and seat himself between the two ladies—I had seen him before—it is my duty to remain at Shore-Ditch, but on this occasion I went down—when we got to Stratford I saw the prisoner hurrying away—I spoke to the lady, and then followed the prisoner—he was between walking and running from the carriage—he saw I was pursuing him, and then he ran—I followed him—I came up after he was caught—he ran in the direction in which the purse was afterwards found.

In 1851 Lewis Porch living in Strood and was working as an inspector for SER at London Bridge Station:

The family had lived in Strood, Kent in 1851 before he got the Gravesend post, and was living in the station house in 1861 with wife Mary Jane, sons Ralph, b. 1842, booking clerk, and John, b. 1845, telegraph boy, daughter Emily, b.1843 plus lodger John Anthony Woods, goods clerk.

Lewis (surname spelt wrongly) was SM at Gravesend by December 1854:

1862 Fatal accident (derailment due to a trolley being left on the line) between Higham & Gravesend:

December 1862: Flasher on a train?

December 1863, Lewis Portch appointed to be SM at the brand new Blackfriars station opening 1st Jan 1864:

Lewis & family were living at 31 Nelson Square , Southwark (pictured below) by 1863 until at least 1871, in 1863 Lewis had been appointed to the important position of Station Master of the newly opened (1st January 1864) Blackfriars Station on the Charing Cross Railway .

(His son, William Lewis (30) Portch had become a railway inspector by 1871).

During Lewis’s time at Blackfriars, in 1873 he was threatened with being stabbed by a drunken member of staff:

Lewis and Mary Jane then had moved into and ran the Windsor Castle pub in Harrow by 1880, with wife Mary becoming the landlady as Lewis was admitted as a lunacy patient into the Royal Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam), on 8th June 1880 dying there on 30th December 1899.]

Wife Mary continued to run the Windsor Castle but described herself as “widow” in 1881, the year after Lewis was admitted into the hospital.

Lewis left the sum of £7193 13s 10d (around £560,000 in today’s money) administered to son John.

Residents in 1863

The Station master from 1863 was Francis David Woodcock

Francis was born in Sandwich, Kent in 1815 and in 1841 -1851 was employed by the railway as an inspector in Greenwich then by 1861 was the Station Master at Tonbridge station living at 12 Station Cottages with wife Mary Ann, b.1815 Ashtead, Surrey, also with Francis’s sister Mary D Woodcock.

Francis and Mary Ann had a daughter Harriet Damazine, d.1855, Bermondsey

In 1863 Francis was appointed as Station Master, Gravesend , but by 1871 had moved on to become Station Master at Belvedere Station, where they lived at the station house.

In March 1868 at Gravesend ticket office Francis D Woodcock was involved in a case of theft by booking clerk having money stolen from his drawer by a colleague. He was caught red-handed by the victim hiding in a cupboard to witness the crime taking place !

He had retired by 1881 and was living at 3 Rookery Road, Belvedere with wife and daughter, Francis died in1884 at the age of 69 and was buried at St John the Baptist Cemetery in Erith.

Residents in 1871

The Station Master appointed in March 1870 was Robert Clifford Taylor, he was born in Gravesend in 1823 and had previously been a silversmith at the time of his marriage to Mary Ann Audsley (b.1827, Dartford) in 1845, had become a railway officer in the Bermondsey area by 1851 and was Station Master, Erith. 1858 -1870 and was then living at Erith railway station.

In 1871 he was living at the Gravesend station house with wife Mary Ann and children Helen Elizabeth, b.1849, Dartford, Kate Jane, b.1854, Strood, (who died at the age of 18 in Gravesend 1872) and Charles Audsley, b.Strood 1856.

(Another of their sons, Richard John Taylor, b. 1848, Dartford was a railway inspector in Deptford, 1881 and went on to become the Station Master at Strood by 1891)

July 1870, Mr Taylor helps passenger who’d just given birth on a train:

Robert Clifford Taylor was made a widower when his wife Mary Ann died (of liver and spleen disease) at the Gravesend Station House 22nd September 1876 aged just 49

(her mother, Elizabeth Audsley had died at the same location just a few weeks earlier)

On 16th March 1874 the station and approaches were lavishly decorated in preparation for a visit from the Russian royal family and Mr Robert C Taylor is mentioned:

Then by 1881 he had retired and was living at Minster, Thanet Railway station with his daughter Helen Elizabeth, who was married to the Minster station master, a William Henry Hunt.

Robert Clifford Taylor died in Thanet in 1889 at the age of 67.

