I run a regular EBAY search on Copthorne local memorabilia. Recently it threw up a post card of steam locomotive of the LB&SCR (London, Brighton and Southern Counties Railway) – a Billinton E5 class (0-6-2T), with the name COPTHORNE emblazoned down it’s side – it intrigued me. (If items like this come in for about a ‘fiver’, I try to pick them up to add to the village archive – it now includes the said postcard.)
As there had been a local railway line close to Copthorne, it led me to wonder if this loco had been on the Three Bridges to East Grinstead line. There was never a station at Copthorne, but Sir Curtis Lampson, (whose wife Jane’s idea it was to build Copthorne church) made sure that there was a halt built near their residence at Rowfant House. There is a thought that gravel used for the sub-structure of the track in this section came from Copthorne, and the land that was quarried for this became the site of St. John’s Church, which is why the church is built in a bit of a hollow, rather than on a hill, as one would normally expect.
It is astonishing how much detail there is available about things like this. It is possible to trace much of the history of loco like this, from it’s manufacture in 1903 through to discover that it was re-sprayed latterly as a British Rail engine (minus the ‘Copthorne’ sadly) finally ‘retiring’ in 1956.
Researching a little background, I found a lot of information about the Rowfant Grange station halt, including quite a bit of background to it’s closure, on the Disused Stations site, and another link to some additional photos of Rowfant station over the years.
Then I found that the station is far from gone, but alive and well and in active use – in a miniaturised sort of way. The station has been exquisitely re-created in 00 guage by Ian White, complete with Sir Curtis Lampson waiting for his train. Ian has an extensive and detailed webpage with many snippets of information, including dates of when and where his touring model of our little piece of local history can be seen in action.
Little hidden treasures of life.