Two London Overground stations have had disused rooms inside the station buildings refurbished and handed over to local communities to be used as public spaces.

The old station buffet at Chingford Station (c) Love North Chingford

The community spaces within the railway stations at Chingford and neighbouring Highams Park have both been transferred to local groups as part of a project in which Arriva Rail London, which operates the London Overground concession, contributed just under £60,000 to make the two spaces usable for their new tenants. The renovation projects were also financed by funds from community groups, local council and lottery organisations.

Chingford station was opened in 1878, connecting central London to the then Essex village. After serving as a route for those looking to escape from the city to Epping Forest in its early years, over time it became a busy commuter line for those working in the capital. The station was incorporated into the London Overground network in May 2015.

Whilst the station has seen shifts in its customer base and operators, the building has remained virtually unchanged since its construction and still displays many features signalling its Victorian heritage. The original layout of the station included facilities which were typical of this era, such as a station master’s house and a buffet room, where Queen Victoria herself ate a sandwich on her visit in 1882.

As these facilities became redundant with changes to travel, the rooms fell into disuse. Work by ARL began in 2021, totalling just under £30,000. The rooms were then handed over to Love North Chingford to further renovate these areas in line with the community group’s plans. The group has transformed the space into meeting rooms, a co-working area for remote workers and a podcast/Zoom room.

There is also a dedicated heritage centre run by the Chingford Historical Society, which launched the North Chingford Heritage Trial at the station in June 2022. Love North Chingford is now looking to convert the basement into a mini arts centre and gallery, and seek donations to support the project.

Highams Park first opened as Hale End station in 1873. The station was renamed and redesigned at the turn of the century by William Neville Ashbee, the architect behind Liverpool Street station.

The same building stands today, but what is thought to have once been the station’s parcel office was neglected over the years, regressing to a cluttered storage room. ARL dedicated a fund of over £30,000 to initial works on the space, before handing it over to Highams Park Planning Group, who were awarded £10,000 by the GLA to complete the work.

The Station Rooms at Highams Park are now being used for a variety of local events, and can be rented from here.

Highams Park before refurbishment (c) Arriva Rail London

Shivani Hill, Concessions Contract Manager at Arriva Rail London (ARL), said: “These projects truly have been a labour of love for those involved. ARL are proud to support the hard work, dedication and passion of local communities in creating spaces for people to come together.

“I am excited to announce that, as part of ARL’s promise to support local communities, the community fund is now open for bids. We are inviting community groups to apply to enhance the area in and surrounding their London Overground station on a matched fund basis.”


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