Rail structures on Great Western Line get protected status

Rail structures on Great Western Line get protected status

Box Tunnel
Box Tunnel in Wiltshire has received Grade II-listed status

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A number of railway structures in Wiltshire, Bristol and Somerset are among those given protected status after an English Heritage consultation.

They are all located along the Great Western Main Line which was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Amongst those protected is the Brunel-designed Box Tunnel in Wiltshire, which has received Grade II listed status.

English Heritage’s Emily Gee said the Brunel connection is “really important”.

“Almost every structure on the line has that historic interest, but those that we’ve listed are the ones that survived particularly well,” she said.

“Some of them might be representative examples in that it’s partly what makes them special, and others might have a particular design that relates to their setting, and that’s something Brunel was really significant in doing.”

The River Avon Viaduct near Chippenham, the entrance portals of the Chipping Sodbury tunnel and its six ventilator shafts near Bristol and the Sydney Gardens Footbridge in Bath are also now Grade II listed.

The 116-mile (187km) line was built 176 years ago by Brunel to open up trade routes.

Sydney Gardens Footbridge
Sydney Gardens Footbridge is the last surviving example of Brunel’s cast-iron bridges on the line

It runs from London through Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire to Bristol.

Network Rail is spending £350m on expanding and electrifying part of the Great Western main line over the next five years.

Heritage Minister John Penrose said: “Our railways and the historic buildings that go along with them are a wonderful and emotive part of our national heritage, symbolising for many of us a sense of romance, history and adventure. And nowhere more so, perhaps, than on the Great Western Railway.

“I am very pleased to be able to give these buildings, bridges and tunnels the extra protection that listing provides.”

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Six railway structures in Oxfordshire have been given protected status after an English Heritage consultation.

They are all located along the Great Western Main Line which was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Amongst the structures protected is Moulsford Viaduct in south Oxfordshire, which has been upgraded from Grade II to Grade II*.

The Moulsford Viaduct was described as “impressive and imposing”

Roger Orchard, operations manager at Didcot Railway Centre, said the bridge was “as good as gold”.

“It’s 175 years old and is still going strong. It definitely deserves a place in history,” he said.

“All the bridges Brunel designed deserve that status because they were pioneers.”

Bourton Bridge is now one of 100 listed structures along the route

Thame Lane Bridge, Silly Bridge, Bourton Church Bridge, Bourton Bridge and Culham Station Overbridge are now Grade II listed.

Civil engineer Richard Antliff has a particular fondness for the overbridge.

He said: “Its parapet stones had lettering carved into them by the students of the nearby ecclesiastical college.

“It had a strict 19th Century regime and they would only have a couple of hours to go for a walk and carve their initials and names into the stones.

“They are beautiful carvings and block lettering which makes it a little bit special.”

There are now more than 100 listed structures along the Great Western route.

It was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1835, which permitted the construction of a line from London to Bristol.

The Oxford branch, completed in 1844, and the Berks and Hants Line, completed in 1847, were added next.

Heritage minister John Penrose said: “Our railways and the historic buildings that go along with them are a wonderful and emotive part of our national heritage, symbolising for many of us a sense of romance, history and adventure.

“I am very pleased to be able to give these buildings, bridges and tunnels the extra protection that listing provides.”

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