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GWR stables (2): Internet archaeology

I have a thing for GWR stable blocks.  The subject isn't systematically covered in the literature, so in a previous post I tried to obtain a tentative overview of the major types and styles. Since then I’ve been searching Britain from Above, Google street view and old online  maps looking for past and present traces of stable blocks. It's all a bit esoteric, but for what it's worth here is a selection of my favourite 'finds'.

 

 

Westbury

 

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It's 1929 and a plane soars over Westbury, capturing the photo above. The small stable block with the distinctive roof vents can be seen at the entry to the goods yard, a common and logical location for them (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

 

 

 

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The stable block at Westbury can be seen in this 1901 map.  The station and goods area was later extensively rebuilt, as can be seen in the photos below and in this map. The stables here were built in 1899, with capacity for three horses. Many of the standard stable blocks on the GWR were built around the turn of the century, when the GWR decided to rely less on agents and do more of its own cartage (National Library of Scotland, Creative Commons).

 

 

 

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A grainy close-up, showing also the cattle dock. There must have been a lovely whiff in this part of the yard :) (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

 

 

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Toboldlygo of this parish has modelled Westbury stables, using the 4mm Timbertracks kit.

 

 

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Note the manure pit, a standard feature. Thanks to Toboldlygo for allowing use of the photos, there's more about the build in his thread.

 

 

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So, does anything remain of the Westbury stable block today? A look on Google maps suggests that there is in fact a building more or less in the location where the stables were situated :yahoo_mini:! (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

 

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But alas, it is only the signal box that was built later :cray_mini:. Nothing seems to remain of the stable block (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

 

Basingstoke

 

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The stable block at Basingstsoke has had a happier fate. Well, sort of. Lost in a sea of cars, it is seen here on Google Maps in the guise of - appropriately - a car wash. Thanks to Western Star for the tip (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

 

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This 1949-68 series map shows how  the stables at Basingstoke were originally located at the perimeter of the goods yard, near the road. The structure does not appear in pre-1914 maps (National Library of Scotland, Creative Commons).

 

 

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The Basingstoke stable block in Google street view. Looks like the car park has been covered since the first photo was taken (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

 

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Details of the roof vents on the Basingstoke block, which appear to be in original condition (though not the colour!). The vents are often a useful distinguishing feature when looking for stable blocks in aerial photos etc (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

Chipping Norton

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The stable block at Chipping Norton was built in in 1904. In 1929 it was converted - like a number of other stables - to a garage for GWR motor buses  (National Library of Scotland, Creative Commons).

 

 

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Alan Lewis' excellent photo of the Chipping Norton stable block in 1983 (Copyright and courtesy Alan Lewis).

 

 

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The stable block at Chipping Norton lives on today, the only remaining building of that station (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

 

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There's a Royal Mail facility next to it, so the delivery theme hasn't entirely gone (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

 

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The stable block itself seems to be on private property now. It isn't much to look at from the road, but think of all the stories it could tell ! (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

 

Slough

 

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Moving on to the larger types, this is the stable block at Slough in 1928, again conveniently situated between road and yard (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).


 

 

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The Slough stable block was a fairly large example of what I call the "Archetype" design. The large variants of this design were simply "stretched" versions of the smaller versions. Note the horse drawn vehicles outside. I wonder if they were parked there overnight  (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

 

 

 

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Like most stable blocks of the standard designs, the one at Slough had no windows at the back, presumably to keep things quiet for the horses. Prairies on the line!  (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

 

 

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Today’s, er, view. The stable block was approx. where blue container/lorry is (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

Park Royal

 

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An aircraft passes over modern day London NW. The red line below shows the extent of what used to be the main GWR goods yard at Park Royal (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

 

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Back in the heyday of the GWR, Park Royal had a 12-stall stable block  (National Library of Scotland, Creative Commons).

 

 

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The stable block at Park Royal was almost identical to the one at Slough, but had an extra door and room for fodder. It is seen here in 1930, illustrating how substantial these buildings were (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

 

 

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Here is the Park Royal stable block again in the 1950s, now a good deal shorter! Part of the building has been torn down and has been turned into a garage or similar (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

 

 

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My 4mm model of the Park Royal stable block. Details here.

 

 

Handsworth & Smethwick

 

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Multi-storey stable blocks were only found in the major urban areas, where space was in high demand. So far the smallest multi-storey block I have come across is the one at Handsworth & Smethwick, as seen on the Warwickshire Railways site

 

 

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The two storey stable block is seen at the bottom of this map, showing one of the yards at Handsworth & Smethwick. A single storey stable block was located next to it, and can be seen to the right in the photo above  (National Library of Scotland, Creative Commons).

 

 

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I was intrigued to find that the lower sidings of the yard can still be seen on Google maps at the time of writing, now apparently a scrap yard (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

 

 

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It's hard to be certain, but I wonder if the yellow structure top center in this view is in fact the cut-down and shortened remains of the old two-storey stable block? The location and door/window relationship fits - though one window on the left side is missing (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

 

Paddington Mint

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Lastly, a look at the big one - Paddington Mint stables. (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted.)

