The Architecture the Railways Built – Bristol Temple Meads

The Architecture the Railways Built – Bristol Temple Meads

Published 9 March 2021 | Average read time
3 min read
Stories Industry-leading Railway heritage

In The Architecture the Railways Built, Tim Dunn visits one of our most stunning stations – Bristol Temple Meads.

Historian and presenter Tim explores the station from top to bottom, exploring parts of the station he’s never seen before.

He looks at how this Grade I listed building has grown over the years and is given special access to engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s old mock Tudor station and boardroom. Tim also climbs onto the roof of the train shed and even uncovers an architectural controversy …

The new series is on at 8pm every Tuesday on Yesterday.

Watch Tim in this exclusive video from behind the scenes of The Architecture the Railways Built:

Historic renovation

In September, we and train operator Great Western Railway celebrated Bristol Temple Meads’ 180th birthday with a special event honouring its historic past and looking forward to its bright future. It came as we prepared for a multi-million-pound renovation of the station.

Bristol Temple Meads outgrew Brunel’s original building and became the railway gateway to the West Country. The station opened on August 31 1840 and in the decades after, Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt, Percy Culverhouse and Francis Fox each added extensions.

In recent months, we’ve been updating the station with a £24m restoration of the Grade I listed Victorian roof.

The two-year programme will involve extensive metal and woodwork repairs and the complete re-glazing of the roof and platform canopies, as well as a new colour scheme. It’s part of a wider programme of work that includes the remodelling of a crucial junction just outside the station. This will allow more frequent services to run in Bristol in the future.

Mike Gallop, route managing director of our Western route, said in September: “The station has been a gateway for millions of passengers commuting to work, visiting family or going on holiday for 180 years and remains one the most iconic stations in the entire country.

“We’re now modernising the station to improve facilities for every person that steps through the doors so it can be a Bristol icon for generations to come.”

The original Bristol Station, designed by Brunel in a mock Tudor style was, like the original London Paddington Station, a station that consisted of simply an arrival and a departure platform.

It opened with trains running from Bristol as far as Bath, almost a year before the start of through traffic to London. The station buildings had a boardroom and offices for the ‘Bristol Committee’ of the Great Western Railway.

Traffic and the demands of the three railway companies began to outgrow Brunel’s original 1840’s structure, but it was not until 1865 that an Act was secured to rebuild Temple Meads to serve the needs of all three companies adequately. The design, in the Gothic style, was undertaken by Matthew Digby Wyatt, who had in the 1850s assisted Brunel with the ‘new’ Paddington Station.

Construction of the new Bristol Temple Meads began in 1871. Separate entrances and corresponding booking offices, with the names of the railway companies engraved in stone above them, were provided for each of the three companies. However, before the station fully opened the GWR and B&ER had amalgamated.

The first section of the station opened on 6 July 1874 and the full station, with a total of seven platforms, on 1 January 1878. An additional platform was added in 1898.

Read more history about Bristol Temple Meads.

Did you know?

Bristol Temple Meads takes its name from the land upon which it was built. In the 12th and 13th centuries this was owned by the Knights Templar.

Tim’s video of the station’s clock up close:

Read more: