Two-storey classical building on the island platform at Swindon Station, opened in 1842, truncated by five bays at the eastern end c.1880s, with attached canopies of c.1880s.
Reason for Listing
The Stone Building on the island platform at Swindon Railway Station, opened in 1842 to the designs of I.K. Brunel, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Date: the station building, opened in 1842 to the designs of the eminent engineer I.K. Brunel forms part of the Pioneering Phase of the Great Western Railway;
* Architectural interest: despite quite considerable alteration to the 1842 building and the loss of its southern partner, the surviving station building has a strong classical styling with characterful Swindon masonry and maintains an architectural presence of a scale uncommon amongst GWR railway stations;
* Historic interest: Swindon is of real important to the history of the GWR and the station has significance as the hub connecting east and west with the important Swindon Railway Works;
* Group value: there is an inter-visible relationship with the Grade II-listed former drawing offices to the west and the Grade II-listed workshops to the south-west, and an architectural resonance with many of the surviving and listed railway and related buildings nearby.
The Great Western Railway was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1835 to construct a line from London to Bristol. At 118 miles this was slightly longer than the other major trunk railway of its time, the London and Birmingham (112 miles) and considerably longer than other pioneering lines. Construction of the line began in 1836, using a variety of contractors and some direct labour. The first section to be completed, from London to Maidenhead Riverside (Taplow), opened in 1838, and thereafter openings followed in eight phases culminating in the completion of the whole route in 1841.
The engineering of the railway was entrusted in 1833 to Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59), who was already known for his engineering projects in Bristol. More than any other railway engineer of his time he took sole responsibility for every aspect of the engineering design, from surveying the line to the detailing of buildings and structures. He sought to achieve as level a route as possible and, working from first principles, he persuaded the Directors of the GWR to adopt a broad gauge of 7ft 0¼ in rather then the standard (4ft 8½in) gauge in use on other lines. A two-track broad gauge line was 30ft wide, and this determined the span of the overbridges and other structures. Except for larger bridges such as Maidenhead Railway Bridge, the majority of Brunel’s masonry bridges did not need to be as innovative as his works in timber and iron, and his structures followed the typical architectural idioms of his time, but they were all beautifully detailed and built and together they formed integral parts of a consistently-designed pioneering railway.
Although he left no written statement concerning his design concept for the line, it can be inferred from its design and from the way it was described when opened that part of his vision was a line engineered according to picturesque principles. This influenced his selection of the route and the design of structures along it. For reasons of cost, but also because it helped blend the railway to the landscape, he used local materials for bridges and other structures, ranging from stock brick at the London end of the line, to red brick, Bath stone east of Bath and Pennant stone west of Bath. This intentional variety was remarked on by contemporaries, for instance in J.C.Bourne, 'The History and Description of the Great Western Railway' (1846).
Surviving contract drawings for bridges and other structures on this section of the line carry the signature of I.K. Brunel, reflecting his involvement with every aspect of the project. The Resident Engineer was G.E. Frere (1807-87), assisted by G.T. Clark (1809-98) and Michael Lane (1802-68), but their individual contributions have not been identified.
The little town of Swindon was adopted during the construction of the line as the epicentre for its operation, being conveniently located halfway along the line and just east of the two inclines which required supplementary locomotive power. Workshops – later expanded into the massive Swindon locomotives and carriage works – were built and a planned village to house staff. Much of this survives and has been designated.
A permanent station at Swindon opened in 1842, designed by Brunel. The station at Swindon had three specific purposes:
* to act as an interchange for the line to Gloucester, which opened in that year
* to provide refreshment rooms for passengers travelling between London and Bristol whilst trains were stopped to swap locomotives
* to provide hotel accommodation for passengers
Brunel’s solution was a station with two island platforms, each platform with an identical two-storey building with attached timber canopies, linked together by an iron footbridge. Such a layout had been pioneered a year earlier by Robert Stephenson and Frederick Swanwick at Normanton Station, Yorkshire, for the North Midland Railway (demolished).
Bourne in his 'History' describes the layout of these buildings in some detail. They had refreshment rooms on the ground floor in an 'Arabesque' style (Biddle suggests that the architect Francis Thompson may have been consulted on their design). The upper floors contained a hotel: the now lost southern building contained the public rooms and the surviving northern block the bedrooms. Bourne describes a basement which contained the kitchens and other service areas.
Swindon Station has undergone radical change since 1842. Following a fire in the 1880s the northern platform building was reduced by five bays from its original eleven and the canopies were replaced. Various extensions were subsequently made to both ends of the platform buildings. In 1967 the layout was altered substantially when the southern island platform was demolished, along with its building, and the present station tower and entrance building were erected. At the same time the interior of the northern platform building was completely altered, and subsequently the interior is not of special interest. Further structures have been erected since 1972. None of these C20 works are of special interest.
MATERIALS: faced in Swindon sandstone, squared and coursed. Originally rendered, but now the stone is exposed at first floor.
DESCRIPTION: eleven by three bays. The sixth bay projects slightly (formerly the central bay with attached footbridge). The six bays at the west end are of two storeys under a shallow pitched roof, the five bays at the east end are of one storey only, after the first floor was cut back. In the west end a projection beneath a pedimented gable. A painted eaves cornice runs around three sides but not the east end of the first floor, which was built when upper part of the building was cut back. The ground floor is faced with rendered channeled rustication, possibly introduced during the remodelling in the 1970s. At first floor, plain plaster band and irregular courses above canopy suggest repair or evidence of the 1880s canopy alteration. Many ground-floor doors and windows altered. Most first-floor window openings have plain eared stone surrounds with keystones, although a number have been replaced/ rendered over. Tripartite window in the west projection.
Canopies: decorative cast-iron columns of c.1880s, their bases now set in concrete filled oil drums, supporting canopy structure of timber joists and iron brackets. Roofs part glazed and part corrugated metal sheeting.
Interior: no historic fixtures, fittings or finishes were visible, and the interior is therefore not of special interest. The void above the recent suspended ceiling tiles on the ground floor was not inspected.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.