About Rochford Station, Freight House & Reservoir (HT)
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The railway arrived at Rochford in October 1889, with the town greeting the introduction of the single-track line with banners and flags. Children were given a free trip to Wickford, with adults paying one shilling for the ride. So great was the demand that special tickets had to be made at the station. Five hundred children were treated to a grand tea in the goods shed, or Freight House as it has become known. The Freight House was built by the railway to house goods being transported to and from this busy market town and its surrounding area.
The railway brought considerable change to Rochford, with the train line scything through farmland thus separating St Andrew’s Church and Rochford Hall from the main town. The mail cart was no longer in high demand since post was now transported by train. In fact, rail transport soon became the norm for faster delivery and the Turnpike roads were severely impacted as toll traffic diminished.
South of the Freight House was the pumping station, which used to pump water from the Rochford’s man-made reservoir to Hockley and Rayleigh and down to Prittlewell and Southend. The Great Eastern Railway Authority had hired water diviners to locate the best area that would maintain water for a reservoir to be built…an essential resource as this was of course the age of the steam engine. Having a high water-table, Rochford was selected as the best site in the area as there would be less loss of water than anywhere else. A tributary of the River Roach was dammed to create the reservoir and the excavated earth was used in building the railway embankment. The tributary runs from Eastwood past St Andrew’s church and into the reservoir on the south side, keeping the water level fairly constant. A reservoir outlet is to the North East, flowing back into the Roach tributary, close to Salt Bridge. The reservoir is now within a well-maintained park and is popular with local anglers and frequented by children feeding the ducks.
Eventually the railway decided that the Freight House was redundant and it fell into disrepair. It was later renovated by Rochford District Council and opened in 1983 as a function suite.
In addition to hosting various functions, the Freight House became home to Rochford Community Church for over 25 years, before the church moved to King Edmund School in 2016. Rochford Community Church is an evangelical free church, which was originally formed from the membership of a previous Peculiar People church. In the 1950’s, the Peculiar People church in Rocheway was renamed to Rocheway Evangelical Church in line with the national rebranding of the Peculiar People to the Union of Evangelical Churches. In the 1960’s, the Rocheway numbers were outgrowing their place of worship, so a new building was constructed next to the chapel, which was then used as a church hall. Towards the end of the 1980’s, the majority of the membership of this church left in order to be able to worship more freely ‘in the Spirit’ and, in 1987, created a new evangelical free church, Rochford Community Church, which then met at the Freight House.
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