Earnie Hoare, Railwayman

 Ernie worked at Pevensey and Westham Station from 1924 to 1966. This is an extract from an interview he gave in the late 1980s.

 I was given a permanent job here at Pevensey, moving here in 1924. When I came to Pevensey there were three shifts. Early, late and night. I didn't mind coming and leaving the family. I had already had to do so when I started at Havant, as it was seven miles away. We had to find our own lodgings. I was then earning 50/- a week, and had to pay 28/- for board and lodging. I had another brother who worked on the railway, he had volunteered, and was killed just before the Armistice was signed.         

We were six in the family, four boys and two girls. Our parents got married when dad was earning 12/- per week and had to bring up our family on that. He was a farm labourer and lived in a tied cottage. They did piece-work as well for extra money. One brother joined the Navy in 1908, one the railway in 1912 and the third the Navy in 1930.


I soon lost touch with my school-friends when I started work, and when I came here to Pevensey I didn’t know anyone here. The signal box is still in the same place, and the goods yard was where Montague Way now is. There were cattle and sheep docks by the bridge, where they would be unloaded and then driven to the farms. There were three tracks and a shed next to the platform. Today the staff consists of one man from 6.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m., in those days there was a Station Master, two booking clerks, two porters and one lad porter, and they open from 6.30 a.m. to 10.30 p.m.. There was only one on duty on Sundays, but that was for twelve hours. There were three in the signal box for the three shifts – 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 6.am. That is still the same  today. We didn’t see much of the staff or the passengers, we were always so busy. The station also had oil lamps in those days. They had to be cleaned every day and filled. In the winter, the late night porter had the oil lamps at Stone Cross Halt to see to, and see that they were lit, for there was no staff there, or at Pevensey Bay – passengers bought their tickets on the train.

The trains from Eastbourne to Rye were what was known as push-and-pull trains. The engine was on the front going, and on the back on the return journey, so they pulled one way and pushed the other. The train was controlled from the front if the engine was at the back , and the fireman always stayed with the engine.

At Pevensey, the Passenger and Goods Departments were very busy. We also had a parcels service. The young porter would deliver parcels to the shops on the village. We had a lot of parcels, for there no cars or vans for delivery. Luggage was carried in the Guard’s Van. Cases would be labelled with their destination and put in by the guard, and put out at the destination. In summer luggage would often be sent and Vine, the Coal Merchant, would deliver any on a Saturday morning in the village.

In 1929 Gas was put into the Station, but the maps still had to be cleaned and new mantles fitted as required. The little hut by the signal box belonged to the Post Office. The letters and parcels used to be sorted there, the postman getting there at about 5.30 in the morning. When Gas was fitted on the station, the P.O.  wouldn’t have it put in and they continued with oil lamps. I can’t remember when the hut was closed and the sorting moved to Pevensey Post Office.

Electrification came in May 1935. We had a trail train go through one Sunday. There was no excitement, everyone took it as just part of the job, but there was a little nostalgia when the steam trains went. This meant changes in jobs. Freight trains were still steam, and needed firemen. Three called here every day, one between 5 and 6 a.m., one at midday, and another one in the evening which would shunt the wagons away to the marshalling years at Polegate. Freight trains all started at Polegate. There were not a lot of agricultural good here, nearly all cattle, and some milk, but not a lot of that.


When electricity came they rebuilt Cooden Station. The Earl of De La Warr paid for the building on condition that every train stopped there. It had previously been a ‘halt’ like Pevensey Bay. Here at Westham and Pevensey there was a large parcels shed and also used to be a big waiting room, a ladies waiting room and Lady and Gent Toilets on the ‘up’ side. A fire was always burning in the waiting room.

Steam trains were still being used for freight after the war. The Goods Yard closed about 1964. The last Station Master left in 1965.

When I first came to Pevensey I lived at Stone Cross for three years, and then in Pevensey Bay for another five years. I moved to Dansfield Terrace in 1935. I was married on 31st January 1935. My wife lived in Bognor, and we only saw each other once in three weeks, I was on early turn on Saturdays and didn’t have to go back until Monday, so was able to visit my people then. So we decided to get married. I cycled to work when I was at Stone Cross and the Bay. We used to have bicycles outside the Station in those days, not cars.


From a collection of interviews by Mrs Glessing, now held in the Society library.

The picture is reproduced with permission from  Benjamin XXX's Flickr collection. This has many fascinating old pictures from Pevensey and Eastbourne.


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