·  LMS  ·  GWR  ·  LNER  ·  Misc  ·  Stations  ·  What's New  ·  Video  ·  Guestbook  ·  About

GWR Routes

The North Warwickshire Line

Strictly speaking the Birmingham and North Warwickshire Railway, to give the line its correct title, runs from Tyseley to Bearley North Junction. However, in the spirit of the Great Western Railway, who built the line as part of a new route to the West of England, we have included stations both north of Tyseley to Snow Hill and south of Bearley North Junction to Pebworth - which was the last station within Warwickshire - to provide a coherent route. This reflects the reality that the route from Snow Hill or Moor Street to Pebworth and beyond was in fact made up of four routes built by different companies over a period of fifty-five years.

From Snow Hill a passenger would travel to Tyseley on the Birmingham and Oxford Railway's mainline then at Tyseley their train would be carried over the Birmingham and North Warwickshire Railway's line to Bearley North Junction where it would join the Stratford Railway Company's branch from Hatton to Stratford upon Avon and finally from Stratford-on-Avon they would travel south on the former branch of the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway's to Honeybourne now upgraded with doubled track. As with many other railway initiatives the origins of the Birmingham and North Warwickshire Railway lay with local landowners and merchants seeking to provide a route that would provide benefit to their commercial interests. Originally it was conceived as being a route from a new terminus to be built at Moor Street to Stratford upon Avon from where it would have running rights to traverse over the GWR's line to Honeybourne.

Robert Ferris has been researching the route and has unearthed the following contemporary articles. For information on the West of England route through Warwickshire see the article on 'The North Warwickshire Line' by Harold D Smith first printed in the Great Western Railway Magazine in January 1908 and the 'Doubling of the Stratford-on-Avon Branch' by G H Mackillop again from the Great Western Railway Magazine but their April 1908 edition. In addition, the GWR, as with all the railway companies, extensively promoted places to visit by their railway services and Stratford upon Avon and other areas within Warwickshire were no exception. Robert Ferris has transcribed some extracts from contemporary GWR books and these can be read by visiting the link to the GWR Publicity page below.

Use the links below to access the following sections on this page.

back to top

Route Map: North Warwickshire Railway

Route commences at Honeybourne

Pebworth Halt [3]
Long Marston [33]
Milcote [25]
Chambers Crossing Halt [None known to exist]
Stratford-on-Avon Race Course Platform [23]
Sancta Lane [17]
Evesham Road Crossing Halte (sic)[11]
Stratford upon Avon (GWR):
Station [100]
Shed [16]
Wilmcote [33]
Bearley East, North and West Junctions [49]
Wootton Wawen [8]
Henley in Arden
B&HRC Terminus Station [41]
B&HRC Shed [6]
NWR Station [58]
Danzey for Tanworth [17]
Wood End [12]
The Lakes Halt [7]
Earlswood Lakes [13]
Grimes Hill & Wythall [14]
Whitlocks End Halt [8]
Shirley [21]
Yardley Wood [15]
Hall Green [19]
Spring Road [10]
Tyseley:
Station [75]
Shed [121]
Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) and Singer Motors [8]
Small Heath [19]
Bordesley
Station [58]
Bordesley Viaduct [10]
Duddeston Viaduct [9]
Shed [20]
Bordesley Junction - Exchange Branch [8]
Moor Street [103]
Birmingham Snow Hill [443]

The History of the Birmingham and North Warwickshire Railway

by Harold D Smith

back to top

The importance of the Birmingham and North Warwickshire Railway lies mainly in the fact that it is the final link in the Great Western short route between Bristol and Birmingham, via Gloucester, Honeybourne and Stratford. Formerly those who elected to travel by the Great Western Railway between those points had to make a long detour via the Severn Tunnel, Hereford, Worcester, Kidderminster, a distance of 133 miles over a steeply graded route or travel via Didcot and Banbury, a distance of 141 miles. By means of the new connection between Tyseley and Bearley and between Honeybourne and Cheltenham, together with a revival of the running powers over the Midland line from Standish to Yate, the Great Western Company will possess a route of only 95 miles in length, with gradients and curves suitable for express services.

