The Canterbury and Whitstable Railway, opened on May 3rd 1830, was the world’s first passenger steam railway. It became a branch of the London and South East Railway when in 1846 the main line reached Canterbury.
Canterbury West station now comprises an impressive set of Grade 2 listed railway buildings. The Goods Shed was about to be demolished in 1986, but was saved from the bulldozers by the City Council slapping on a preservation order. Restored as a farmers’ market, the Goods Shed has become a permanent and popular home for 12 independent local food and drink producers and a restaurant. The overhead signal box, unique of its kind in England, was also listed as a building of special railway heritage.
The preservation of the railway buildings at Canterbury West matched the heritage-led regeneration of St Pancras Station in London, to which Canterbury West later became directly connected by high-speed trains. The adjacent goods yard, transformed in 1995-1997 into an attractive quarter of Georgian style terraced housing, includes the original buildings of the 1830 Canterbury and Whitstable Railway. The ticket office, Weighbridge Cottage, where the first season ticket was sold, is accessed by an old railway gate from North Lane. The associated stable buildings and forge of the 1830 terminus had become semi derelict squats in the 1980s, but were also saved just in time.
Return to the homepage for 20th-century Canterbury, or explore Canterbury’s economic growth through the essays on Canterbury’s commerce and industrial heritage, its retail industry and trading estates, or Canterbury as a boom city. You can also learn more about how Canterbury has been shaped by other facets of its transport infrastructure, planning decisions, as well as the significant impact of the Second World War.