The closure of Tadworth?

By Colin Thomas

Extract from the August 2010 edition of History Lines (No. 12)

Tadworth 2012 click to enlarge

Tadworth, 2012

In the mid eighties a good idea emerged from the Force hierarchy. Why not sell the school and with the enormous amount of money gained, build a new Headquarters and a Training facility in a part of the UK where land etc. was cheap, just as long as it could be reached by rail. What an excellent idea. I could have accepted that, EXCEPT THAT the school was owned by the BRB and NOT the BTP.

Despite this explanation to the hobby bobby hierarchy by career BTP Officers (myself included albeit at a very lowly level), domestic and catering staff at the school learned of the suggestion and were unnecessarily devastated. I was told that someone from HQ informed them that they would be made redundant. It didn’t happen of course, but  the idea has probably remained on the back burner and presumably the school is now the property of the BTP Police Authority and can be disposed of……BUT HANG ON….is history repeating itself?

Many of us will remember Windsor, Beckenham and various other venues when in 1968 the BRB decided to sell Tadworth. The last days of the school were extensively reported in Journal No. 79 and included a résumé of Force training from the day of the creation of the BTC Police Force. A  certain Constable Lightfoot (or should it read Cadet Lightfoot, the reporter seemed confused), proposed a vote of thanks to the Inspecting Officer of the final Recruit Continuation Course No 131, Mr R.E. Lawrence OBE, a BR General Manager. As the BRB executives, rubbing their hands, envisaged a huge amount of money to buy new locomotives, rolling stock and signal equipment (and perhaps a few coppers to BTP to buy one or two other sorts of coppers), Tadworth Training School descended into darkness and BTP residential training went off to New Lodge Windsor – a BR training school on loan, part time to the Force complete with a very cheerful (and noisy) Geordie who was in command of a morning tea trolley with square wheels….BUT HANG ON AGAIN.

Two years or so later, when no buyers had appeared the BRB gave Tadworth back to the Force having sold off “Withybed” (the student accommodation) and other bits and pieces. The former classrooms were turned into bedrooms with cubicles and the old school chapel turned into a classroom – a favourite with Instructors for acoustics, but not with students in the winter due to the lack of insulation. The reopening in 1971, with photographs, is fully reported in Journal No 92. A few months later, yours truly was seconded there for two years as what was termed a “Police Duty Instructor.” Why did it not sell? Rumour has it that the extremely wealthy people who owned property around the school were unhappy with the possibility of a housing estate destroying their peace and tranquillity (and allegedly reducing the value of their property) – how true this was we do not know, but we do know that money is power.

Over the years, new accommodation blocks, dog training facilities, a gymnasium etc. have all been created and the former classrooms returned to their original use. Sadly, the Chapel is no more. Much sweat and tears has been shed to produce a first rate training facility – a Jewel in the Crown for the Force – a piece of our heritage which we have all contributed to and which, many of us hoped, would continue. Sadly, yet another new broom has appeared.

What now? I was pleased to learn from Bill Rogerson’s newsletter that the many artefacts which graced the school buildings are currently preserved – hopefully for ever – was the library salvaged? There were many valuable books there.  Surrounding houses are still owned by the wealthy who will probably be unhappy with an estate of affordable housing, though times have changed in the national housing scene. As I pen this piece of information darkness has once more descended over the school and ghosts of the past walk there. No information is to hand – a local rumour or two only. Perhaps this time the rail authorities will score, but will the BTP? Let’s wait and see. Who knows what may happen in a year or two. History is strange – can it repeat itself again or will Tadworth simply become another memory?

 

Click here for the Tadworth photo gallery.

 

WebMaster’s Note:
It is believed that many of the books in the Tadworth Library were consigned to the rubbish skip during a building project.
Does anyone know the current state of Tadworth? Are the buildings still standing? Have they been sold off? Let us know via the Contact page.

WebMaster’s Update: (September 2012)
Following a recent discussion on the current status of Tadworth in the British Transport Police Group on Facebook (closed group), it was confirmed that the buildings are still standing. The ownership of the property was still unclear. I therefore felt some research was in order. It turns out that in recent years Tadworth had become the property of BRB (Residuary) Ltd. A check on their website shows that the property has been sold. The new owner is not known. Following the decision by BTP to give up Tadworth a sales brochure was prepared, in 2010, prior to the sale.

Further Update: (September 2012)
Mystery solved! A recent visit back to these shores led former PC Stuart ‘Stan’ Airs (now resident in Auckland, New Zealand) back for a quick visit to Tadworth. He reports that the buildings remain as before and that the grounds are being well kept. The gates are locked and large ‘trespassers may be prosecuted’ signs are displayed. These signs are, however, the clue that solved the mystery as to the new owners of Tadworth. The signs say ‘Berkeley – designed for life’. A quick check reveals that this is the tag line for Berkeley Homes. So it seems a major house builder has purchased the site, presumably confident that planning permission will be forthcoming at some point in the future. We are grateful to Stuart for providing the photographs.

Update: (April 2013)
Retired officer Jon Randall reports, via Constable on the Track Group on Facebook (closed group), that he witnessed the main building being demolished (06/04/2013).

Update: (May 2013)
Berkeley Homes have now put ‘Sandlands Park’ on their website, advertising ‘a collection of thirteen, 2, 3, 4 & 5 bedroom detached homes which are situated in beautiful surroundings of mature trees and a secluded landscaped setting’. The showhome is expected to be ready by Spring 2014.

Update: (April 2015)
A visit by members of the BTPHG Committee found the new housing development complete and all houses sold. The road leading to the development has now been named Lucas Park Drive. This was at the suggestion of a BTPHG member, named after Tom Lucas a previous Deputy Commandant of the school.

Tadworth 2012 click to enlarge

Tadworth, 2012

Tadworth gates, 2012

Tadworth gates, 2012

Tadworth June 2103

Tadworth, June 2103

Tadworth / Sandlands Park, Feb 2015.

Tadworth / Sandlands Park, Feb 2015.

Lucas Park Drive, Tadworth 2015.

Lucas Park Drive, Tadworth 2015.