 

 

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The original stables here were built in 1878, but expanded and rebuilt several time since then.  I've often thought that the interior yard and ramps would make an interesting diorama. There's good info and drawings in Janet Russel's "Great Western Horsepower" (Getty Images, embedding perimitted).

 

 

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A modern day view of the Mint stables (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

 

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The stables now house St Mary's Hospital. Some interior views can be seen here (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

 

 

 

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I found a 1922 view of Paddington Mint on  Britian from Above, and zoomed in. Two horses can be seen on the upper level, bringing life to the scene (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

 

 

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I tried to zoom in further to see the horses better. But it's a funny thing, the past: When you try to pin it down...

 

 

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....it slips through your fingers :).

 

Edit: In the discussion below, see:

* Tim V's excellent photos of the stable blocks at Witney, Shrewsbury, Westbury, Shipston and Abingdon

* Methusaleh's find of the remaining stable block at Birmingham Hockley

* Ian Major's views of the stable block at Littleton & Badsey

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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

Thanks for posting that Tim!  The only other photos I've seen of Witney are on the Fairford branch pages, but yours show much more detail. I wonder how many stalls it had.

Edited by Mikkel

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Some painstaking work there, Mikkel.  It surprises me how much survived until after WW2 but then got swept away in massive re-building programmes.

 

When we first moved to Abingdon, there were lots of station buildings remaining but I never thought to take photos and now almost everything has vanished.

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Oops, sorry James. Now corrected. Thanks again for sharing the photos. :)

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I know those buildings at St Mary's Hospital.  Drove there once a year with Radioactive Hazard plates on my/works car.  No parking there at all so in latter years pushed my colleague out the car and parked illegally while he went inside to do what we came for.  Never would have guessed what it was originally used for.  (We went in the new building on the other side of the road.)

 

Wonderfully painstaking detective work.  (I think I know someone who might want to hire you.  ;) )

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Excellent research Mikkel, some wonderful images in there. 

 

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I used to walk the path adjacent to Basingstoke regularly as our first home (the wife and I) was just off the top edge of your crop of the nls sourced map on the RHS of the top edge and when we bought our first house it was only a few minutes walk to the north.

 

The 'pop up' car parks, as at Basingstoke, were installed in the last couple of years to increase capacity at a number of stations between here and London Waterloo (and probably a number of other places also?).

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9 hours ago, MikeOxon said:

Under Waitrose car-park I fear :(

 

What a shame. I tried to look for it on Google maps but no luck.

 

Lots of similar things happening here at the moment. I do pass through a more positive story every day though: When the Copenhagen metro was being built, it replaced an old above-ground station called Frederiksberg. The old station was listed as heritage, but preservation provided serious engineering issues. Developers argued it had to come down. Luckily it was saved and now adds lots of atmosphere to the large shopping center next door. It currently houses two succesful restaurants and a music venue. 

 

1024px-Frederiksberg_station.JPG

Wikipedia Creative Commons license.

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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

9 hours ago, ChrisN said:

I know those buildings at St Mary's Hospital.  Drove there once a year with Radioactive Hazard plates on my/works car.  No parking there at all so in latter years pushed my colleague out the car and parked illegally while he went inside to do what we came for.  Never would have guessed what it was originally used for.  (We went in the new building on the other side of the road.)

 

Wonderfully painstaking detective work.  (I think I know someone who might want to hire you.  ;) )

 

Thanks for that story Chris! I don't suppose you ever got a ticket, what with Radioactive plates on the car! I plan to go and have a look at Paddington Mint next time I pass through London (whenever that will be).

 

8 hours ago, Dave John said:

Excellent research Mikkel, some wonderful images in there. 

 

 

Thanks Dave. It's been an interesting voyage of discovery - especially on Britain from Above which really is an excellent resource. I rarely use the search function as it doesn't reflect what's on there, searching via the map works much better.

 

8 hours ago, richbrummitt said:

I used to walk the path adjacent to Basingstoke regularly as our first home (the wife and I) was just off the top edge of your crop of the nls sourced map on the RHS of the top edge and when we bought our first house it was only a few minutes walk to the north.

 

The 'pop up' car parks, as at Basingstoke, were installed in the last couple of years to increase capacity at a number of stations between here and London Waterloo (and probably a number of other places also?).

 

Sorry to have cropped you off the map Richard! :) In some ways expanding station car parks are a good thing, as it suggests an increased demand for taking the train. If only we could put more of them underground. In fact, there's a lot of stuff that we could conveniently put under the ground. If only it wasn't so costly!

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I absolutely love researching stuff like this; especially once you find an amazing aerial view from the past, or discover something right on your doorstep that gets put into a totally different light. There are many buildings all around us that give no clues as to their history, and it sad what history gets pushed under the carpet. It's a shame many developers are totally oblivious to a buildings past.

I don't know if you've come across it before, but Geograph is quite often a useful tool for finding modern day images.

