Thursday, May 5, 2011

Charlbury, Oxfordshire

Western light

When taking the train home from London, I’ve often seen the light of the setting sun on the old station of Charlbury before my train pulls out and heads into the Cotswolds along the Adlestrop line. Passing by in the car the other week, I decided to stop and take a photograph, as this simple wooden building is worth a closer look.

Charlbury Station was built in 1853 on what was then the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway. This was a line engineered by Brunel, so shared the broad gauge with Brunel’s Great Western Railway. But on this line money was short, so many of the stations, such as Charlbury, were built of wood. Brunel, though, was not one to produce “railway architecture lite”. He had an Italianate mode – round-headed windows and doorways picked out with a surround in a contrasting colour, a coloured band running around the building like a string course, a broad overhang with undulating brackets – that worked well in wood and gave these humble buildings a touch of class.

So the well-heeled denizens of Charlbury and the villages of West Oxfordshire can feel that Brunel has done them proud. Charlbury has been serving passengers for more than 150 years, and catching my eye for more years than I care to remember as the train moves ever further away from London and Oxford, deeper into the Cotswolds, and out again towards what they used, in the days before computerized announcements, to call “Evesham, Capital of the Vale”.


Peter Ashley said...

I love this station. And like other Brunel country stations, I think it's a master stroke to make the roof become the platform canopy.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Peter: Yes, cunning isn't it? As is the translation of this Italianate architecture - which we'd expect to be in stone (or maybe stucco) into wood.

Gaw said...

If we're travelling by train to and from the Cotswolds it's usually via Kemble or Charlbury. Kemble is probably even prettier than Charlbury. However, what now clinches it for the former is that there's a strip of road leading to Charlbury (just past Shipton-under-Wychwood, from the Burford direction), which has managed to bring on fully fledged car sickness every time we've used it recently, in my wife and both children. It's a chicane that runs up, down and around a dell in the downs. It's really extraordinary - I've never come across anything quite like it!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Gaw: Yes, I know that road - not for the fainthearted, or the tender-stomached. I'd stick to Kemble, and remember to admire the water tower!