Kemp Town Railway

William Clarke Park sits on layers of landfill which during the 1970s was piled over where, for the previous 100 years, deep in its cutting had lain the rails of the old Kemp Town branch line.

Below is a short history of the line courtesy of www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk story by John Blackwell, St Peter’s Area Editor

The Kemp Town Branch opened on August 3rd 1869, ostensibly to provide a link to the fashionable suburb of Kemp Town on the eastern outskirts of Brighton.This short branch of just over one mile cost some £100,000 to construct. This was an enormous sum in those days, but hardly surprising as much of its length was on a viaduct or in a tunnel.

It was never financially justifiable and was actually built by the railway company (the London Brighton & South Coast Railway) to protect its territory, and in particular the Brighton traffic, from rival schemes. Passenger traffic ceased on 31st December 1932 but goods traffic, especially coal, survived until 1971.

Following closure, the entire branch was bought by Brighton Corporation. After 30 years nothing of railway origin remains, except the tunnel, yet the route can still be easily followed. Following the route of the branch line. The branch diverged from the Brighton-Lewes line just east of the tunnel under Ditchling Road, and ran through what is now Centenary Industrial Estate off the Hollingdean Road. This was formerly the site of a small goods yard and in the south eastern corner, at the junction of Richmond and D’Aubigny Roads, Lewes Road station was opened on September 1st 1873.

Lewes Road station could also be accessed by a covered flight of steps from Lewes Road. Immediately to the east was a fourteen arch viaduct that crossed Lewes Road and two arms of Melbourne Street. The section crossing Lewes Road and Melbourne Street was demolished in 1976 and the western portion (now covered by Sainsbury’s) went in 1983. After a short stretch of embankment, now removed, a fine bridge, demolished in 1973, crossed Hartington Road. St Martin’s School and Viaduct Court mark the crossing. On entering a recreational area, from Hartington Road opposite Shanklin Road, immediately to the east was the site of the short-lived Hartington Road Halt that opened in 1906 but had closed by 1911.

From this point one can walk almost to the entrance, of the 945m (1,024 yd) tunnel, now sealed, which passes below Elm Grove and Queens Park Road before emerging to the east of Freshfield Road. At the intersection of Pankhurst Avenue and Down Terrace is a small iron ventilator, some 30cm (12 inches) high, which is allegedly connected to the tunnel below. Kemp Town station was situated in Coalbrook Road and was of similar design to those at Portslade and London Road (Brighton). Behind were a long single platform and an extensive coal and goods yard. Today Freshfield Industrial Estate covers the site but the tunnel portal can still be discovered.

An imaginary leap, if the spur was still active today…


Kemp Town railway station – Wikipedia

Kemp Town railway station was the terminus station of a short branch line serving the Kemptown district of Brighton, England. The branch line opened in 1869, …

First proposals · ‎Development · ‎After passenger closure · ‎Accidents and incidents

Disused Stations: Kemp Town Station

21 May 2017 – Notes: The Kemp Town branch line opened on 2nd August 1869 and although only just over a mile in length it was a costly line to construct as, …

Date closed to passengers‎: ‎2.1.1933

Company on closing‎: ‎Southern Railway

Date closed completely‎: ‎26.6.1971

Date opened‎: ‎2.8.1869

UPDATE: Local sensation as Kemp Town railway line to reopen

1 Apr 2018 – It has been signalled that the Kemp Town railway line is to reopen with a … it took just 12 minutes to get from Brighton Station to Kemp Town.

You visited this page on 17/11/18.

DUMPMAN’S FILMS – Kemp Town branch line stills

Filling in the cutting north of Kemp Town tunnel. First section demolished over Hartington Road. Lewes Road station, looking towards Brighton. Cox’s pill factory …

You visited this page on 17/11/18.

Kemptown Railway

website about The Kemp Town Railway! Go to our Photograph & Web link Policy. We are currently having a bit of a facelift! You will gradually notice new …

Kemp Town Branch

2 Jan 2011 – When the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway opened its short branch to Kemp Town on 2nd August 1869, it was as much as anything a …

Kemp Town Railway Line. Brighton Public Group | Facebook

Kemp Town Railway Line. Brighton has 730 members. A group to gather photos and share information about Brighton’s Kemp Town Railway which ran from …

The tunnel, then and now | Kemp Town branch | Transport | Places …

22 Mar 2006 – View from the tunnel on Kemp Town Branch Line in about the 1960’s. Photo by John Leach. Photo:Kemp Town Branch Tunnel as it looks today.


harding peter – kemp town branch line – AbeBooks

The Kemp Town Branch Line by Peter A. Harding and a great selection of similar Used, New and Collectible Books available now at AbeBooks.co.uk.

There are a few copies in local libraries of this book.





William Clarke

William ‘Nobby’ Clarke was a local councillor and secretary of the Brighton Labour Party during the ’60s & 70’s. He was also Brighton Mayor for a time. He campaigned to turn the site of the old Kemp Town railway into a recreation ground for the benefit of local children and residents in the Elm Grove & Lewes Rd areas.

If you have any more information on William Clarke please contact us.

Friends of William Clarke Park

The ‘Friends…’ group was first established in 1995. For a few years we ran regular community events – Spring celebrations, summer fairs (‘Patch Picnics’) and winter tree dressing events which marked the seasons with story telling, live music, food and games. At tree planting events local children planted hundreds of daffodils which still return to brighten up the Patch each February-April.

The group became dormant in the late’90s until in early 2005 a small group of local people reformed it following a strong level of interest revealed by a survey of residents run by a local arts group – Spectral Arts.  Residents wanted to reverse the parks perceived deterioration and decline particularly around the playground area. So a small group, including former FWCP members, set about rebuilding the `Friends’ group, inviting those who had responded to the questionnaire to get involved.The first proper meeting was held in March establishing plans for an Easter & Summer event and a petition calling on the Council to make improvements to the playground. On 21St April 2005 the new group was formally re-established with a constitution and a commitment “to protect & promote William Clarke Park in its role as a green space and wildlife habitat providing a focus for local community life”. Specifically we set out to:

  • organise events
  • provide a voice for park users and forum for discussing park-related issues
  • campaign & fundraise for improvements responsive to the views of the local community
  • mark the park’s heritage as the site of the old Kemp Town branch railway line
  • protect & promote the park as a a haven for wildlife

If you are interested in joining the committee, complete the volunteer form. You can also attend our regular meetings and also our AGM.