PROUD villagers were able to enjoy their first look at the reconstructed Blakedown Signal Box at an official opening.

The facility, which has stood in the area since 1888, has been donated to Churchill and Blakedown Parish Council by Network Rail and will be used as a community venue.

It was closed as an operational signal box in 2012 when a level crossing was introduced at Blakedown Station and was set to be demolished.

But members of the parish council and residents launched a campaign to save it from the skip and it was officially opened by Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier on Sunday, October 23.

Network Rail could not leave it standing in its original position, very close to the track, but instead donated it to the parish council and provided support and funds to dismantle it and put the materials into storage.

Further funding was secured including a £75,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and further support from the Norman Dawson Trust, who funded the reconstruction project led by parish councillor Sue Fowler, with a donation from Blakedown Bolt.

It is now based on the other side of the road from its original position.

The box will be available for meetings in the week, holding up to 30, and as a viewing point at weekends by arrangement. There are full disabled facilities including a lift to the upper gallery so visitors of all abilities can enjoy it.

Parish councillor Jim Long said: “The turnout for the official opening was excellent with many villagers taking the opportunity to have a first look round their rebuilt signal box, which had stood at the centre of Blakedown since 1888.

“This included members of Kidderminster Civic Society and Derek Jackson, one of the last signalmen to actually man it and who lives in the village.

“There were also some visitors from further afield including the West Midlands Chairman of the Victorian Society Stephen Hartland, who congratulated the Parish Council on its persistence in saving the box, which is of a rare design.

“This opening will be the first of, we hope, many events at the signal box – next year Churchill and Blakedown Historical Society are already planning a celebration of the project in the springtime.”

Councillor Long added the council has set up a charitable trust to own and run the box for the community. Anyone interested in booking the box can contact Councillor Long on 01562 701168.