Heritage: Crowlands - the station that never was

Romford Crowlands signal box, 1936

Romford Crowlands signal box, 1936 - Credit: Collection of Andy Grant

This week, historian Andy Grant looks back in history and discovers why Crowlands became the Romford railway station that was never completed. 

When the railway came to Romford in 1839, the population was a lot smaller; in between Whalebone Lane and Romford Town, the landscape was flat and almost completely agricultural, interspersed by farms and farmworker’s cottages.

Where the railway crossed Jutsums Lane (previously Judsons Lane), a bridge was built, originally named Cap Hall Bridge after a nearby farm of that name.

Cap Hall was a farm situated on the western corner of Jutsums Lane with Crow Lane, and on the opposite side of Crow Lane was Fidlers Hall. At the northern end of Jutsums Lane, on the opposite side of London Road, was Lowlands Farm.

References to Crowlands can be found dating back to the reign of Elizabeth I, although maps do not show it as a named building until the mid-19th century. 

A map of Crowlands in the 19th century

A map of Crowlands in the 19th century - Credit: Drawn by Andy Grant

In all likelihood the name was corrupted from Crown Lands, as the inquisition post mortem for James Quarles, dated July 31, 1600, cites he held around 60 acres of land known as Crowlands belonging to the Queen.

It would appear that Crowlands originally referred to an area of land, rather than a farm, and that Cap Hall was renamed as Crowlands Farm in the early 1800s.

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By the 1830s Crowlands Farm and 86 acres of farmland were acquired by the Seabrook family, who remained there until 1902 with the death of John Seabrook.

From 1900 land in the area was sold off as freehold plots for development, including 91 plots from the first portion of the Shrubbery Estate.

This included Norfolk Road and Sherringham Avenue, as well as shops with frontages onto London Road. Cheap plots were also offered for sale on the London Road to those desirous of building their own house, with free conveyancing and four years to pay. 

In conjunction with this development, GER proposed to build a new station just to the west of Jutsums Lane Bridge and to double the tracks to Romford.

It was also proposed that the terminus for suburban trains would be moved from Ilford to Romford, offering around 250 trains a day to and from Romford.

Foundations for the platforms were dug during the course of 1901 and the first courses of bricks were laid. The bridge was widened on the north side to accommodate the additional tracks and a new crossover was installed, together with a new signal cabin to control the site. 

Crowlands Proposed Station Plan 1939 (1)

The proposed station plan at Crowlands c1939 ( - Credit: Drawn by Andy Grant

However, in view of objections to the scheme from the council, work on the station was halted and further work was abandoned.

As the housing estates surrounding the area grew in the mid-1930s, there were also plans to build an emergency hospital nearby.

The new hospital was to have an adult ward block for 240 patients, a children’s ward block for 240 patients, a maternity block for 88 patients and a central block for casualties, x-ray, out-patients, dining facilities and administration.

In view of this, with proposals by LNER to electrify the line, the scheme was resurrected. Plans were drafted for the new station with platforms on the up and down local electric service only.

By this time the line had already been doubled, necessitating the acquisition of additional land and widening of Jutsums Lane Bridge.

Unfortunately, the outbreak of the Second World War curtailed any further work on Crowlands hospital, electrification of the line and the new station. 

After the war, electrification of the line was resumed and the old signal box beside the up fast track was closed in 1949. A new signal cabin and relay room at Chadwell Heath had virtually dispensed with the need for it.

Nowadays, a trip along Jutsums Lane reveals no trace of the proposed station. However, the fenced-off, overgrown area to the west of the road on the northern side of the bridge bears testimony to where the station entrance was once planned to have been built.