The Midland Railway Station, Kettering

Constructed: 1895-8 | Architect: Charles Trubshaw FRIBA

The opening of the Midland Railway Company’s line between Leicester and Hitchin in 1857, had the object of opening up the coalfields of Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to markets in the south and London. However, it had a major impact on many of the towns and villages along its route, providing a tremendous boost to Kettering’s economy by offering access to new and more distant markets for its shoe industry. A service to Cambridge was opened in 1866, and the direct line to London in 1879.

The Charles Trubshaw building you see today is not the original station, but a replacement for the original designed by Charles Henry Driver, dubbed ‘The Architect to the Steam Age’. The building was completed by 1857 and extended in 1879. Driver’s work was distinctive for its Venetian Gothic style in red brick with contrasting yellow and blue brick for the window arches, coupled with his use of cast-iron for the platform canopies: the newly-restored pierced, foliate-work design is well worth examining. After new rail lines were added in 1879, additional platforms and canopies that matched the original were added. The wooden building on platform 2/3 also dates from this period.

The station was admired, meriting an illustration in The Illustrated London News of May 1857, and described as “ornamental and picturesque”. It also featured in Henry Laxton’s Examples of Building Construction, published in 1858. Kettering’s extraordinary growth over the following years meant that, towards the end of the century, the station had become too small. The decision was taken to demolish the building, but to retain Driver’s canopies and waiting rooms. Work on rebuilding was completed by early 1898 at an estimated cost of £7,000 (almost £1 million in today’s money). The designer was Charles Trubshaw, chief architect of the Midland Railway Company, who also designed 10 other stations, as well as the Midland Hotels in Bradford and Manchester. The new building, allowed for wider platforms and a tunnel between platforms. It was praised as “imposing, commodious and well-built, one of the finest stations between Leicester and London”. Trubshaw blended red brick with bands of sandstone and terracotta dressings, such as the sunflower motifs on the chimneys. The structure remains largely unaltered: a tribute to the quality of its construction and its adaptability. However today it no longer provides the stationmaster’s home, and the vaulted cellar below the café is no longer a pub. The tunnel is no longer used.

Researched by JMHB

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