Bath Green Park Station (formerly Queen's Square)
Green Park goods yard. Photo by Unknown (c1960). © All rights reserved.
In 1868, Midland Railway began work on a 10 mile train line from it's main railway in Bristol to Bath, terminating in a brand new station at Green Park. Opened on 4 August 1869 and officially named 'Queen Square', it was known locally as 'The Midland Station'.
At the station entrance a beautiful porte-cochere (the glazed porch) was built, allowing travellers to step out of a cab and into the booking hall without getting wet. The hall itself was split into 2 areas – so that 1st class travellers need not mix with those in 2nd and 3rd class. Inside the station, the south platform was for departing trains and the north for arrivals. As carts were used for moving goods, a stable was built by the south platform. Each evening, carts were left near the north platform and horses made their own way round to the stables.
From its inception, the Midland Railway station proved to be a huge success. Almost immediately, the Midland Railway Company started to expand the site. Originally, the station was separated from the goods station on the opposite side of the River Avon. To get between the two, a road journey of a mile covered a crow's distance of 100 yards! So in 1870 the Midland Bridge was built, still used today. The Company also opened New Street to give a direct route to and from the city centre and extended the passenger platforms. A vaulted Customs house was then added, enabling secure storage for bonded goods such as whisky. The rails along which the storage wagons ran to carry the stock can still be seen in the Vaults.
In 1874, the Somerset and Dorset Railway arrived at the station. Train services ran for the first time from the north right through to the south coast. The line from the north came down from cities such as Liverpool and York through Bristol. It was a main commuter route, with regular local stopping services. The line running south wound it's way through the picturesque Mendip Hills down to Bournemouth. Up to 20 holiday expresses left the station each week. Four arrived from the north at dawn every Saturday and Green Park staff had to awake to serve the nocturnal travellers before they continued south. The most regular service was introduced in 1910, when the daily 'Pines Express' began running between Manchester and Bournemouth.
Green Park has seen its fair share of drama throughout the years. The day before the grand opening. A workman smelt gas so lit a match to find the leak. The resulting explosion caused windows to be blown out and a door to come off its hinges! Gas was used to light the Station until it's closure. On 13 February 1925, a parcel train failed to stop and crashed through the buffers. No one was hurt – but the Chronicle reported a paperboy sitting nearby heard the train approach faster than normal and "rapidly moved out of the way"! Air raids in 1942 destroyed nearby buildings but left the station remarkably unscathed except for damage to the glazed roof. This was only repaired in the 1980's renovation work.
In 1958 the station fell under the Western Region of British Rail and trains began to be rerouted elsewhere, signalling the beginning of the end. By 1962 only the local stopping service remained. Enthusiasts gathered on 5 March 1966 for the final journey stopping at the station - the 4.25pm train. The station shut it's doors for the last time as a working station the following day. After closure, the station was neglected and tragically allowed to fall into disrepair, the site being used sporadically as a car park and little else.
By the 1970's the derelict station had suffered considerable damage, but after becoming Grade 2 listed, the council purchased the site and resolved to develop the area. Several schemes were put forward, but finally an agreement was made with Sainsbury's to renovate the building to its former glory. This was a massive undertaking as the building had considerable structural damage. Work included bolting strengthening plates to the arches, repainting everything and replacing all the wood-work, plasterwork and the stone balustrade on the front façade. One piece of original timber was kept – the handrail of the spiral staircase adjacent to booking hall. Although the staircase itself was replaced, it was literally re-formed around it!
The restored site has been used as retail and market space to support local businesses and events since the 1980's. A full display of the Station's remarkable 100 year history including photographs can be found in the station foyer.
Green Park Station is a thriving platform for local life and culture right in the heart of Bath, providing space for local, ethical businesses and organisations to grow. Run by The Ethical Property Company the station site includes a weekly market (including the Bath Farmers Market), quality shops and eateries, regular events on the Square – there really is something for everyone! In amongst this hive of activity, Green Park Station also has 186 m² of serviced office space for charities and start up organisations as well as meeting rooms for hire. This building has been a beautiful hallmark in Bath for over 130 years, and boasts the original, vaulted iron and glass station roof and signature Bath stone façade.
To find out more about Green Park Station, including the latest news and events, please visit www.greenparkstation.co.uk.
Due to the Sainsbury's supermarket and the Western Riverside Development, it is highly unlikely that Green Park Station will ever again see trains from the S&D or the Avon Valley Railway. The New S&D volunteers have identified an alternative route into Bath from Midford Station via the now disused Bristol and North Somerset Railway's Camerton branch line to Limpley Stoke, enabling trains to arrive at and depart from the mainline Bath Spa Station.