Hastings Senior Men’s Forum

ON February 11 we had an illustrated talk on The Bluebell Railway from David Jones.

Central Park station is the headquarters of the Bluebell line and the length of its track was 11 miles. Lewes and East Grinstead featured mainly in the start of the railway. All of the trains had names like ‘Ditchling’ and in 1900 the livery changed to green when the line became Southern Railway and in 1948 became British Railways.

In 1958 the line was closed by Dr Beeching and in 1960 it was opened as a private line running from Sheffield Park to Horsted Keynes initially with two trains and then the Westerham branch was purchased by Bluebell.

In 1982 it celebrated 100 years and they published a booklet and if you bought this you bought a share. This scheme raised £500,000. On the northern extension a bridge had to be built and the extension went on to East Grinstead.

Most of the engines have been bought from a scrapyard in Barry. Today regular trains run including lunch, tea, and Christmas specials, and you can even get married on a train all for a fee.

They have many films made on the line including scenes from Downton Abbey. There are now 500 volunteers and 55 paid staff and they often need extra help. This railway has now become a welcome attraction for many families and children as the love of ‘steam’ has in no way diminished.

On February 18 we had a talk on Surviving Soho in 1850 by Roger McKenna. Many people have died of cholera and on its own cholera is survivable and so cholera was allowed to spread. Golden Square was the area to live in and soon other areas were converted for living and working in.

There was a vast number of people in casual labour working in all types of scavenging, so illiteracy and poverty were rife in all age groups and cholera spread like wildfire. Patients were given water as a cure, but there was not enough clean water available.

John Snow, the youngest son of a northern family walked to London to study medicine and after qualifying set up a surgery in Frith Street to combat cholera. Edwin Chadwick, head of sewerage in the area stated all smells were evil and dangerous and had everything emptied in to the Thames, John Snow thought he had the answer to cholera so studied all the deaths and came to the conclusion that cholera was water-borne and had the handle of the Broad Street pump removed.

The location of the deaths were analysed and it was found that the Broad Street pump was at fault. The event of the Great War brought forward the march of cleanliness and more healthy attitudes and that helped to remove the fear of death and illness.

A grim topic but the members appreciated this look back to life in London in the 1850s.