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Bradshaw’s Guide

London to Reading, Bath and Bristol

Great Western Main Line

London to Slough

The Metropolitan Terminus of the Great Western Railway is situated on the western side of the Paddington Canal, in a line with Praed-street, Paddington, at the north-west extremity of London, and at a short distance from the northern avenues to Hyde Park, thus affording an easy access to and from all parts of town. Omnibuses leave the City one hour before the departure of each train, and call at all the booking-offices on their way, winch, in addition to the cabs, leave the passenger at no loss for a prompt conveyance to this Terminus — one of the largest and most commodious stations in London. Its external appearance is not very remarkable, — but the booking-offices are convenient, the waiting rooms comfortable, the platforms, for the arrival and departure trains, spacious enough to accommodate the largest number of excursionists ever accumulated, — and the vast area embraced by the immense roofs by which the station is covered, impart to the mind of the traveller the impression that he is about to start by the railway of a first-rate company.

It is the joint work of Messrs. Brunei and M. D. Wyatt, the former having arranged the general plan, engineering, and business portion; the latter the architectural details in every department. The principle adopted by them, was to avoid any recurrence to existing styles and to make the experiment of designing everything in accordance with the structural purpose or nature of the materials employed—iron and cement. The office buildings are 580 feet long, varying from thirty to forty in width. The departments for directing and managing the affairs of the Company are carried on in the upper portion of the building, and those in connection with the traffic to and from the station in the lower part.

The space occupied by the platforms and lines of railway under the curved roofing is 700 feet long, and 240 feet six inches wide, and contains four platforms and ten lines of railway The two platforms on the departure side of the station are respectively twenty-seven feet and twenty-four feet six inches wide; and the other two, on the arrival side, are twenty-one feet and forty-seven inches. The latter is of stone. The rooting over the above space is divided into three longitudinal openings, with two transepts, each fifty feet wide, at one-third and two-thirds of the length, the length of which are each 700 feet, and their respective widths seventy feet, 102 feet six inches, and sixty-eight feet. The central half of the curved roofs is glazed, and the other portion is covered with corrugated galvanized iron. The work was done by Messrs. Fox, Henderson, and Co.

On the departure of the train, it threads the sinuosities of the station at an easy rate, and we have time to notice the metamorphosis that has taken place in the em-irons of the line; walls have become green embankments, embankments diminished into hedges, and bodges grown into avenues of trees, waving a leafy adieu as we are carried past, The increasing velocity of the train now conveys us rapidly into the suburbs of the metropolis — past Kensal Green Cemetery on the right, Wormwood Scrubs on the left, and a transient glimpse is obtained of the London and North-Western Railway winding its course towards the midland counties.

The route at first lies through the Thames Valley, then, after passing the elevated plains to the north of Marborough Downs, it gradually descends down into the fertile and picturesque valley of the Avon. Emerging from a slight excavation, we came to an embankment crossing Old Oak Common so named from its having been the site of a thick forest of oaks. The village of Acton, which lies to the left is linked to the metropolis by one almost uninterrupted line of houses, through which the North-Western Junction Railway passes, connecting the North-Western Railway with those of the South-Western.

Ealing Station. — Gunnersbury Park, Baron Rothschild; Castlebear Hill, and Twyford Abbey, close by. Thence passing the pretty hamlet of Drayton Green, we stop at

From this station the line passes in a gentle curve over the Wharncliffe Viaduct, a massive and elegant structure, which commands extensive views on both sides. The Uxbridge road is seen winding beneath, and afar off may be discerned, outlined in the blue distance, the undulating range of Surrey hills, with the rich, leafy, loftiness of Richmond Hill and Park occasionally intervening. In the foreground will be noticed Osterley Park, the seat of the Earl of Jersey; and the most interesting object in the landscape is Hanwell Asylum, generously devoted to the reception of the indigent insane.

At this station a short branch, 3¾ miles, turns of to the left, by which a connection with the South Western is formed at

Middlesex : Brentford

It is the county town, where members of Parliament are elected.

