Station Approach, Bristol, BS1 6QS
1840 Brunel’s design is completed. 1878 the rebuilding of Temple Meads with seven platforms is completed. A further extension completed in 1935.
Original station designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Later buildings designed by Matthew Digby Wyatt and P.G. Culverhouse.
Some Tudor Revival
The old station is Grade I
Limestone Ashlar (for Brunel’s office facade), brick sheds behind.
Pink Draycott stone (Dolomitic Conglomerate) for the Wyatt buildings.
The station is open 24 hours, 7 days a week
Bristol Temple Meads station was masterminded by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In 1833, at just 26, he was made head engineer for the Great Western Railway Company’s ambitious plans for a fast, direct service between Bristol and London (Paddington), which started running in 1841. His design and engineering work along the route included a huge amount of track, tunnels, bridges, and a major station at each end. Today, facing Temple Meads from the bottom of Station Approach, the main historic sections of the site remain.
To the left are Brunel’s original station buildings, in Tudor Revival style (1839–41): GWR offices facing onto Temple Way plus a two-platform station (closed in 1965) stretching out behind. At the top of Station Approach is the current station, built as usage and destinations expanded. This large, imposing Gothic building (1871–8) was designed by Matthew Digby Wyatt long after Brunel’s death in 1859. It had seven platforms and a curving 38-metre cast-iron and glass roof by engineer Francis Fox – still stunning today. When Bristol became a gateway to Devon and Cornwall for holidaymakers after World War I, the station was greatly extended again, by P.E. Culverhouse (completed 1935), bringing new platforms to the east with cream-and-brown tiled buildings. Today the station is a major intersection, buzzing with commuters, holidaymakers and people passing through on nostalgic steam-train excursions, plus those picking up bus, taxi and ferry links on across the city.
There is also a third part of the historic site – way over to the right of the modern station if viewed from the front. This is S.C. Fripp’s Jacobean-style office building for the Bristol and Exeter Railway Company (1852–4).
There are many interesting facts and features among the buildings. For example, Brunel’s famous original ‘passenger shed’ (station), behind the Temple Gate offices, has a mock hammerbeam roof. It is made of yellow pine with a span of 22 metres – this greatly impressed people at the time.
Brunel’s original station is often said to be the first fully modern major terminal, with integrated train/passenger shed, passenger facilities and station offices. It demonstrates Brunel’s legendary desire to oversee personally every aspect and detail of a project, from surveying the line of the tracks to engineering a roof and designing boardroom door handles.