21 JULY 1957
Majestic Victorian architecture contrasts with 1930s to 1950s British cars in the West Country
Take a casual glance at this photo and you’d be forgiven for not realising it was snapped just a few short years before the 1960s exploded all over Britain. The 1950s may be drawing to a close, but pre-World War II upright styling, with separate headlamps and running boards, still abounds in this view of Bristol Temple Meads railway station before modern street clutter disfigured its approaches. In fact, if you were a passenger turning up to catch The Bristolian express to London Paddington behind a Castle class steam locomotive, you might wonder why the good burghers of Bristol had decided to put on an impromptu historic vehicle show in the station car park.
Partly-named after the nearby Temple church, the western terminus of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Western Railway opened in 1840. However, this magnificent castellated façade wasn’t constructed until almost 20 years after Brunel’s death, when the station was extended by Francis Fox between 1871 and 1878. Fox would go on to be responsible for the Sydney Harbour Bridge and large sections of the London Underground, but this was an early project while he was still in his thirties. It all looks amazingly clean, considering most railway stationss of this era were caked with decades of soot (see The Way We Were of 14 October 2015 to see how grimy Stoke-on-Trent was in 1960) and still showing the scars of wartime damage.
Temple Meads didn’t escape unscathed; a wooden spire originally stood above the clock tower but was toppled by a bomb in January 1941. Since then, considerable effort had obviously been put into making the station like the cathedral to the railways it was intended to be. Some of the cars outside on this rather disappointing high summer day would have been around