Crossing the Paddington and Grand Junction Canal, we pass alternately through excavation and embankment on to

Middlesex : West Drayton

Here descends many a brother of the rod and line, who, in the confluence of the Colne and Crane, finds a prolific source of pleasure from his favourite pastime.

We now cross the western boundary of Middlesex, and then pass over a small corner of Buckinghamshire, between West Drayton and Maidenhead, into the county of Berks.

Middlesex : Uxbridge

The inhabitants are principally engaged in the corn trade, some in agricultural tool making, and others in making windows, chairs, bricks, &c.

Soon after leaving West Drayton we cross the river Colne and its branches, with Hunt’s Moor Park, and the beautifully sequestered village of Iver (which, alike to artist or antiquary, will be found replete with objects of interest and attraction), on the right, and enter Buckinghamshire, arriving at the station at

A few minutes more brings us to

Buckinghamshire : Slough

The arrangements for the comfort and convenience of those alighting at this station are equal, if not superior, to those of any other line.

Windsor Branch

Slough to Windsor

Berkshire : Eton

Eton is celebrated for its college, founded in 1440, by Henry VI., to which resort annually about 850 students, chiefly the sons of noble and opulent families.

Passing over a neat bridge, which connects Eton with Windsor, the visitor will enter the town, associated with historical and literary reminiscences of the highest interest.

The scenery around Windsor is remarkable for its sylvan beauty; and the weary citizen, who desires to enjoy a summer holiday, cannot do better than procure an admission ticket to Windsor Castle from the printsellers, Messrs. Comaghi, of Pall Mall, and then make his way to the Great Western Railway, in time for an early train. Within the next three hours he may see all the regal splendours of the palatial halls of Windsor; and then, having refreshed the inward man at any of the “hostelries” which abound in that town, he may stroll forth into the country, and contrast the quiet and enduring charms of nature with the more glittering productions of art, with which wealth and power surround themselves. He may walk in the shades of the forest, sung by Pope; he may saunter over Datchet Mead, immortalised by Shakspeare, in his story of Jack Falstaff and the buck-basket; or he may prolong his stroll to the quiet village of Horton, where Milton lived, and sang its rural charms in the immortal rhymes of “L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso.”

Slough to Maidenhead

Between the lofty and luxuriant foliage of Stoke Park, about two miles to the right of Slough, may be descried, modestly peering through the surrounding trees, the spire of Stoke Pogis Church, the scene of Gray’s “Elegy.” The following inscription to his memory is on the east wall of the church: — ”Opposite to this stone, in the same tomb upon which he has so feelingly recorded his grief at the loss of a beloved parent, lie deposited the remains of Thomas Gray, the author of the ‘Elegy written in a Country Churchyard,’ &c, &c, &c. He was buried August 6th, 1771.” The church itself has no internal beauty, being over-crowded with pews; but the churchyard is one of the prettiest in England. The cloister is worth a visit. As the train proceeds, the broad and verdant fields spread out on each side of us in all the pride of luxuriant vegetation.

Burnham Village is close by, situate in the midst of picturesque woodland scenery, popularised by the adventures of Albert Smith’s Mr. Ledbury.

Maidenhead to Reading

Upon leaving Maidenhead the railway soon spans, by a bridge, of ten arches, the river Thames which here glides through a flat, but most charming country. Having crossed the Windsor road, and diverged gradually to the southward we suddenly dip into an excavation of considerable depth; the characteristic chalky sides of which are replete with geological interest. This cutting, which continues for upwards of five miles, completely shuts out the surrounding country; but coming suddenly upon the Ruscombe embankment, we are amply repaid by a magnificent expanse of landscape. Hill and dale, dotted with elegant villas and noble mansions, woodland and water scenery, together with wide far-stretching meadow and corn-land, follow each other in varied succession to the very verge of the horizon. We have scarcely had time, however, to feast our vision with this delightful prospect, before we are again buried in a cutting, though of shorter duration, and through this we reach the station at

Berkshire : Twyford

In the neighbourhood are Stanlake. Shottesbrooke Church, a beautiful miniature cross, with a tall tower and spire, formerly attached to an ancient college here.

