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2010 News

Despite bad weather at the beginning of this period, remarkable progress was made to the restoration of the box - but then, disaster struck!

In the early part of 2010 we saw some of the worst weather conditions since 2000. Heavy rain in January and February resulted in the building being flooded to a depth of 4inches (approx 10cm) of water leaving a deposit of muddy residue over the floor. Volunteers spent the first few weeks cleaning and bailing out the building rather than any restoration. Irrigation became a priority. French drains were dug around the building and a run-off pipe installed under the path to the southern boundary to take the excess water off into a nearby ditch.

The most daunting job in those early days for the volunteers was to jack the 7 tonnes Signal Box and steel frame, by which it was moved, up in the air by approx. 10 inches. This task had to be undertaken before any other work could be undertaken to allow for removal and replacement of the rotten sills, at the base of the structure. A full weekend was allocated for this task but to everyone’s surprise, it was successfully completed in one morning!

Local electrician Dave Harvey from Regis Electrics donated his labour to install electricity into the building enabling us to see what we were doing and to use power tools and then over the summer months local carpenters Richard Medlock and Ian Coombes, and his brother Tony generously donated their time, labour and expertise, providing skills to replace or repair internal supporting struts, window frames, doors, and fit the sills. Their expert guidance was invaluable to our small team of volunteers.

The original ground floor door was located in the Lake Lane Reclamation Yard in Barnham. The owner, Craig Howard, kindly donated the door back to us and some timber to assist the renovation work. Craig has over time become more involved recently preparing timbers, removed from the building when it was moved from Barnham Station, as planking for the upper level floor.

Arun District Council very kindly awarded us a grant towards the purchase of materials and the WSCC contractor May Gurney laid a new path around the Signal Box.

Aldingbourne Parish Council, Aldingbourne Community Sports Centre and the Joint Downland Area Committee all pledged grants to enable the installation of security fencing but sadly disaster struck before this could be installed!

Volunteers were replacing repaired lower floor windows and had just started to apply new cladding on the north and west sides of the building when on the night of 25 November 2010 an arsonist(s) set fire to the Signal Box! .

Thanks to valiant attempts by members of the nearby Aldingbourne Social Club, two of whom were off-duty fireman, the fire was kept, to some extent, under control until the Fire Brigade arrived. It was only due to the swift arrival of the Fire Brigade and their immediate actions that stopped the building from being totally destroyed. A series photographs (add link) show not only the fire at its height but also the devastation resulting from it.

Our first step, following the fire, was to assess if the structure could be repaired, estimate the cost and to approach our insurer. There followed what seemed a never ending process exaggerated by poor communications, snow preventing site visits and a forest of pieces of paper requesting detail after detail. The Fire Brigade thankfully had no hesitation in issuing a statement that the fire had been started deliberately. With almost a dozen smaller fires being set in the surrounding area on the same night the Insurers agreed.


Posted by admin, 13 Aug 2015
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