Residents in 1881

In 1881 the Station Master living in the Station House was Peter Harvey, born in Bermondsey, c.1815, he had been a sealing wax maker in 1840 at the time of his marriage to Jane Passell (1821-21/01/1871) but had become a railway guard by 1841.

They had three children and some had railway connections:

Selina Jane b.1846, Chilham, Kent, married Henry Roach in 1876, Henry was Station Master at Streatham, 1871, SM at Norwood in 1881 and Dorking 1891. Henry Roach’s father John Roach was Station Master at Caterham Junction station, (later renamed Purley) 1861- 1881.

Eliza Sarah, b.1848, Minster, Kent, Eliza went on to marry a Henry Kewell, who had become a police superintendent, in Sandwich, Kent by 1881:

Francis Frederick Rowton, b. 1855, Godstone, Surrey, Francis (who went on to be known as “Frank”) was working at Sittingbourne as railway servant in 1881 but went on to run dining rooms and then becoming a licensed victualler.

(None of these lived at the Gravesend station building however, they’d grown up and married by 1881)

Peter Harvey had become Station Master firstly at Minster in Thanet by 1851, and then moving on to become Station Master at Dartford from 1857 -1868 before getting the promotion to become Station Master at Gravesend by 1881.

1877 Dartford:  He was living at the Gravesend Station house in 1881 with housekeeper Elizabeth Yates, widow, b.1825 Thame, Oxfordshire.

Peter Harvey died at 2 The Limes, Duncan Road, Ramsgate, Kent, 15th January 1885 at the age of 70. He left £3042.12s 7 6d in his will (worth about £273,296 in todays value).

Residents in 1891

(From this year onwards it appears that the Station Masters ceased to live in the Station House, Goods Clerks lived in the Station House, and were basically second only to SM’s because the value of goods traffic was high)

In 1891 the occupants were George Stephen Baynton, who was a Railway Inspector, not a Station Master and his family, wife Sarah Maria (nee Fry) b.1848, Sunningdale, Berks. and children George, b. Reading, 1870 ,who was working as a plumber at the age of 21 (at the other side of the station where the Facilities Department recently was, lived George Hicks, a Barking born plumber & gas fitter, so possibly the employer of the younger George Baynton?) Next son, Thomas, b.1872, Wokingham, Berks and working as an estate agent and daughter Mabel, b.1882, Plumstead. Also living there was mother in law, Catherine Fry, b.1825, Sunningdale, Berks.

George Stephen Baynton, railway Inspector, was born in St James, Central London in 1843, by 1871 he was employed by the railway as a porter and living in Reading, Berks. By 1881 he was a railway guard living at 19 Elm Grove Street, Plumstead prior to becoming an inspector and moving to Gravesend.

He left railway employment by 1901 and was landlord of the Crown Inn, Hartest, Suffolk from 1901 – 1911 (mother in law Catherine still living with them in 1911 at the age of 86)

He died in Hartest on 10th September 1917 at the age of 74, leaving £69.00

Gravesend Station Master 1891

The Gravesend Station Master in 1891 was Charles Hart but he didn’t live at the station, he resided at nearby 13 Stone Street.

Charles was born in Lubenham, Leicestershire c.1834, his family were wife Mary Jane nee Duncan, b.1832, Lynsted, Kent, (they married 1855, Rugby) , sons Frederick James, b.1871 Plumstead (goods clerk), and Harry, b.1874, Plumstead, solicitors clerk lived with the parents in 1891.

Before becoming Station Master at Gravesend, in 1881, Charles had been living in Handford, Staffs in 1857, “out of employ” in Romford, Essex 1861 , railway goods clerk, Plumstead in 1871,Charles was “clerk in charge” at Woolwich Arsenal station 1881, the couple also had a son Donald, b.1857 Handsworth, Staffordshire who became a railway clerk and cashier.

Charles Hart is known to have kept chickens in the small garden of the station house. March 1888, railway prosecution:

July 1889 special excursion trains from Gravesend (Anglo-Saxons & Normans Friendly Society)?!

Charles Hart had retired by 1900 and was living at 52 High Street, Northfleet from 1901- 1909. He died in Strood on 12th April 1909 at the age of 75, and bequeathed his £354 to sons Donald and Harry.

