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Friends of Bishopstone celebrate transformation of station parcel office into community hub

The Friends of Bishopstone Station, together with Southeast Communities Rail Partnership and partners, has recently celebrated the opening of its Community Hub, a new local amenity created within the Grade II listed Bishopstone Railway Station.

The newly renovated 1930s parcel office will serve as a hub for the community, offering activity, kitchen and storage areas alongside being fully accessible for wheelchair users. Renovation work was carried out by train operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and made possible through grants and support from the Railway Heritage Trust and Community Rail Network.

The opening event was held earlier this month (November 2022) and welcomed local dignitaries, rail industry partners and community supporters to join in the celebrations. Andrew Blackman, Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, joined railway historian and TV presenter Tim Dunn to cut the ribbon and officially open The Old Parcel Office. Guests also included MP Maria Caulfield, Deputy Mayor of Seaford Cllr Liz Boorman, and Chair of Lewes Council Cllr Adrian Ross.

The Friends of Bishopstone Station will manage and maintain the community hub, renting it out to local groups for events, activities and meetings. A local yoga class and a wellbeing group have already booked regular slots.

Stephen MacCallaugh, Head of Stations for Southern (GTR), said: “Bishopstone is an architectural gem, so it’s great to have worked with the Friends, Community Rail, the Railway Heritage Trust and the local council to achieve its potential as a community asset. I thank our many partners for their invaluable expertise and enthusiasm, which have helped create a much-needed modern facility while honouring the history of the station and the area.”

Barbara Mine, Chair of Friends of Bishopstone Station, said: “We couldn’t have got this far without the continued support from Southeast Communities Rail Partnership, GTR’s Contract Project Manager Paul Devereux, Community Rail Network, Railway Heritage Trust, Network Rail and others. They all believed in our project and made our launch day a success. We now have a restored and amazing community hub for the local and wider community.”

Tim Hedley-Jones, Executive Director of the Railway Heritage Trust, said: “The Railway Heritage Trust are delighted to see the Grade II listed station finally have a permanent use for the redundant space within the building. The station is a unique example of architecture from the 1930s, and we are very pleased our £57,000 grant has been invested to restore some historic features, including the Crittall windows and signage installed in line with the original architectural designs.”

Jools Townsend, Chief Executive of Community Rail Network, said: “We are so pleased to have supported the restoration project at Bishopstone Station. Friends of Bishopstone Station and Southeast Communities Rail Partnership have shown impressive dedication in spearheading this exciting project. They are among many community rail groups across the country taking pride in our railway buildings, and turning previously neglected and unused spaces into ones that are warm, welcoming and beneficial for the whole community – helping communities get greater value from their stations and putting stations at the heart of community life. The Old Parcels Room has been completely transformed, and we can’t wait to see it become a thriving hub of community activity.”

Tim Barkley, Chair of Southeast Communities Rail Partnership, said: “The community hub at Bishopstone reflects Community Rail at its best: connecting communities with their railways and bringing redundant station buildings back to life. We have been happy to provide financial support and encouragement to the Friends of Bishopstone Station from the start in fulfilling their vision to turn the old parcel room into a community hub.

“It is testament to the hard work and drive of the community volunteers over the last five years through many ups and downs that the magnificent building is now looking so splendid for the use of people in the area.”

You can watch highlights from the day of the grand opening here.

Find out more about the Friends of Bishopstone Station and Southeast Communities Rail Partnership on their websites.

Above photo shows railway historian Tim Dunn speaking at the Community Hub opening with Friends Chair Barbara Mine (centre) and Andrew Blackman, Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex (right).