The Great Western Railway between London and Bristol was authorised by Parliament in 1835 and opened in stages from both ends from 1838 onwards. The detail of its construction was entirely the conception of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and was to be, in his own words, 'the finest work in the kingdom'. It was opened throughout in 1841 with the completion of Box Tunnel, the greatest engineering feat of early railway construction. Built to Brunel's broad gauge of seven foot, its engineering works achieved a grandeur at that time unmatched elsewhere in the country and, as they were suited to high speed running, most of these structures have survived relatively unaltered. It is proposed that representative sections of the line be inscribed as a World Heritage Site.
The sections of line selected as meriting WHS status encompass the magnificent termini at London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads, by the portals of Box and Middle Hill Tunnels, by the river bridges over the Avon in its western and over the Thames at Maidenhead, by the viaduct at Hanwell, by the cutting at Sydney gardens in Bath and by the Railway Works and Village at Swindon.
Story author: Keith Falconer, English Heritage