The total length of the new line from Tyseley to Bearley West Junction is Seventeen and three quarter miles. There is also a loop connecting the old Lapworth and Henley-in-Arden branch with a new station at the latter place. The name ‘Birmingham and North Warwickshire Railway’ scarcely conveys an accurate idea of the position of the new line. Leaving the main line to Paddington at Tyseley station three miles south east of Birmingham, it terminates at a junction with the Hatton and Stratford line, about half a mile from Bearley station. Its course is roughly north and south, and it skirts the eastern boundary of Warwickshire, occasionally crossing into Worcestershire. The only apparent justification for the word ‘north’ is that it cuts through the country of the North Warwickshire Hunt.

A more descriptive name would be the ‘Arden Railway’, for the Forest of Arden is responsible for the names of five out of the eight stations on the line. Yardley Wood, Earlswood, Wood End, and Henley-in-Arden are obvious enough; Wootton Wawen is a little abstruse, but nevertheless is associated with the forest, which covered the whole of Warwickshire, filling the angle between the Severn and the Avon as far north as Wolverhampton. The inhabitants until the eighteenth century depended for corn on the ‘Feddon’, the land lying south of the Avon. However the demand for charcoal for iron smelting cleared the wood, and the land coming under the plough was found to be so productive as to outrival the Feddon district. Much of it is now pasture, and a heavy milk traffic is likely to develop.

Geologically the line is cut on the outcrop of the Keuper or Upper Trias. The first cutting after leaving Tyseley is almost entirely in loamy gravel, but the marl is reached just above rail level. Passing south the thickness of gravel generally decreases and it is altogether absent in some cuttings, but a good gravel site may be found for building at almost any spot on the line. This marl is a most excellent material for railway making. In the cutting at Wood End, at the bottom of a slope 40 feet long, a vertical face stood perfectly through the winter, and the embankments of marl have stood without giving signs of slips. It will stand at almost any angle without timber, and the absence of anything like a failure in foundations throughout the work is an excellent proof of its stability.

From Tyseley the line follows the valley of the River Cole to Wood End where it passes through a short tunnel and gains the valley of the Alne, a tributary of the Avon which it does not again leave. The high ground at Wood End contains the sources of both river, and forms the water shed of England. Incidentally, the tunnel diverts the rainfall of a very small area from the Humber to the Bristol Channel. Floods rise with great rapidity both in the Cole and the Alne, and a few years since a bridge with a total waterway 73 feet wide was washed away by the Alne at a place only 10 miles from its source where it can usually be easily forded. The custom of the country is to carry all roads over streams on bridges which will only take the average flow, and to depress the road level at each side of the bridge so that floods may pass over the roads. A length of a quarter-of-a-mile of road is often under water. River bridges, culverts, and stream diversions have therefore been provided on an unusually large scale.

In laying out a railway it is of the highest importance to keep the gradients as flat as possible. A moderate curve does not add appreciably to the tractive force required, but the weight of a possible train for a given engine is limited by the steepest gradient on the line. A rise in a railway causes the motive power to do work against gravity in raising the load bodily, whereas on a curve the resistance to traction is only that due to the friction of deflecting the load horizontally. At Tyseley rail level is 400 feet above sea level. Thence it rises for 2 miles 15 chains, and after falling only 4 feet on a gradient of 1 in 500, it rises consistently to the summit of 500 feet at Earlswood Lakes station, 6 miles 57 chains from the commencement. The gradients against the load in this direction, with one exception, are not steeper than 1 in 183.

After leaving Earlswood Lakes station the line falls at 1 in 180 for one and a half miles, and then acquires an uniform gradient of 1 in 150, which, modified by Board of trade requirements through stations, is maintain for eight miles. At 16 miles 4 chains rail level has fallen to 200 feet above sea level, which it retains for nearly half a mile before rising slightly, passing under the aqueduct of the Birmingham and Stratford Canal, and joining the Alcester branch at 17 miles 13 chains. From this junction the Alcester line is widened, and the branch forms part of the new line. They separate again at 17 miles 24 chains and, rising at 1 in 462, the new line terminates at 17 miles 69 chains at a junction with the Stratford line.

The starting and finishing points of the line are fixed by the levels of the existing rails at the junctions. Another tie point is the level of the ground at Earlswood and Wood End. To have lowered the rail level here by a few feet would have increased the cost of the line enormously; for the contents of a cutting through a summit increases roughly as the cube of the depth of that cutting and Wood End cutting is already nearly 60 feet deep. Having fixed on the sum that could economically be expended in cutting in this neighbourhood, the next point in locating the line was to get as far as possible an uniform gradient from either end, to the summit. The longitudinal section shows how nearly this has been accomplished. Having determined the ideal gradient, the next step was to fix the line on the map in such a way that the ground level should coincide therewith. In almost any country such a line may be laid down, but it will not be a practical one, as it will consist of irregular curves round shoulders of hills and sharp angles where it crosses valleys.