Residents in 1901 – 1911

Edwin Walkey, b.1863, 2 Devonshire Place, Lower Addiscombe Road, Addiscombe, Croydon, Surrey, railway goods agent (and had previously lived at 64 Darnley Street 1891), but living the station house in 1900-1911 with family: wife Kate Duncan (nee Hart), b.1866, Plumstead (married 1887, Gravesend), son Edwin Duncan Walkey, b.1888 – 1947, civil servant, daughter, Dorothy Kate Walkey, b.1891 -1922, (shorthand typist by 1911) son Charles Adelbert Walkey, b.1892, died WW1, France 1915, daughter Olive Mary Walkey, b.1899 – 1927, all children born in Gravesend. (Edwin & wife Kate had also had another two other children who had died very young, daughter Hilda May, (1895-1895) and a son Stanley Gordon, (1897-1897).

Edwin & wife Kate were living at 23 New House Road, Gravesend by 1939 and Edwin died 8 January 1941 leaving £1621 13s 6d (£57, 000 todays value) to son Edwin Duncan Walkey, civil servant, (the only surviving child of theirs as they had sadly had lost the rest of their offspring at quite young ages).

The Walkey’s had quite a tragic life, familywise, whilst living at Gravesend station.

Living in the station house on the other side of the building (our ex-Facilities Department) were Charles Richard Waghorn, railway inspector, b.1867, Hawkhurst, Kent, wife Urania (nee Carvill), b.1862, Culworth, Northamptonshire and daughters Dorothy & Edith, both born Charlton.

Station Master, Gravesend from 1901 – 1911 (he didn’t live at the station) was Walter Penn Capon.

He was born in Hythe, Kent in 1850 and had become Station Master at long closed Smeeth Railway Station by 1881.

{This station near Ashford Kent, opened 1852 and closed in 1954}

By 1891 he was living at 30 West Street, Bromley , Kent and was Station Master, (probably Bromley North, from the address) with 1st wife Jane (nee Caney. b.1845 Feltwell, Norfolk, died 1895) and their daughter Flora Jane, b.1874,Folkestone and then by 1900 was the Station Master at Woolwich Arsenal and had become the Gravesend Station Master by 1901 and was living at The Retreat, Station Road North, Gravesend (a 7 roomed house, which no longer exists, now beneath the Thamesgate Shopping Centre) with 2nd wife Sarah Ann (nee Money) b 1867, Alresford, Hampshire (they’d married in 1900) and she was 17 years younger than him!

In 1902 Walter became a Freemason with the Gravesend Lodge. (Lodge of Freedom)

By 1911 Walter was still Station Master, Gravesend but had moved house and was living at 42 Stuart Road, Gravesend in that year with wife Sarah Ann, and son Leslie Walter Penn, b.1901, Gravesend, d.1984, Gravesend.

Walter Penn Capon (retired) and wife Sarah Ann had moved again to “Sedgemore”, The Avenue, Gravesend where Walter died 5th Feb 1930 aged 79, Sarah Ann then moved back to nearer her birthplace and was living at the Little Crown Inn, Hartney Wintney, Hampshire where she died 25th December 1931 aged 64.

From 1919 – 1922 (at least) the Gravesend Station Master was Charles Henry Coleman, b 11th September 1871, Westerham, Kent, he married Amy Lucy Wickens in Bermondsey, 26th November 1899,

he was a railway clerk at this time, and booking clerk (Catford or Catford Bridge?) living at 146 Laleham Road, Catford in 1901.

By 1911 Charles had become Station Master at Lydd Town station on Romney Marsh and had three daughters, Marjorie, b.1905, Lewisham, Kathleen, b.1909, Chilham and Winifred,

b. 1910, Lydd.

Royal Artillery horses arriving at Lydd Town Station 1909 Charles had become Station Master at Gravesend by 1919:

By 1936 Charles had retired and was living with wife Amy at 103 Darnley Road, Gravesend.

The Station Master from 1925 – 1932 was Arthur George Stacey. b.15/10/1883. Croydon, Surrey. d.7th March 1934, Ramsgate, Kent.

He married Edith Esther Murrell in Croydon, 27th May 1911, he was still a railway clerk at that time, becoming a Station Master by 1914.

He began his railway career as a clerk at Upper Warlingham, and had worked at Sandgate, Blackwater, Farnborough North, Ramsgate Harbour, Hastings, Tunbridge Wells and Canterbury before being appointed Station Master at Queenborough in 1915 – 1925, He became a Freemason with the Queenborough Lodge whilst he was there, then he transferred to Gravesend in 1925, from Gravesend he moved on to become Station Master, Ramsgate November 1932.

