Demolishing Beverley Station's historic footbridge canopy would take us back to dark days of Beeching axe - Yorkshire Post Letters

From: Dr Steve Parissien, Oxfordshire

I am writing in staunch support of Beverley Civic Society’s well-founded opposition to Network Rail’s proposal to demolish Beverley Station’s historic wooden footbridge canopy.

Network Rail’s insensitive scheme takes us back to the dark days of the Beeching axe of the 1960s and 70s, when countless railway stations and their associated structures were demolished on alleged grounds of economy or safety. If we had listened to the proponents of ‘cost-effective’ renewal then, we would have lost such national architectural treasures as Huddersfield Station, Newcastle Central Station and the Ribblehead Viaduct.

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The railway station remains one of the nation’s most evocative and distinctive building types, redolent of an era in which British industry led the world. The magnificent town of Beverley does not depend just on the Minster, the church of St Mary’s or its Georgian terraces for its renowned heritage character. The town’s railway station, too - erected to the designs of station specialist G T Andrews in 1846 - is crucial in helping to define Beverley’s unique architectural legacy.

The distinctive wooden footbridge at Beverley Station in 1964

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The splendid station footbridge of 1908 is essential to the character of the station and, indirectly, to the appeal of the historic town of Beverley. As seen at Ribblehead Viaduct, almost any historic structure can be restored; demolition is simply an easier option for those who have no interest or stake in our historic environment. I urge Network Rail to think again and withdraw this pernicious proposal.

Dr Steven Parissien is the author of The English Railway Station

Battle to save 'structurally unsound' footbridge canopy

Network Rail wants to make “significant strengthening” and alterations to the Grade II-listed bridge at Beverley Station, which is “structurally failing”, and says its removal is “unavoidable”.

The station opened in 1846 and the North Eastern Railways footbridge has cast-iron elements and timber steps, and was designed to be easily transported and bolted together on-site.

It is likely to have gone up in 1884, with the timber canopy - which is the only example of its design - added later.

In planning documents, Network Rail admits that taking the canopy down will significantly affect the appearance of the bridge, but say having considered a number of other options “the loss is unavoidable”.

No home has been found for it yet, with both the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and the National Railway Museum declining the canopy as it would be counter-productive to cover their own footbridges, which are used as vantage points to view and photograph trains.

Historic England say its loss is “regrettable, but necessary to deliver a safe structure”.

But Beverley Civic Society say the bridge has suffered a “disappointing lack of maintenance over the years” and is concerned at the loss of a “unique period structure”, which will also expose passengers to the elements when crossing the line. They add: “Should the wooden canopy be beyond repair, surely with imagination some sort of sympathetic superstructure from modern materials could be installed.”

The Beverley footbridge, along with ones at Cottingham and Filey, are the last survivors on the Hull & Scarborough line, and among only a few still in use across the country.

Beverley Station suffered during the Beeching axe period in the 1960s as its link to Pocklington, Market Weighton and York was severed when the Minsters Line was closed.