The best plan, if practicable without departing too far from the ideal gradient would be a straight line from point to point. At a conference of ministers and engineers engaged in discussing the course a State railway should take between two towns, a Russian Sovereign is said to have drawn his sword and laid it across the map, thus settling, to his own satisfaction, the whole affair. He failed, however, to see that practical gradients suitable to the contour of the country were more important to the location of the line than straightness on the map. Between the ideal straight line and the irregular contour line marked by the ideal gradient on the map, lies the best practical position. It is obtained by cutting into the shoulder of the hills, and forming embankments across valleys, and how far the final line shall depart from the straight direct line is mostly a question of cost.

In a flat uninteresting country the course of the line would be more direct. The sinuous course of the line is due to the pleasing rolling nature of the country, for deviation from the direct course indicates a hill of valley to be avoided. In the case of the Birmingham and North Warwickshire Railway there is – with the exception of a short length leaving the main line at Tyseley - no curve of less radius than half a mile. Out of a total length of 17 miles 69 chains, 7 miles 69 chains is straight, and the average radius of the remaining 10 miles is fifty five and a half chains. The total curvature of the whole line is 14’37 radians, which means that if all the curves were in the same direction and the lengths of straight were omitted, the line would describe a complete circle twice with a right angle to spare. The amount of curvature per mile of the total length of the railway is ‘804 radians. This would be a useful figure in comparing one line with another, and might for convenience be called the ‘sinuosity’ of a railway.

The total excavation of the cuttings measures 1,500,000 cubic yards, and is distributed over a length of eight and three quarter miles of cuttings having an average capacity of 2,130 cubic yards per chain of length. In a line of this character, passing through a country district, excavation is the main factor controlling the speed at which the work can be completed. The most favourable distribution of excavation for rapid construction is that the cuttings should be short, and should alternate with embankments capable of absorbing the earth excavated in each cutting. On this railway the cuttings were distributed in such a way as to put two obstacles in the way of rapid completion. The first of these is the commencement of the railway, where 264,000 cubic yards had to be excavated from a continuous cutting a mile and three quarters long, and all had to be conveyed through the south end of the cutting. A steam navvy commenced excavation in February 1906, and it was practically finished in the first week of Just last.

The average rate was 3,700 cubic yards a week, but the work was somewhat hampered by the failure of a gravel embankment 30 feet high, between 3 miles 20 chains and 3 miles 40 chains, where the excavation was being tipped. The embankment was tipped in two lifts. The first was 14 feet high, and was formed of the loamy gravel from the Tyseley cutting. When excavated this gravel was full of water and very unstable, but after being jolted inn the wagons, drained in the embankment, and consolidated by contractor’s traffic for fifteen months, it appeared to form a very substantial bank and everyone was surprised when it gave way. The top lift of the embankment was partly formed of the same loamy wet gravel, until it was found the bottom lift would not bear the weight of similar material to itself. As soon as the top lift approached full width the bottom gave, the earth being squeezed outwards between the top lift and the original surface of the ground. The ground on which the embankment rests is good solid gravel, and has stood perfectly without contributing in any way to the slips which have taken place.

The remedy was fairly obvious, No more heavy wet material was tipped, the remainder of the top lift was formed of light ashes, and the bottom was kept in place by a layer of heavy slag distributed over its slopes. The second obstacle was the tunnel and its cuttings at Wood End. The former is as usual, approached by two deep cuttings, and one of these had to be excavated before access on a low level could be had to the tunnel itself. 214,000 cubic yards of excavation lying to the north of the tunnel had to be conveyed to embankments south of it, and to avoid the costly and slow process of hauling over the summit of the hill an attempt was made to get the tunnel finished before starting the excavation at the north end. The cutting south of the tunnel contains 107,000 cubic yards. It was started on January 9th, 1906, and by April 12th 86,300 cubic yards had been dug out and the end of the tunnel could be got at.

