For many years, South Wingfield’s redundant railway station, in the heart of the Amber Valley, has languished forlornly, having once been labelled by the Victorian Society as ‘a maimed beauty.’

Much has been made over the years as to what this iconic building’s future may hold, indeed its possible fate has been referred to on a number of occasions in this very publication.

Now, thanks to the efforts and unwavering passion of many local people, it has been restored to its 1840s splendour and now very much fit for purpose in the 21st century.

But a little on South Wingfield Station’s long and fascinating past.

George and his son Robert Stephenson were engaged by the North Midland Railway Company as Joint chief engineers close to two centuries ago, back in 1835.

Great British Life: George Stephenson is often regarded as the 'father of the railways'George Stephenson is often regarded as the 'father of the railways' (Image: Getty Images)

In that year George Stephenson, accompanied by his secretary George Binns, set off from Derby in a bright yellow post chaise to survey a route from Derby to Sheffield and Leeds.

The main objective of the line was to carry minerals. Knowing the line would pass through the coal fields of North East Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, George decided to follow the valley bottoms, thereby enabling new deep mines, which would be higher up the valley sides, to access the new line by gravity, hence its route through Wingfield.

Robert Stephenson appointed Francis Thompson to be the architect for the project and he subsequently designed the bridges, tunnel portals and the initial 16 stations that were needed for the 72-mile route.

Much of the route was owned by a few large landowners and so, in order to appease them, the stations were designed in the style of gatehouses of grand estates and, in the case of Wingfield, the overall architectural style was Grecian.

Great British Life: Wingfield Station: before the restoration Wingfield Station: before the restoration (Image: ASBC Heritage and Conservation Specialists)

As the years have passed, all the other stations on the route have either been rebuilt or demolished and only Wingfield remains of the original Francis Thompson station buildings.

As with so many other rural stations of the time, closure came - in December 1966 for passengers and two years later, in 1968, for goods.

Initially, the building was leased for storage of mining equipment but was later sold to a private owner in 1979 who refused to do anything to preserve its unique nature and, as a result, it fell into a slumber of gradual dereliction and decay.

Recognising the danger to this unique piece of heritage, Historic England listed it on their ‘at risk register’ as ‘a significant building at risk of being lost to the nation.’

Enter South Wingfield Local History Society who fully realised what was at stake and were determined to rescue the building from oblivion of which there could be no return.

Thanks to their campaigning, the status of the building was raised from Grade II to Grade II* in what was a significant development in saving the building.

This meant that not only could the building be subject to a compulsory purchase order but its restoration would also be in line for grants.

The legal work completed, Amber Valley Council passed the station over to Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust in December 2019, for the princely sum of one pound, in the certain knowledge that, with its track record with buildings at risk, the station would be in good hands.

Urgent work to arrest any further decay was carried out by ASBC Heritage and Conservation Specialists, before the main conservation work was completed by Ackroyd Construction Ltd.

Funding came from a variety of sources including Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage and Community Funds.

Conservation work was not without its problems as the station sits beside a very busy mainline and scaffolding had to be erected on Network Rail land less than four metres from the live running rail.

Possession orders were required and the work to put up the scaffold could only be carried out when trains were not running during the night.

Once the scaffold had been fully encapsulated the skilled trades were then able to work safely, despite the passing 100mph express trains.

Great British Life: Opening day - High Sheriff Theresa Peltier with Derek Latham, chair of Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust Opening day - High Sheriff Theresa Peltier with Derek Latham, chair of Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust (Image: Linda Singleton)

It was with enormous pride that the Trust was able to celebrate the completion of the restoration of Wingfield Station on Friday October 27 2023 and the doors were opened by the High Sheriff of Derbyshire, Theresa Peltier, as well as the daughter of one of the last station masters of Wingfield, Enid Buxton.

Tours of the station and site were available over a number of days and there will be opportunities in the future for these to happen again.

The Trust are actively seeking a tenant in order to provide income to safeguard the station’s future but with the possibility of being open to visitors from time to time.

The importance of the station cannot be underestimated. It is the only remaining unaltered station of the North Midland Railway Company and is a rare example of a building from the pioneering stage of railway development in the UK.

Additionally, it represents the best work of Francis Thompson, a renowned international architect of his time. It is the oldest surviving, purpose built rural station in the UK and possibly the world, besides being a unique 1840 time capsule, thanks to meticulous conservation work.

Conservation features inside include original colouring for the lime plastered walls, restoration of the 1840 wood panelling, window frames and associated metal fixtures.

The fireplaces have been stripped back to the original brickwork and the surrounds restored to their original look of faux marble.

Cornices and archways have been repaired or replaced and broken windows replenished with hand blown glass.

There are few signs of modernity and services pipes and cables have been hidden under the floor.

The booking hall is complete with two Midland Railway benches, which although not from Wingfield, have been beautifully restored.

The ladies’ waiting room has been papered, working from the original 1840s pattern, a remnant of which was discovered under a dado rail. The Porters’ room has a surviving cast iron stove, painstakingly restored to look like new.

Outside is the 1860 goods shed which will remain in the hands of the Trust and used to display a model railway layout of the station track dated to the 1940s.

There are a number of interpretation boards on site to explain the significance of the station and the features of the station yard, which give an insight into how it would have been in its heyday.

A series of audio pillars provide information on every station that the North Midland Railway built between Derby and Leeds.

A significant feature in the station yard is the large tri-junction crest, which stood atop of the original North Midland Derby Railway Station, recently saved from an uncertain future by a generous crowd funding campaign.

Great British Life: Wingfield Station is now back to its best Wingfield Station is now back to its best (Image: Linda Singleton)

Wingfield Station might be redundant in terms of the modern railway but it exemplifies a miracle of conservation.

Mercifully, it is no longer on Historic England’s ‘At risk’ register and will now stand, available to be cherished and admired, for generations to come.

It might be 183 years old, but its long history is not over yet.