A short line hence branches off to Henley-upon-Thames, passing by Wargrave.

Henley Branch

Shiplake.

Oxfordshire : Henley

Delightfully situated on a sloping bank of the Thames, amid extensive beech woods.

Within a few minutes after quitting the station, we emerge from the excavation, and cross, on an embankment, the river Loddon. From this we enter into another cutting of great depth conducting us to an embankment which affords a pleasing view of the county bordering on the woody lands of Oxfordshire. Crossing, on a level embankment, the river Kennet, we soon after reach the station at

Berkshire : Reading

Reading is situated on two small eminences, whose gentle declivities fall into a pleasant vale, through which the branches of the Kennet flow till they unite with the Thames at the extremity of the town.

Reading to Didcot

Passing slowly from the station at a pace that affords us a pleasing bird’s eye view of the town, we are earned forward on the same level embankment, and crossing the valley of the Thames soon reach the Roebuck excavation. An embankment, followed by a brief though deep cutting, through the grounds of Purley Park, gives us some charming prospects on the Oxfordshire side, with a mass of woodland scenery scattered over the undulating ground, and cresting even the high summits of the Mapledurham hills beyond.

Soon after leaving the station the railway takes a north-westerly direction, and at the village of Basildon, crossing a viaduct over the Thames leaves behind it the county of Berks, and enters that of Oxford. Pursuing this northerly direction for a short distance, on the borders of the two counties, we pass a deep cutting, whence, crossing on an embankment the river Thames for the last time, we reach the station of

Goring. — Here are still visible the remains of a Nunnery for Augustines, founded in the reign of Henry II.

Wallingford Road station.

Berkshire : Wallingford

Wallingford, to which the station affords easy access, is an ancient and somewhat picturesque town, agreeably situated on the banks of the venerable Thames.

On leaving the station the railway returns into the county of Berks, and the country assumes a more agricultural and less romantic aspect than that which we had previously traversed. Alternately dipping into excavation, and flitting over embankment, we are carried across Hagbourne Marsh, and passing over the Wantage and Wallingford road, we arrive at

Didcot to Swindon Junction

Leaving Didcot on a rise of seven feet in a mile, we now enter an excavation of about half-a-mile, and emerging thence, bend gradually to the west on an embankment, when again plunging into a short cutting, we are carried past Milton, a small village to the left, and in a few minutes afterwards stop at

Borne over the Wiltshire and Berks Canal, we soon after reach Wantage Road Station for

Berkshire : Wantage

This ancient market town is memorable as the birth-place of our great Alfred in 849, and his jubilee in 1849; and during the time of the Saxons it was a royal residence.

Challow, the station for East and West Challow, about 1½ mile to the south.

Uffington. — Here a short line, about three miles, runs out to our right to

Berkshire : Faringdon

Its church is a very ancient structure, erected on the hill, and contains within several noble monuments.

Leaving the station, and progressing on an ascent of about “seven feet in a mile, we are carried on an embankment past the village of Baulking, about two miles distant from which is Kingston Lisle, with its celebrated “Blowing Stone,” in which there are several apertures, and by blowing into any one of these a sound is produced that can be heard for miles distant Uffington Castle is close by, and a little further on is seen the celebrated White Horse which was carved by order of Alfred, in memory of the triumphant victory which, in 873, he gained over the. Danes, at Ashbury.

On leaving this station we pass through an excavation, and thence on to an embankment, which commands a fine view of Highworth on the right and Beacon Hill and Liddington Castle on the summit to the left.

Wiltshire : Swindon

Swindon, on the Great Western, like Wolverton and Crewe on the North Western, is one of the extraordinary products of the railway enterprise of the present age.