The tunnel is 175 yards long: a commencement was made excavating for the south end on April15th 1906, and the last brick was put into the arch on November 22nd 1906, the work advancing at the rate of six and a half yards per week. In August 1906, the air at the north end of the heading was foul from the use of explosives, and for ventilation a hole was cut to the surface. A man started in the evening, and by the morning had worked his way through 40 feet of marl above him, and reached the air. A week later the air shaft proved most useful, for the roof of the heading fell in, and but for the air hole the men must have been imprisoned.

A few years ago there was a discussion in the papers as to the number of bricks a man should lay in a day, and a case was cited of a man who had laid 300 bricks, presumably in architectural work when each brick has to be most correctly laid. The tunnel was done in lengths of 15 feet, each length absorbing nearly 40,000 bricks. Four men laid this number of bricks in two shifts, each shift occupying a day and a night at least and sometimes as long as a day and two nights. The two shifts on the average occupied sixty hours and during that time each man would lay 10,000 bricks, equivalent to 2,000 in a day of twelve hours. Eleven steam navvies and twenty three locomotives were employed on the line. There are sixty four bridges, twenty of which are met with on the first five miles from Tyseley. The number is made up as follows:-

  • Public road bridges - 29
  • River and canal bridges - 7
  • Accommodation road bridges - 19
  • Accommodation river bridges - 9

As with the earthworks, the bulk of the bridgework was done in the fine weather, between April and October last year. The bridges generally are of the usual types, in blue brick, but the most expensive of all is, strangely enough, an accommodation bridge. It carried the railway over a disused drive leading towards a fine old house, built of local stone from quarries which have since been worked out and closed. When the line was proposed the stipulation was made that it should cross the drive on three elliptical arches of stone obtained from Derbyshire of colour to match the house. This affords little idea of the difficulties encountered in designing and building it. All arches which are segments of a circle on a line square to the abutments show an elliptical curve on the face when built on the skew, but this arch although built on the skew had to be elliptical on a line square to the abutments.

In a skew bridge of which the span is anything considerable the voussoirs have to be laid as nearly possible square to the face line. A ruled sheet of paper rolled obliquely over a ruler gives a good idea of the courses on a segmental skew arch. All these corners are curved lines, and the joints between the ends of the adjacent voussoirs themselves are curved. Even the joints of the voussoirs where cut by the skew face are curved. The curves are spirals or functions of spirals based on the circle and have all been investigated and reduced to rule. On an elliptical skew arch all this is changed, for the radius of the arch itself changes continually from a maximum at the crown to a minimum at the springing. The result is that the six faces of all stones of which the arch is built have each to be cut to a different curve, and each curve itself is constantly altering inch by inch.

Another result which costs much money is the amount of stone which must be cut to waste. This increases enormously as the curvature increases near the springing, so that in a long voussoir much more stone is cut to waste than used. An extended search has revealed no record of a masonry elliptical skew arch having previously been built. An attempt to design a suitable arch on a false ellipse had to be abandoned, because the abrupt changes of curvature were found unsightly. In flat elliptical arches, like those in question, the line of the centre of thrust passes out of the back of the arching before it reaches the springing, and meeting the trust of another arch, or the reaction of the abutment, gradually loses its horizontal component, and passes more or less vertically into the pier or abutment. In some skew segmental arches built in France this has been recognised in the design, and before reaching the springing the spiral courses have ceased and courses parallel to the springing line have taken their place.

This desirable feature has been adopted resulting in a great saving of cost and relief to the contractor compared with the original design, because the courses being straight and parallel have four plane faces, and the waste due the changing spiral course is altogether avoided in the places where it would be greatest. The parallel courses were built to a true ellipse, all difficulty in cutting to changing curves being avoided, because the one template serves for two whole courses in each arch.. Above the parallel courses the change in curvature of the ellipse is greatly reduced, and for this part of the arch an approximation of three circular arcs was calculated, which differs from a true ellipse by a very small fraction of an inch. The difficulties were thus greatly reduced, for the spiral courses became true spirals and were marked out as for segmental arches of two different radii, instead of to unknown constantly changing curves. Methods based on, but vastly more complicated than those used for segmental arches were followed.

