Oxted & District History Society - Talk
Oxted & District History Society

Paul Sowen’s lecture concentrated on the problems of building our local railway line, particularly the 10 mile stretch through the North Downs, with expensive tunnels, cuttings and embankments and extra hassle from being on the borders of territories dominated by major railway companies.

Work initially began on the line in 1865 but The Surrey & Sussex Junction Railway suffered badly as a result of the 1866 bank crash and had to be stopped.  In 1880 the Croydon, Oxted and East Grinstead Line was begun by the great railway engineer, Joseph Firbank, completed in 1883 and opening in 1884.

Joseph Firbank was born in 1819 and worked down the coal mines aged 7.  However he changed to railway building, acquired an education and rose to become a successful railway engineer, a wealthy man and Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire.  Large numbers of workers from many countries were needed to build the line, living in poor conditions in large camps.  The 1881 Census is a rich source of information about the railway workers.  The Oxted Tunnel was a major challenge, involving the diversion of two square miles of water catchment.


The Croydon, Oxted and East Grinstead Line.

by Paul Sowen. 13th Nov 2012