This article appeared in the Autumn 1971 (Issue #26) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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The Gravesend West Branch Line --
The Springhead Problem 1886-?
A long familiar landmark to the motorist on the A2 has been the doublespan railway bridge (single before the road was widened) and embankment which passes over the site of the Romano-British town of Vagniacae at Springhead, It is the embankment which covers approximately 4,500 square metres of the town, obscuring part of the Temenos and covering at least one really important temple (Temple V, Arch. Cant. LXXVII, 110-132) of which it has been possible to excavate only a small part. So from this point of view the railway can hold claim to fame as being a source of great annoyance to excavators on the Springhead Dig!
The Gravesend Railway, to give it its original title, was opened on May 10th, 1886. Diverging from the main line at Fawkham Junction it ran double track, a distance of 8.047 kilometers to Gravesend West Street. An extension ran on to the West Street pier. The intermediate stations from the main line were: Longfield Halt (opened 1913), Southfleet and Springhead, Rosherville and Gravesend (renamed Gravesend West Street in 1898 and finally Gravesend West in 1950). Rosherville served the famous Rosherville Gardens which opened in 1840 and lasted until 1910. The station closed in 1933.
At one time the branch boasted a Continental Express which ran in conjunction with the Batavia Line steamers to Rotterdam, this service occasionally being used by the Prince Consort of Holland. This was in pre-war days. During World War II, of course, these sailings ceased and were not to be resumed after. In recent years a pleasure steamer the "Royal Daffodil" ran trips from the pier. In post-war years the branch line was only a pale reflection of its former standing and so was closed to passenger traffic in August, 1953. Gravesend West remained open for freight until final closure in March 1968. However, from its junction with the main line the branch is retained as a private siding as far as the site of Southfleet and Springhead Station to serve a coal storage depot for the Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers' cement works at Northfleet.
Perhaps in years to come it will be possible to move part of the railway embankment at Springhead to complete the excavation of the Temenos.