Residents in 1939

Walter William Ruff (b.5th February 1881) goods agent was living in the station house in 1939, he was also a railway Air Raid Precautions official and was first aid trained, he shared the house with carriage examiner Frances Gilbert (b.6th January 1901)

Walter W Ruff was born in Rudgwick, Sussex , was recommended for railway employment by his schoolmaster, began his railway career at Rudgwick station, Sussex (now closed) in 1893 and he had married May Pearson in the Tonbridge area in 1904, they had a son Reginald Albert in 1904, and Walter was employed as a railway clerk in Tunbridge Wells in 1901 and Aldershot in 1911. He died in Great Bookham, Surrey, 16th January 1963 at the age of 81 and left £237.00 to his son Reginald A Ruff, also a railway clerk.

Station Master 1945

The Station Master for Gravesend Central (also in charge of Gravesend West station by this year) was Oscar Eugene Pointing, who was appointed in August 1945

He was born 11th October 1888 in Ramsgate, Kent to father William C Pointing (tailor) b.1853 and mother Susanna Jane (nee Bourne).Oscar married in 1911 to Ethel A. Sudds in Sevenoaks, they had two children, Eric Oscar born 24th January 1914 (later a railway clerk in Gosport, Hants.) and Majorie Joan, born 16th April 1918, both born Malling, Kent.

From 1935 Oscar and family had relocated To Gosport, Hants where wife Ethel A. died in 1938, Oscar was living at 3A Willis Road, Gosport in 1939 with both children and his job was railway (goods) clerk, he was in charge of the goods department before becoming Station Master, Gosport in 1941. In 1943 Oscar remarried to Lillian Beckett in Gosport. They had daughter Suzanne M born 1945, Gosport

In August 1945 he was appointed to the Gravesend Station Master post, he later returned to Gosport where he died in 1968 aged 79.

Station Master Gravesend 1953

Sydney Mansell Haydon DCM, born 28th October 1896, St Lawrence, Ramsgate, son of Henry Haydon, a blacksmith, Sydney had joined the S E Railway by 1913 as a clerk , but joined the Army in Sandwich, Kent 22nd November 1915, he served in France and Italy in WW1 and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal on 17th April 1918, and was entitled to be known as Sydney M Haydon, DCM.

He married Dorothy Stone (b. 29 September 1898) in 1921, Eastry, Kent and they had three children:

Dorothy Joan Haydon, b.1922, Faversham,

Peter Mansell Haydon, b.24th December, 1924, Faversham, David Mansell Haydon, b.27th November 1926, Faversham.

(The family were living in Faversham 1922- 1926, and Sydney likely to have been working at Faversham Station during this time.)

The family in the 1930’s

In 1938 -1941 he was Station Master at Cranbrook, Kent, where he lived in the Station House. Cranbrook was on the now closed Paddock Wood to Hawkhurst branch line, and then in 1941 he

became the SM at Appledore, Kent.

Cranbrook Station 1950’s (above)

Appledore Station 1950’s (above)

From 1943 – 1946 Mr Haydon was Station Master, Sturry, Kent Sturry Station 1950’s:

May 1943:

Funeral of Mr A J Hollis (Sydney attended)

Sydney’s wife Joan died in S W Essex in early 1946 and in 1947, in Canterbury, he re- married to Eileen May McCoom (b.1st May1914, Canterbury – d.1999, Gravesend)

They had one son, Christopher ,b.1949, Chatham

From around 1947 -1949 Sydney had been Station Master at Cliffe Station, Isle of Grain, in charge of the late All Hallows on Sea branch line.

Cliffe Station 1961 (above)

From 1951 – 1953, he was SM at Chatham, moving to Gravesend in 1953. November 1953:

Later he became Station Master / Area Manager at Ashford, Kent finally retiring by 1962. He died in 1976, Dartford at the age of 80.

Footnotes: a retired Station Master William Johnson, b.25/12/1869 and wife Emma, b.1870 were living at 1 Jay Road, Gravesend in 1939.

He could have possibly been another Gravesend station master Station Master Gravesend West 1891

The Station Master at Gravesend West 1891, was Thomas Holt Shephard b.1847, Ipswich, Suffolk.

He was living at 43 Darnley Terrace, Gravesend in 1891 with wife Caroline Emily (nee Cock)

b. Dover, 1850 (and who was his cousin) and son Philip Edward, booking clerk, b.1873, Dover.

Whilst at Gravesend he became a Freemason, joining the Gravesend Lodge of Freedom in 1893.

Before becoming Station Master at Gravesend Thomas had been living in Adisham, Kent in 1861, (his father George, born in Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire was working as a railway labourer there)

Thomas became a railway clerk in Dover by 1871, and married in Dover the same year, by 1881 he was Station Master at Rainham, Kent and was living in the Station House there, after working at Gravesend he went on to become SM at Sittingbourne by 1901and was living in the Station House there until his death on 30th March 1906.