On a recent trip to the mainland (or home as you non-Channel Islanders call it!) we came across a reference to The Lavender Line. Well, being in the lavender business, we just had to find out more!
The Lavender Line is a wonderfully preserved heritage railway line that winds its way through the heart of East Sussex. The railway travels for a two mile round trip between the village of Isfield and Worth Halt located in the Parish of Little Horsted and takes in some of the counties beautiful countryside. The headquarters of The Lavender Line can be found at Isfeild, where there is also a beautifully preserved Victorian station and signal box.
But why is it called The Lavender Line? Initially we presumed that it must have been named just as Hampshire’s famous Watercress Line was, because it served to transport produce from Hampshire’s watercress fields out to market as quickly as possible, in that it must have been transporting lavender from fields in Sussex into London and then onto the rest of the world. But no. On further investigation we discovered that this was not the case and there had, in fact, been a fair amount of speculation about the origins of this lovely little railway’s name.
However the truth is that the railway was named after a local Victorian businessman, A.E. Lavender. Mr Lavender was a local coal agent, who had his office located by the cattle dock at Isfield station. It was sited there (even though his business was based in the nearby village of Ringmer) so as to enable coal delivers to be taken straight from the railway coal yard to nearby businesses. The coal office still remains preserved at the station and now houses part of The Lavender Line’s tourist attractions including a model railway and a selection of steam railway memorabilia.
Unfortunately The Lavender Line was closed in May 1969, after it was deemed unviable. However 1983 saw the Isfield railway station bought at auction with restoration of the station in mind. The rebuilding began immediately, including the laying of new track, the renovation of the signal box, and renewal of the all yellow perimeter fence. The booking hall was renovated, the station awning renewed, all platform signs were replaced and an exact replica of the original Waiting Room was constructed. It was only at this point that the line was given its Lavender name, in commemoration of its local coal merchants.
So not exactly the gentle chugging through fields of swaying lavender that we expected. But a great day out none-the-less!