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.
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.
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.
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.