Merstham is situated to the right of the line – formerly famous for its apple orchards.
This has been called the “Pleasure Line;” and certainly the beauty and extent, of the country traversed by its trains justly entitle it to that distinguishing appellation. It is not only one of the chief mediums of daily communication between England and the Continent, but its iron roads and branches intersect the beautiful county of Kent in all directions, affording the inhabitants of the great metropolis faculties of visiting the numerous watering places on its coast, and enabling them to become acquainted with its picturesque scenery, cities, and baronial halls, and he astonishing fertility of its soil.
London to Red Hill
No sooner is the train in motion than we escape from the confinement of the station and emerge into purer air – although the first mile we pass over no less than a dozen streets, thronged with a restless, busy population, who inhabit the dense neighbourhood of Horsleydown and Bermondsey.
The Greenwich Railway diverges to the east, and to the west is the branch to the Bricklayers’ Arms, built upon arches, and extending by the side of the Surrey Canal over a long tract of market-garden ground.
With a distant glimpse of the wood-crowned heights of Greenwich, and a near view of a large red brick building – the Royal Naval school – we arrive at the great locomotive station of the Brighton and Dover Companies; the Nunhead Cemetery, about a mile to the right. A range of undulating eminences beyond Peckham and Dulwich rapidly pass in view, and a few miles further on, almost before the eye can take in the range of picturesque suburban scenery, we reach New Cross.
From New Cross the train diverges from the North Kent line, and proceeds through a deep cutting that conceals all view of the country, to the Dartmouth Arms Station at Forest Hill, an exceedingly pretty spot, which is becoming a favourite residence of an increasing number of families from the metropolis. A mile beyond this is the Sydenham Station, in the midst of very lovely scenery, and in view of the fairy-like scene of the Crystal Palace, with its marvellous transepts, and wings, and galleries, situated in the most exquisite and park-like grounds – ornamented with a noble terrace, commanding one of the finest views in England, and embellished with waterfalls, cascades, and splendid fountains – all on such a vast and magnificent scale as to suggest the idea of its being the Palace of the Celestial Empire of China, rather than that, of the people of England – by whom it ought to be liberally supported. For further description of the Crystal Palace, see Crystal Palace. At a short distance beyond Sydenham the line leaves the border of Kent and diverges more into the county of Surrey. The Anerley Station, although in a pretty situation, deserves no particular mention, in comparison with the celebrated one of Norwood.
A short distance beyond Caterham Junction the railway enters the celebrated Merstham Tunnel, which is said to have cost £112,000.
Emerging thence the train reaches the village of
After this the line enters the Great Junction Station at
To the south is seen the sand-stone ridge, with the celebrated mount of coloured stone, known as the “Red Hill”.
Reigate to Reading
Red Hill to Tunbridge
On leaving Reigate, the railway turns off towards the south-east, past the village of Nutfield, a short distance beyond which is Bletchingly, both situated on a range of hills. Bletchingley church is a handsome building containing several line monuments and there are the remains of a castle in the neighbourhood.
A little further on, the line passes through Bletchingley Tunnel, and shortly after the train reaches
The name of the village adjacent is derived from a corruption of “good stone,” significant of the excellence of the quarries there worked.
Passing over Stafford’s Wood Common, the line now traverses a fine and open country, entering the county of Kent at a spot bearing the diminutive cognomen of “Little Browns.” The intervening miles are rapidly left behind, and we again pause for a few brief minutes at Edenbridge, the first station in the county of Kent.
The village of Edenbridge, situated 1 mile from the station, derives its name from the little river Eden, one of the tributary streams of the Medway.
From Edenbridge station to the next, there are succession of agreeable prospects, diversified by a few impediments to a good view in the form of an intervening cutting.
This is a small but exceedingly pretty village, celebrated for its fine old castle, the property of the Sidney family.
A few miles more, in the course of which we thrice cross the winding Medway, brings us to
Situated on the Tun and four branches of the Medway, all crossed by bridges. It is noted for its excellent Grammar School with sixteen exhibitions.
This, besides being the branch station for passengers to Tunbridge Wells, has a convenient refreshment-room appended.
Tunbridge to Hastings
Tunbridge to Paddock Wood
On leaving Tunbridge, the line passes through the beautiful park of Summerhill the property of Baron de Goldschmidt, and thence, on past the villages of Tudely and Capel to the
A telegraph station.
Paddock Wood to Maidstone
The branch to Maidstone from Paddock Wood follows the course of the Medway throughout, and enables the traveller to snatch some rapid glimpses of a woody country, presenting the true characteristics of a Kentish landscape. On each side of us we find the land studded with substantial homesteads and wealthy looking farms, rising in the midst of corn fields or orchards, or surrounded by the British vineyards, the Kentish hop-grounds.
The village of Yalding is not remarkable for anything of interest to the traveller.