The valley of Stroud through which the railway passes from Swindon to Gloucester, is well known to travellers and tourists as presenting a continuous series of lovely landscapes. The valley is almost in the character of a mountain gorge, with a branching stream in the bottom, which partially furnishes the motive powder for the numerous cloth and fulling mills of the district, the quality of the water, too, being peculiarly adapted for dyeing purposes.

Swindon to Chippenham

About a mile to the left is the market town which gives its name to the station, and which is now rapidly rising into importance. The old town is pleasantly situated on the summit of a considerable eminence, commanding extensive views of Berkshire and Gloucestershire.

The line here continues on a rapid descent, of about seven feet in a mile, and by embankment crosses several roads, leading from the neighbouring towns and villages. About a mile to the right, is Lydiard, near which can be recognised the lofty trees of the park, the ancient seat of the Bolingbroke family. Sweeping in rather a serpentine course over a richly-cultivated country, we next pass in succession a cluster of small hamlets to our left; and looking forward, scenery of that quiet pastoral description so characteristic of English rural life is continued to the very verge of the horizon.

Wiltshire : Wootton Basset

We now proceed on an embankment, having a rapid descent in our favour of about fifty feet in a mile.

We now proceed on an embankment, having a rapid descent in our favour of about fifty feet in a mile. This elevation affords a comprehensive view of the adjoining valley of “Bath’s clear Avon,” through which the companionable canal is still seen gleaming amid the line of pollards that fringe its edge. Passing through a short, excavation we again emerge on a level, whence to the left can be discerned, afar off, the stately structure of Bradenstoke Priory. Thence by alternate cutting and embankment we reach

Wiltshire : Chippenham

This is a parliamentary borough, on the Great Western Railway, in North Wiltshire, on the river Avon, but not otherwise remarkable, except, as being a great seat of the cheese trade.

A branch line six miles long turns off to the left to the town of

Wiltshire : Calne

A parliamentary borough returning one member, has a large old church.

Chippenham to Yatton

Leaving the Chippenham station we continue for some time on an embankment, and then dipping into an excavation we arrive at Corsham.

Shortly after leaving this station we enter the Box Tunnel which is upwards of one mile and three quarters in length, through the solid heart and immense mass of Box Hill. At intervals a gleam of light appears down the shafts that have been cut through the rock to the surface above. Emerging once more into daylight we proceed over a wide-ranging pasture land, spotted and diversified with herds and flocks.

Passing Box Station (near which is Wraxhall House), we soon after enter a small tunnel, which is cut through Middle Hill, adjoining a once-noted spa, so called, but now quite forsaken. Emerging from tins we pass on an embankment two miles in length that carries the line onward over the Avon into the county of Somerset.

The hamlets of Bathford, Bathampton, and Bathenston are now passed in rapid succession, and swerving slightly to the south, the outskirts of the “Stone-built city” itself rise in all their magnificence before us, as if evoked by a magician from the fertile pastures we have so recently quitted. A loud and prolonged whistle is borne upon the air as herald of our arrival, and we enter the elegant and commodious station at

Somerset : Bath

Not only renowned for its antiquity and waters, but Bath is one of the best built cities in the United Kingdom.

From the Bath station the railway is earned on a viaduct, continued by alternate excavation and embankment, over the Old Bath Road. We soon after pass into an excavation, and then through a tunnel. Amid a succession of very varied and beautiful scenery along the line, we reach the station of Twerton, and soon after, that of

An embankment succeeds across the valley of the Avon, and passing over a viaduct we arrive at

Somerset : Keynsham

Proceeding over a lofty embankment, which affords a commanding prospect on every side, and enables us to trace, the windings of the silvery Avon, along its verdant shores.

The train then passes through several tunnels, and flitting over a three-arched bridge that spans the Avon, we again reach an embankment, during our passage over which our speed is gradually slackened, and we pass beneath that splendid archway, the entrance to

Gloucestershire : Bristol

Cathedral city, seaport, and parliamentary borough in Gloucestershire 118 miles from London.

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