Bristol Temple Meads

Bristol, United Kingdom | C.1839

Photo Credit: Marti Funk

Isambard Kingdom Brunel is considered by many to be the most important figure of the Industrial Revolution. A “giant” of engineering, Brunel built the Great Western Railway (GWR), one of the largest train networks in England. Some may only associate Brunel with his work on Paddington station, but his first project was the oldest and largest railway station in Bristol, England: Bristol Temple Meads.

Temple Meads opened on August 31st, 1840 as the western terminus of the GWR from London Paddington. Its name comes from the nearby Temple Church which was destroyed during World War II. “Meads,” meaning “meadow” in Old English, was added for the water meadows alongside the River Avon that were part of the Temple parish.

The platforms are numbered 1-15, but passenger trains are confined to just eight tracks. Most platforms are numbered separately at each end, with odd numbers at the east end and even numbers at the west. Platform 2 is not signaled for passenger trains, and there is no Platform 14.

Brunel’s original design for the station included a 200ft (60m) train shed which covered both the platforms and engine shed. In front of the shed, Brunel built an office building in the Tudor style.

Soon the station was also used by many other railways, so to accommodate the increasing number of trains, the station was expanded in the 1870s by Francis Fox and again between 1930 and 1935 by Percy Emerson Culverhouse. As a result, Brunel’s terminus is no longer an operating part of the station, but remains historically significant as a Grade I listed site.

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