On receiving the drawings Mr G.B.Sharples, the contractor’s engineer, with great zeal devised methods of setting out and succeeded in having all the stones cut with utmost precision. Only one stone was wasted, and the joints are as nearly perfect as possible. This bridge is believed to be the only one of its kind in existence. Eight stations are provided at an average distance apart of less than two miles. The buildings proper are of red brick of the usual Great Western type, the roofs and verandahs being of light steel construction covered with corrugated sheeting and glass. The platforms of the more important stations are 500 feet in length and 12 feet in width. The first station is Hall Green on the main road to Stratford. Hall Green is a thriving residential centre, houses are being built rapidly in the district, and the new station should be greatly appreciated as giving better facilities for reaching Birmingham than the four-horse omnibus now in use.

The station has a goods yard and goods lock up, with provision for building a goods shed and extending the siding accommodation when required. A mile further south is Yardley Wood station (2 miles 43 chains), which at present has accommodation for passenger traffic only, but land is also provided for a goods yard when found necessary. Shirley station at 3 miles 68 chains, is some distance from the village of that name. It has a goods shed, cattle pens, horse and carriage landing and full facilities for dealing with every kind of traffic. Earlswood Lakes station at 6 miles 61 chains is on high ground 500 feet above sea level. It has a goods yard, goods lock up, and horse and carriage landing. The reservoirs of the Great Western Company’s Stratford-on-Avon Canal, forming a very picturesque sheet of water backed by wooded slopes, are much frequented in summer by excursionists who come by road from Birmingham, whose inhabitants are most energetic in seeking a day in the country.

Wood End station at 8 miles 57 chains is at the bottom of a cutting over 50 feet deep. The station had to be placed here in accordance with an agreement, but the site is somewhat inconvenient and station facilities cannot be provide on any large scale. Danzey at 10 miles 44 chains is a small station with goods yard and lock up. It serves Tamworth-in-Arden and Ullenhall, two considerable and very picturesque villages, besides a large area of farms from which an important milk traffic may be expected. At Henley-in-Arden, 13 miles 40 chains from Tyseley Junction, a new passenger station is provided opposite the middle of the town on the west of the Stratford road, approached by a new road from the town. The old Lapworth and Henley branch is connected with the new line by a loop 50 chains in length, and an island platform is provided for the Lapworth branch train. The old station will be used solely for goods and cattle traffic. Within the last year two rival cattle markets have been started at Henley-in-Arden, and the first new houses have been built after an interval of many years.

It is a quaint town, consisting of one broad street three quarters of a mile in length, flanked by houses mostly over a hundred years old. It has the remains of a market cross and a church dating back to 1448. Near Henley-in-Arden church stands the old pre-Norman church of Beaudesert, the mound behind which is the site of Beaudesert Castle, built soon after the conquest, but demolished during the War of the Roses. The town possesses distinct railway interest as the birthplace of William James, called by some the ‘Father of Railways’. Two miles from Henley-in-Arden is Bushwood, where Catesby, the author of the Gunpowder Plot, lived and conspired. The whole county recalls Shakespeare, a name no means uncommon in the neighbourhood.

Wootton Wawen at 15 miles 20 chains has the most ancient church in Warwickshire, parts of the existing masonry dating back to Saxon times. It is the burial place of William Somerville, the poet of the ‘Chase’, who lived within a mile of the church and died in 1743. In a chapel of the church are a number of books of divinity chained to a desk. The permanent way throughout the new line is of the standard heavy section bullhead rail, 97.5lbs per yard, laid on cross sleepers, and ballasted with crushed slag. The contractors for the line were Messrs. C.J.Wills & Sons. The line was commenced in September 1905 and opened for goods traffic on December 9th, 1907.

The Doubling of the Stratford-on-Avon Branch

by G.H. Mackillop

back to top

The article by Mr Harold Smith in the January Magazine on the Birmingham and North Warwickshire Railway described the northern portion of the scheme for connecting South Wales and the West of England with Birmingham and the North. The southern portion includes the Cheltenham and Honeybourne Railway, and between these two new railways a part of the Stratford branch for a length of about 14 miles has been utilised as a connecting link. This was formally a single line branch, but has now been doubled and the sharp gradients and curves considerably improved.

The Cheltenham and Honeybourne line meets the Stratford branch at Honeybourne East Junction, about 1 mile from Honeybourne station. It is connected to Worcester by a loop which leaves the former immediately after it passes under the West Midland line and joins a spur from the Stratford branch about half a mile from Honeybourne station. There is still another loop, known as the Honeybourne East Loop, connecting the West Midland line from London with the Stratford branch. The construction of the Honeybourne East Loop was opened in May 1907. By means of this loop the company have now a double line through from Paddington to Stratford-on-Avon, and this has been found of great assistance in dealing with the well-known half-day trips to the latter place. These alterations entailed the enlargement of Honeybourne station. exchange sidings have been laid out and four platforms, 500 feet in length, with the usual waiting room and other accommodation, are about to be built. A new engine shed is also to be erected here.

