Almost nine years ago I wrote about Wingfield Station, Derbyshire, prompted by its inclusion in the Victorian Society’s Top Ten Endangered Buildings list for 2012.
This elegant ashlar-faced building is the only surviving example of Francis Thompson’s twenty-four stations commissioned by Robert Stephenson for the North Midland Railway. It opened in 1840 and closed to passengers in 1965.
The historic building list description describes it as “…a subtly proportioned building with a delicacy of detailing that was greatly admired by contemporary commentators who appreciated its refined architectural qualities”.
Its design was good enough to appear, transformed into a suburban villa, in a supplement to John Claudius Loudon’s Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm and Villa Architecture (1842), and the pioneer historian of railway buildings, Christian Barman, in 1950 described it as “the most perfect of all station houses”.
By 2012, all the Victorian Society could do was fulminate about the neglectful owner and the lack of activity by the local council.
However, there was new energy at local level, when the lively South Wingfield Local History Group, founded in 2007, pressed English Heritage to upgrade the station building from Grade II to Grade II*, and their campaign succeeded in April 2015, prompting Amber Valley Borough Council to seek a compulsory purchase order and take the building over, in partnership with the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust.
The Trust has a long and honourable history, dating back to 1974, of rescuing Derbyshire buildings in distress and returning them to economic use. One of the first of its projects was Francis Thompson’s Railway Village in Derby.
On December 11th 2019 Wingfield Station was formally handed over to the Trust, which has secured £137,000 of development funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and a £263,000 grant for urgent repairs from Historic England.
Detailed examination of the building has revealed that it was never modernised, so it is possible to restore it almost exactly to its 1840 appearance, complete with original paint schemes and recovered wallpaper from the ladies’ waiting room.
The intention is to adapt it to office use, with guaranteed occasional public access for its historic interest.
Presumably office workers can live with trains thundering past all day. Trying to sleep there would be a different matter.
(If you want to sleep in a functioning Derbyshire railway station, go to Cromford. There are no overnight trains on the Matlock line.)