A mile beyond, above the line, is the neat village of Teston, the scenery around which, with the bridge across the Medway, is quite picturesque. Barham Court, the mansion and park of the Earl of Gainsborough, is in the vicinity. There are several unusually pretty villages and villas on the right side of the river and railway. East and West Farleigh, on the banks of the Medway, though consisting only of scattered houses, are exceedingly pleasing. The church in the latter place is a very ancient one covered with ivy, and, with the hop-grounds and orchards, has quite a sylvan appearance.
Is close to the bridge over the Medway.
Two miles beyond this the train enters the present terminus of this line at Maidstone. It is a very neat and commodious structure, within a few minutes’ walk of the High-street.
The capital of Kent, on the Medway, and in a tract of land of great fertility, among orchards, hop grounds, and woodlands.
Paddock Wood to Ashford
From Paddock the main line proceeds rapidly in the direction of the coast, and although the country presents very charming alternations of waste and woodland scenery, yet it does not offer objects of sufficient interest to describe in detail. Views of hop fields are shut in by excavations which, like the change of slides in dissolving views, transform, the landscape every moment.
The only object worthy of notice is Marden church. Boughton Place in the neighbourhood is a very fine estate, from some points of which may be obtained several extensive views over the Weald of Kent.
Two miles more and the train reaches the station at
The village of the same name is near the station; its fine old church and quaint antique houses are much admired.
This village possesses no feature of particular or general interest, beyond the splendid old oak tree in the churchyard. The churches of Chart Sutton, Sutton Valence, and Sutton Castle, are worth visiting.
From Headcorn the railway passes the villages of Smarden and Bedenham on the right side, and then reaches
Leeds Castle absorbs the attention of the traveller. Of Norman architecture, situated in a beautiful park, and being still in good preservation, it is one of the most imposing and interesting castles in the county of Kent.
This was a quiet agricultural town in East Kent till the South Eastern Railway Company made it the chief station for their works, since which the population has greatly increased.
Ashford to Canterbury, Ramsgate, &c.
Ashford to Hastings
We now bear to the south, through a well-wooded country, arriving at Ham Street station, soon after leaving which we cross the Military Canal, which was cut during the French war, at the close of the last century. Its breadth is about 30 yards, 6 feet deep, and extends 23 miles. We now skirt the Romney Marshes, a most valuable tract of land, pass the station at Appledore, and arrive at
Rye, a borough town in the county of Sussex. It stands on an eminence near the mouth of the river Rother.
Ashford to Folkestone and Dover
The main line on leaving Ashford makes a gradual approach towards the coast, swerving slightly to the south-east, and having on each side a delightful champaign country.
Smeeth. – In this neighbourhood is Merstham Hatch, the property of the Knatchbull family since the reign of Henry VII. The mansion is a modern building, of considerable architectural beauty, situated in a very fine park, and the interior is most elegantly fitted up.
Mount Morris, the seat of Lord Rokeby, is in a splendid park, the heights of which command extensive views of the South Downs, the Channel, and the coast of France.
From this point the line passes almost immediately to the north of the extensive level of Romney Marsh, which may occasionally be seen from the carriages.
Near this is the old baronial seat, some say the kingly palace, of Westenhanger, once the residence of the ill-fated Fair Rosamond.
Three miles to the south-east is Hythe.
The deep chalk cutting that succeeds our departure from Westenhanger introduces us to Saltwood Tunnel, and, emerging from this, we immediately catch on the right the first transient glimpse of the sea – that sight which involuntarily quickens our pulse, and sends a pleasurable emotion tingling through our veins. A lofty amphitheatre of hills, stretching away in the blue distance, varies the view in the opposite direction. Passing Shorncliffe Camp, we then come to an embankment, and, borne across a viaduct 90 feet above the valley below, we come almost magically within a fine view of Folkestone and its harbour, immediately afterwards reaching the station at
Folkestone is rapidly becoming a much frequented watering place, as well as a favourite point of embarkation to France; the distance to Boulogne is only twenty-seven miles.
After leaving Folkestone, the traveller will encounter the most wonderful portion of the line. The rapidity of our progress is such as to allow but little time, however, for examination of the extraordinary engineering works and achievements. Prepared by a shrill shriek of the whistle, we plunge into the Martello tunnel, 636 yards long, and then, scarcely with a breathing interval, enter the second or Abbot’s Cliff tunnel, 1,940 yards long. Emerging from this, the line continues along a terrace supported by a sea wall for nearly a mile, and presenting a delicious scenic contrast with the marine expanse that opens to the right. This brings us to the Shakspeare Cliff tunnel, 1,393 yards long, double arched for greater security, on escaping from which, an embankment raised from the shingle again receives us, and darting through the smaller excavation of Arch-cliff Fort, we are brought, with varied sensations of dreamy wonder and delight, beneath the elegant terminus at Dover.
The viaduct on the Dover side is also considered a fine work; it is about half a mile long, and formed of heavy beams of timber securely framed and bolted together, but left open so as to offer less resistance to the waves in bad weather.
This much frequented point of continental embarkation has of late years occupied a prominent position among the watering-places of our island.
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