Bristol Temple Meads 180 years on

  • Watch Robert Murphy's report

The world's 'first Railway Terminus' celebrated its 180th birthday today.

Bristol Temple Meads first opened on 31 August 1840 and was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Staff from Network Rail cut a cake and unveiled brass plaques in honour of the Victorian engineer.

When talking about the history of Bristol Temple Meads, Network Rail's Mike Gallop says world famous stations like Grand Central Station in New York all "owe their origins to this building"

It was first opened on 31 August 1840 and was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

BRISTOL TEMPLE MEADS HISTORY


Brunel used a 'mock tudor' style to design the main station terminal Credit: Network Rail

Beforehand, big cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester only had wooden sheds as stations. Brunel was more ambitious for Bristol's rail terminal.

Services began on 31 August 1840 with trains running from Bristol to Bath, nearly a year before the start of through traffic to London. A temporary station was used in the capital until Paddington was opened in 1854.

Temple Meads' station buildings had a boardroom and offices for the ‘Bristol Committee’ of the Great Western Railway.

The very first service to ran several minutes late because parts of the track were still being laid.

The very first service to run was allegedly several minutes late because parts of the track were still being laid.

Throughout the 1800s the station became busier and in 1871 construction of 'new Bristol Temple Meads' began.

The station was expanded and the main entrance was built.

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.

Network Rail

In 1929 Great Western Railway doubled the size of the station, increasing the number of platforms from nine to 15.

The expansion helped cope with a rise in demand as Bristol Temple Meads became a major gateway to the West Country.

It became increasingly congested with holiday traffic especially after World War 1.

The original Brunel train shed functioned for 125 years until its closure on 12 September 1965.

His mock hammer beam roof, built of wood to emulate Westminster Hall in London, can still be seen as part of the car park at today’s station.