Collage of close-ups of original documents from the Network Rail archive, including a close-up of Sir Christopher Wren's signature

The Network Rail archive is the custodian of a vast collection of historic documents and plans relating to today’s railway infrastructure.

It represents the development of the most significant structures, engineers and innovation on the railway from the 19th century to the present.

Each month we will delve into the archive to shine a light on the development of our network through the ages.

Watch this film to discover the Network Rail archive…

August: our oldest items

Our archive spans hundreds of years, from the Tudor period to the Victorian railway revolution and the present day. Here are three of the oldest pieces it's proud to look after:

Charing Cross deed

A deed from 1553 or 1554 is the oldest piece in our archive. Written in Latin, it’s for the land at Charing Cross – upon which sits London Charing Cross railway station today – and is signed by William Sneyde and his wife, Lady Ann.

Original deed for the land upon which sits London Charing Cross station today

Reverse side of original deed for the land upon which sits London Charing Cross station today

Tulip mania before railway mania

A property deed from 1633 for the land at St Pancras echoes the Dutch tulip mania of that decade. The flowers decorate its ornate border, having become so fashionable that people bought them at vastly inflated prices.

A property deed from 1633 for the land at St Pancras, featuring a tulip design in the border of the page
Reverse side of a property deed from 1633 for the land at St Pancras

Sir Christopher Wren’s signature

London Charing Cross station was built on the site of the famous Hungerford Market, the site of which was originally owned by Sir Christopher Wren, the renowned architect behind St Paul’s Cathedral.

Network Rail holds the original title deeds for the Hungerford Market site from 1684 and 1717, signed by Wren, because they form part of the pre-titles of our 19th century railway title.

Collage of close-ups of documents from the Network Rail archive, including Sir Christopher Wren's signature
Sir Christopher Wren's signature
Document from the Network Rail archive with Sir Christopher Wren's signature

Discover the Network Rail archive

Read the George Stephenson notebook online

From the archive: WWII and the railway

From the archive: William Henry Barlow

From the archive: the Royal Albert Bridge

From the archive: the Royal Border Bridge

From the archive: Glasgow Queen Street

From the archive: London Charing Cross