Travelling along the branch in the direction of Stratford, after leaving the Cheltenham and Honeybourne line, the line falls for about three quarters of a mile at 1 in 150, the latter before the doubling being 1 in 130. Thence it is practically level to Long Marston station, which was formally a passing place. All that was necessary, therefore, was to lengthen the platforms, which are now 400 feet long between ramps. A cattle pen and loading bank was also built. The fruit and vegetable traffic of the neighbourhood is rapidly increasing, and last year over 200 tons of tomatoes were sent away from the station.

Close to Long Marston station is the house to which Charles II, fled disguised as a servant after the Battle of Worcester, and one can still see the old roasting jack which the housewife told him to watch at the kitchen fire. Beyond the station is a public crossing known as Wire Lane, where the crossing keeper’s and ganger’s cottages were so close to the old single line that they had to be pulled down and others erected. The line is now practically straight with a slight falling gradient until Milcote is reached. This was a small single platform station, but two new platforms 400 feet long have now been built. The station is close by the River Avon, where good boating may be obtained, and it is a favourite resort for summer visitors. The line now falls gradually into Stratford and crosses the River Avon by a viaduct of nine arches and one steel span. From the junction with the East and West Junction Railway Company to a point close to the entrance to Stratford Goods Yard and the branch was already double.

Stratford station is to be improved, the ‘up’ platform being made into an island platform 600 feet long, and the ‘down’ platform lengthened to 550 feet. The curves, also, at each end of the station will be improved from a radius of 18 chains to 25 chains. The building on the ‘down’ side, which is the main entrance to the station, will have a new booking-office and the whole building will be structurally altered, thus materially improving the accommodation. A tea-room and a bicycle house are also to be added. On the ‘up’ platform there will be spacious waiting and refreshment rooms. Stratford station will no doubt become important for through express traffic, as passengers will change here for Leamington and the south, and for all the various residential districts south of Birmingham.

To enable the curve at the north end of the station to be improved it was necessary to deviate the line over the canal. This enables the old lines to be used as loops and will facilitate the working of traffic very materially. The heaviest gradient of the whole scheme lies between Stratford and Wilmcote. The old line had a gradient of 1 in 75 of one and a quarter miles, but, by means of a slight deviation and raising of banks, this has been reduced to less than one mile, which is a very considerable improvement. Wilmcote station had formerly a single line platform, but has now two new platforms, 400 feet long, with the usual waiting rooms and booking office accommodation. The later have been built with a ramped approach from the road, which goes over the railway at this station.

A mile beyond Wilmcote, Bearley West Junction, where the new Birmingham and North Warwickshire line goes off to the left, is reached. A good easy running junction has been put in there. The doubling of the branch continues beyond this to Bearley station, so that of the whole Stratford branch there now remains only the portion between Bearley and Hatton Junction as a single line. None of the work between Honeybourne and Bearley was of a very heavy character, and it has all been completed within eighteen months, a fairly creditable result in view of the fact that the traffic was running all the time. The work between Honeybourne and Stratford was carried out by Messrs. Walter Scott and Middleton, and that between Stratford and Bearley by Messrs. C.T. Wills & Sons.

The GWR, as with all the railway companies, extensively promoted places to visit by their railway services and Stratford upon Avon and other areas within Warwickshire were no exception.

SHAKESPEARE LAND

Foreword from 'Great Western Railway ‘Shakespeare Land – The World’s Great travel Shrine' (4th Edition April 1924).

back to top

Stratford-on-Avon is universally regarded in the light of a Travel Shrine of world-wide interest and importance. There are very few travellers who arrive in England, either from the United States or our Dominions beyond the seas, who do not hope to visit the birthplace of William Shakespeare on the banks of the winding Avon, and the historic and picturesque country of Warwickshire, before they leave these shores. The homeland of Shakespeare has ever been, and always must be, regarded in the light of a place of pilgrimage by every member of the great Anglo-Saxon race, and it is moreover a scared spot, the key to the gates of which is firmly held by the Great Western Railway. Whether travellers disembark at Plymouth, Liverpool, or Bristol, it is by the Great Western Railway that they will make their journey to Shakespeare’s land at once expeditious, agreeable, and inexpensive.

