1897 / 1898 Ladies’ Centaur

 PREV  ITEM 32 / 32 




1897 Centaur 1

Centaur was a leading innovator of the era. The company introduced Duplex forks in 1897, a feature adopted by Humber a year later for their Beeston models.

1899 centaur catalogue 1

1897 / 1898 Centaur 

Fixed wheel; Inch pitch chainwheel

24″ Frame

26″ Wheels

Frame No 50479

(Now sold)

The identity of this machine was not certain at the time. The fork lock and the front forks have a lot more in common with Centaur than Humber, but the chainwheel is more like a Humber. However, in December 2022, I bought a ladies’ Centaur with similar features that confirms the identity of this one.





















































The Lewes and East Grinstead Railway Act, 1877, which was promoted by the Earl of Sheffield and other local landowners, authorised the construction of a railway between the towns mentioned, and the 1878 Act provided for the acquisition, completion and running of the new line by the London Brighton and South Coast Company.

A curious fact about the new line was that of the sites chosen for the six stations, only one, that at Barcombe, was close to an existing village. Of the other five, all of which were in thinly populated areas, two were in the parish of Chailey. One of these was in the extreme north-east corner, close to the bridge over the Ouse leading to Sheffield Park from which its name was taken. The other about two miles further south, was not far from the eastern boundary and was known as Newick and Chailey. The explanation of this lies in the fact that it was not unusual at that time for a rural line promoted by a private company to have its stations placed near the residence of the promoters! Sheffield Park served the Earl of Sheffield and Newick and Chailey the residences of Newick Park and Reedens, homes of two other promoters.

The Schedule of the 1877 and 1878 Act included a clause that:
“Four passenger trains each way daily to run on this line with through connections at East Grinstead to London, and stop at Sheffield Bridges, Newick and West Hoathly”.

It is important to notice this since it meant that the railways could only be released from this statutory obligation by another Act of Parliament repealing it. The line was opened in 1882 amidst much festivity. [It was built with bridges and embankments able to take double track, but south of Horsted Keynes it was only ever laid with a single track, except at most of the stations which had passing loops.] For many years it carried many passengers and a considerable amount of goods (including milk, farm produce, coal and timber to and from the works of Albert Turner and Son). Sheffield Park perhaps had fewer passengers using it except on the occasions when Lord Sheffield was entertaining the Australian Cricket Team and there was a match between them and an eleven collected by him.

British Railways submitted a proposal to close the line in 1954, but this was hotly contested by local residents. The closure was approved in February 1955 and became effective from May 28th 1955. A battle followed between British Railways and the Users; and “The Bluebell Line” (as it had become known) became famous, not because of its value for transport but as a result of the four years bitter fight which the Users waged against the Transport Authorities to protect the rights of the individual.

Shortly after the closure of the line a local resident, Miss Bessemer, discovered in the 1877 and 1878 Act the clause relating to the “Statutory Line” and immediately requested British Railways to honour their obligation and they were forced to re-open the line on 7th August 1956. The case was taken to the House of Commons and a Public Inquiry followed in 1957. British Railways were severly criticised but subsequently the Transport Commission persuaded Parliament to repeal the special section of the Act, and the line was finally closed on March 17th 1958. It was later taken over by the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society.

bluebell railway 3

The story of how the Bluebell Railway came to be preserved after the David and Goliath contest in which Miss Bessemer took on the might of a nationalised industry and won is well known, but the early plans of those Bluebell pioneers of branch-line preservation are not so well known. On this page is a brief description of some of the early aims, successes and failures of the fledgling Bluebell.

The original intention of the founders of the Bluebell Railway (then known as The Lewes & East Grinstead Railway Preservation Society) back in the Spring of 1959 was to re-open the line in its entirety from East Grinstead through to Lewes and to run a commercial service using an ex-GWR “Flying Banana” diesel railcar, to be augmented with a two-car DMU when funds permitted! These plans soon fell through however when they a) failed to aquire the whole line and b) not surprisingly found no enthusiasm for the idea amongst the local population. So, the idea to re-open the Sheffield Park to Horsted Keynes section as a steam “museum” railway was proposed and adopted.

Being an ex-LBSCR line the original intention was to concentrate on rescuing as much “Brighton” stock as possible with the first requirement being a Stroudley “D1” Class 0-4-2T, until it was realised that the last one had been scrapped some year and a half previously! So, the next choice was a Stroudley “Terrier” 0-6-0T, probably the best-loved of the Brighton locos (two of which, 32636 and 32670, were by then the oldest locos operating on BR), and of which BR just happened to have a surplus one and sold her, together with a couple of coaches, for £750.

S15 Class No 847, pictured above and below steaming through Sheffield Park station, was built in 1936, the last of its type to be manufactured. Overhauled recently, and back in service since January 2014, this locomotive carries out most of the Bluebell Railway’s more demanding tasks, such as the heavy traffic peak work, the Golden Arrow diner service, and the ‘Santa Special’ …which is the event booked by our family for xmas eve, 2014. The service and amenities provided were exceptional, and the vintage stations are the most authentic I’ve encountered.