A Brief History of Brunelís Old Station

Have you ever paused outside Temple Meads Railway Station to admire the magnificence of the surrounding architecture? Have you ever wondered how these buildings came into existence or considered the stories and the people that lie behind the iconic brickwork?

Here is a short history and profile of the man and process behind one of the most prominent venues in Bristol, our very own Brunelís Old Station. Designed by the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, this building is regarded as one of the greatest standing monuments to the early railway age.  The splendour of Brunelís Old Station lies to the left on the approach to Temple Meads.

Brunel's Bristol Event Venue

The station was completed in 1841, and it wasnít until 14 years later that London could boast a building of similar stature or importance at Paddington. But it wasnít just impressive to look at; it also solved a number of design and function issues that had never been resolved in one building before. Brunelís new Bristol station station boasted an engine shed and passenger hall, a ticket office and goods areas, as well as stabling for hundreds of horses and an engineering shop, all under one roof.

Brunel wasnít permitted to situate the station within the old medieval wall of the city, so he chose the water meadows of Temple Parish which sat beyond the city wallís Temple Gate. This is where the name of the modern station, Bristol Temple Meads, originates.

When built, the timber and iron roof of the Passenger Shed formed the widest single span of the age. It spans an enormous 72 ft (21.95m) and is over 220 feet long. It is incredible to think that, while being on the same scale as a cathedral, the Brunel's Old Station only took two years to complete.

The main entrance of Brunelís Old Station was once the Engine and Carriage Shed, which locomotives used to fill their tanks with water from an enormous water-tower, which stood above where Cafť Gusto is today. There were five railway tracks that were separated by lines of cast iron columns supporting the drawing office above.   

Brunel's Bristol Dinner Parties

The Station, a Grade 1 listed building, was rescued by the Empire and Commonwealth Trust with the active support of the Railway Heritage Trust and English Heritage in the 1980s. It had unfortunately been neglected for more than 50 years before being acquired by the trust. It was restored, and has since been nominated in recognition of its international importance.

Today, Brunelís Old Station provides a unique opportunity for hosting Bristol events. Seminars can be held in Brunelís Old Boardroom with its original stone fireplace or you can use meeting rooms in the Station Masterís office. Quite incredible when you imagine the hours of planning and activity that would have once taken place in these meeting rooms.  Steeped in atmospheric history, the exposed concrete of Platform 13 and the magnificent railway arches remain prominent features of the old Passenger Shed and if you think that when you are sat having a dinner party, the old railway lines and station vaults are beneath you Ė it is simply amazing. Hats off to Isambard Kingdom Brunel!

 

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