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Really useful research Mikkel, I reckon there’s a book there waiting for you to write:)

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4 minutes ago, wenlock said:

Really useful research Mikkel, I reckon there’s a book there waiting for you to write:)


Wot he said :yes:

 

Great meticulous and tenacious research there Mikkel. Very interesting to see before and now too.

 

Happy New Year and look forward to see more inspirational blogs from you... :good:

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Over on the left, Shrewsbury. The last time I looked at this area, it was gone. 775966697_Shrewsbury4July1980OlympusOM1203-(2).jpg.7efe0db81fff21d01c03b29ebaaaa8b2.jpg

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2 hours ago, SouthernRegionSteam said:

I absolutely love researching stuff like this; especially once you find an amazing aerial view from the past, or discover something right on your doorstep that gets put into a totally different light. There are many buildings all around us that give no clues as to their history, and it sad what history gets pushed under the carpet. It's a shame many developers are totally oblivious to a buildings past.

I don't know if you've come across it before, but Geograph is quite often a useful tool for finding modern day images.

 

Completely agree Jamie. Many thanks for that link, I don't think I've seen that site before. Sounds a bit like a photographic Wikipedia.

 

32 minutes ago, wenlock said:

Really useful research Mikkel, I reckon there’s a book there waiting for you to write:)

 

Glad if it's of any use Dave. I'm not sure a commercial publisher would see the market for such a narrow topic, but maybe the HMRS or similar. It would require more thorough research though.

 

There are a few reports of systemwide horse inspections referenced in GWR Horsepower and the GWR Goods Cartage volumes. They are mainly from Victorian times, but if something similar from the 20th century survived it would provide a lot of information. Apart from that, I wonder if there was any centralised attempt to keep track of GWR structures. E.g., when a stable block or any other building was rebuilt, would it be recorded somewhere at central level? I suppose the drawing office must have had files for the buildings of every station... 

 

24 minutes ago, bcnPete said:


Wot he said :yes:

 

Great meticulous and tenacious research there Mikkel. Very interesting to see before and now too.

 

Happy New Year and look forward to see more inspirational blogs from you... :good:

 

Thanks Pete, and same to you! There's definitely a certain thrill to zooming in on an aerial photo and finding a long forgotten building emerging from the shadows!

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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

47 minutes ago, Tim V said:

Over on the left, Shrewsbury. The last time I looked at this area, it was gone. 775966697_Shrewsbury4July1980OlympusOM1203-(2).jpg.7efe0db81fff21d01c03b29ebaaaa8b2.jpg

 

Brilliant, Tim. That looks like another 'medium-sized' one. Before embarking on this I assumed that GWR stable blocks were either quite small affairs, or huge like Birmingham (which were initially the largest stables on the GWR) or Paddington Mint. But it's increasingly clear that there were a number of more medium sized ones. Quite logical really, if you think about the horse power needs of larger market towns or areas with special industries.

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A great blog Mikkel, it's made me look at my photo collection for stables - which of course, are not indexed. But that's the fun of research!

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According to Ian Coleby's 'The Minehead Branch' there were stables at Minehead. There is even a drawing of it in 4mm - next project Mikkel?

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The stables at Minehead are still there, fortunately:

 

Google Maps view:  https://goo.gl/maps/gXXgp4ve6iNZVojY7

WSR photo:  http://cgibin.wsr.org.uk/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?h=Snapshot&p=2015/04/015

 

Seen here in 1930:

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  (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

 

I have the drawings via a friendly RMwebber, but personally I'd probably go for a two storey one. The problem is that another stable block on my layouts would require a pretty good excuse!

 

 

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4 hours ago, Mikkel said:

 

Glad if it's of any use Dave. I'm not sure a commercial publisher would see the market for such a narrow topic, but maybe the HMRS or similar. It would require more thorough research though.

 


I’m fairly sure Wild Swan would have your arm off!
 

For what it’s worth, I’d buy a copy:)

 

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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

A retirement project maybe. It would give me an excuse to settle in the UK, which perhaps by then will also be a tax free enclave :D

 

I'm sure other more experienced railway authors would do better. Perhaps a project for @dibber25 ? Here's a photo of his showing the Moreton in Marsh stable block: 

 

https://www.model-rail.co.uk/the-chris-leigh-blog-2/2018/9/11/moreton-in-marsh-memories

 

 

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3 hours ago, Mikkel said:

A retirement project maybe. It would give me an excuse to settle in the UK, which perhaps by then will also be a tax free enclave :D

As an added bonus think of all the UK railway shows you could visit at weekends:)  I think a tax haven might be a little optimistic, goodness only knows what will happen next!
 

3 hours ago, Mikkel said:

I'm sure other more experienced railway authors would do better. Perhaps a project for @dibber25 ? Here's a photo of his showing the Moreton in Marsh stable block: 

 

https://www.model-rail.co.uk/the-chris-leigh-blog-2/2018/9/11/moreton-in-marsh-memories

 

 

Perhaps as a joint venture:)

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