Britain's Historic Railway Buildings: An Oxford Gazetteer of Structures and Sites

Article excerpt

Gordon Biddle (ed.), Britain's Historic Railway Buildings: an Oxford Gazetteer of Structures and Sites, Oxford University Press, Oxford (2003), 800 pp., £60.00.

Gordon Biddle, whose Victorian Stations became a bible for historic station enthusiasts, has deployed his encyclopaedic knowledge in the production of several major reference works. With O. S. Nock and other contributors he produced The Railway Heritage of Britain (1983) and with Jack Simmons he co-edited The Oxford Companion to British Railway History (1997). His latest project is by way of being a sister volume to The Oxford Companion and it is fittingly dedicated to his erstwhile collaborator, the late Jack Simmons, whose contribution to railway history deserved a knighthood rather than the OBE awarded at the end of his life.

The subject of this volume is railway buildings, including bridges and viaducts, stations, signal boxes, and hotel and railway workers' houses. Over 2,000 of these structures are now listed buildings, a significant increase on the 400 of twenty years ago. For the purposes of the gazetteer Britain is divided into eleven regions; each region is introduced by a map showing the present passenger rail network, together with freight-only or closed lines containing listed buildings. There is a standard format for entries: name of site, name of railway, engineer or architect, opening date, closure date (where appropriate), listing grade (where applicable) and Ordnance Survey grid reference. Each entry also has reference titles for further reading.

It is hard to do justice to the richness and breadth of this volume, with its 2,300 entries, in one short review. The entries are clearly and lucidly written, and informed both by careful architectural and historical analysis and by first-hand knowledge based on visits and inspections. …