The same thing may be said when London happens to be the pilgrims starting point and Shakespeare-land is approached through “Beechy Bucks,” amongst the sylvan beauties of which William Penn lies buried. By the aid of the Great Western Railway it is easy for the traveller to combine a pilgrimage to the tomb of Shakespeare with a visit to either Oxford or Bath, both of which places can claim American traditions and associations of the highest interest. It should also be remembered that not far from Shakespeare’s home stands another timbered sixteenth century house, in which, during the later years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, resided Catherine Rogers, the fair daughter of a Stratford alderman, one of William Shakespeare’s contemporaries, who became the wife of John Harvard of Southwark, and whose son, called after his father, eventually gave his name to the famous American University of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Shakespeare’s house in Henley Street was acquired in 1847 by public subscription as a national memorial of the poet, and the interesting timbered house close by, now used as a ticket office, was purchased by Mr. Andrew Carnegie and has been vested in the Shakespeare trustees. Pilgrims to Shakespeare-land may, with advantage, carefully study the latest edition of ‘Stratford-on-Avon, from the earliest times to the death of Shakespeare’ the admirable work of Sir Sidney Lee, one of the Shakespeare trustees and the editor of the ‘Dictionary of National Biography’. The unique facilities by rail and motor coach now afforded by the Great Western Railway enable the traveller, whose time is precious, not only to explore within the compass of a very few hours the historic sites and scenes of Stratford-upon-Avon, but to include in his itinerary the mediaeval glories of Warwick and Kenilworth Castles, and Royal Leamington Spa.

A map of the Great Western Railway's Ramble starting at Hatton progressing through Norton Lindsay, Langley, Yarningale Common and returning to Hatton station
Ref: ramble_1
GWR
A map of the GWR's Ramble starting at Hatton progressing through Norton Lindsay returning to Hatton station
A diagram of the various rambling routes and sleeping accommodation identified by the Great Western Railway across Shakespeare-land and the Cotswolds
Ref: ramble_diagram
GWR
A diagram of the various rambling routes and sleeping accommodation identified by the GWR
The GWR's book on rambles together with information on purchasing a holiday season ticket and how to use tickets to arrive at and depart from different stations
Ref: shakespeare_ramble
GWR
The GWR's book together with information on purchasing a holiday season ticket and how to use it to different stations
A typical example of the Great Western Railway's publicity poster campaign of the 1930s advertising tourist locations across its railway network
Ref: soa-poster
GWR
A typical example of the Great Western Railway's publicity poster campaign of the 1930s advertising tourist locations
In 1938 the Great Western Railway issued a twelve page pamphlet containing a series of forty rambles
Ref: publicity1652
GWR
In 1938 the Great Western Railway issued a twelve page pamphlet containing a series of forty rambles

Sample pages showing a range of brief and succient glorious wayside rambles descriptions
Ref: publicity1651
GWR
Sample pages showing a range of brief and succient glorious wayside rambles descriptions
A GWR Public Notice providing information on timings and fares to visit the theatre and racing at Stratford on Avon
Ref: publicity1653
GWR
A GWR Public Notice providing information on timings and fares to visit the theatre and racing at Stratford on Avon
Maxwell Fraser's 1937 joint GWR/LMS guide promoting Stratford and other places to American tourists
Ref: publicity1654
GWR
Maxwell Fraser's 1937 joint GWR/LMS guide promoting Stratford and other places to American tourists

Rambles and Walking Tours in Shakespeare Land and the Cotswolds

The Secretary of the North Finchley Rambling Club, Mr. Hugh E. Page, wrote a series of rambling books for the Great Western Railway to promote recreational walking from locations along the company’s lines. These books were both popular enough and accurately informative to remain in publication for many years after nationalisation. They reflect an era when this burgeoning outdoor leisure pursuit was seen to offer an economic way to appreciate the landscape and also a healthy form of exercise. The books include advice on the rights and responsibilities of walkers and landowners in addition to descriptions and details of the individual walks. The text associated with each of the following images, are short extracts from Rambles and Walking Tours in Shakespeare Land and the Cotswolds by Hugh E. Page. This was the third book in the series published by the Great Western Railway in 1933.

Robert Ferris