Culham coal merchants

Very little is known about the coal merchants who operated out of Culham station, and no photographs have yet been found. Some information has been gleaned from newspaper adverts, entries in trade directories etc., and we are indebted to Ian Pope of Lightmoor Press for providing most of the background information relating to the railway wagons they used. Even small coal merchants sometimes owned their own wagons, but many were hired on lease, either directly from the wagon owner/builder or via a railway company. There would seem to have been a mix of owned and hired wagons based at Culham at various times. The coal itself would have most likely come from the Cannock Chase, Warwickshire and Leicestershire coalfields rather than South Wales, a trade which would have started when coal was brought by barge on the Oxford canal and then down the Thames to places like Abingdon.

Culham station was fairly well served with goods facilities right from day one. There was a cattle dock and loop on the Up side, and another loop and goods shed on the Down side with a small weighbridge in the yard. There were crossings between the running lines and the layout changed only slightly over time. Goods services to and from Culham were withdrawn on 19th July 1965 and just a couple of years later the waiting shelter on platform 1, the signal box, and the goods shed were all demolished, with the station being reduced to just the two running lines.

Arthur Alder

Arthur Alder is recorded in the 1901 Census as living with his wife and six year old daughter in High Street, Sutton Courtenay. His occupation is given as being Coal, Oil & Coke Merchant and his age as 28, so the business may have been fairly new at that time. The 1911 Census notes him still living in Sutton Courtenay with his occupation now more simply being Coal Merchant. Kelly's Directory of 1915 records him as being a Coal Dealer in Sutton Courtenay. No more is known, other than the fact that in June 1902 Arthur Alder (coal merchant) obtained an 8-ton wagon, numered 1, from Thomas Hunter in Rugby.

John Bradbury

John Bradbury is recorded in the Census of 1841 living in Culham village, but at that time occupation was not noted in the Census, however in that of 1851 he is shown as being a Coal Merchant. In the Gazetteer of the County of Oxford published by Robert Gardner in 1852, there is reference to John Bradbury as being a coal merchant and brewer. The Census of 1871 lists him, now aged 74 and still living in Culham, as a CoalMerchant. It is probable that this long established coal business predated the station and was based in the village, but it possibly made use of facilities at the station although no record of him leasing or owning any wagons has been found.


Nothing is known about this merchant other than the fact that they purchased an 8-ton wagon, numbered 7, from Thomas Hunter of Rugby in January 1897.

Ernest Franklin
Author's collection

Ernest Franklin, Culham

Ernest Franklin can be found in the Census from 1901 as a thirty one year old living as a boarder at the Plough Inn in Clifton Hampden. His occupation is recorded as being a self-employed Common Carrier and Haulier. Ten years later, the Census shows him still boarding at the same address but his occupation is now Contractor for Coal and General Cartage. He died aged 44, never having moved from the Plough Inn, and was buried in Clifton Hampden on 23rd September 1913. It is interesting to note that the entry in the Burial Register was made by the vicar, Reginald Gibbs, whose great grandfather was George Henry Gibbs who, amongst other business interests, had been an original director of the Great Western Railway.

It is not clear when the business operated, but the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company supplied this new 8-ton wagon on 12 October 1904 on 7 year terms.


Thomas Hunter of Rugby supplied an 8-ton wagon, numbered 1, in December 1902. Nothing more can be found relating to this coal merchant.

Reynolds and Hutton
Courtesy of Ian Pope of Lightmoor Press

Reynolds & Son (and Reynolds & Hutton)

John Richard Reynolds appears to have been involved in the coal trade at Culham from as early as 1880 combining the role of local coal merchant with that of running the Railway Hotel, being described in Kelly's Directory of 1895 as 'Railway Hotel and Posting House, Good Accommodation for Excursionists, Morrells genuine ales and coal merchant'. The 1903 and 1907 issues note him as being John Richard Reynolds, Railway Hotel & Coal Merchant. By 1915 the company had been reconstituted under the name of 'Reynolds & Hutton, Coal Merchants', and five years later had expanded into Reynolds & Hutton, Coal Merchants, Hire Cars and Farmers, with depots at Culham, Clifton Hampden, Abingdon and Sutton Courtenay. By 1924 the partnership appears to have been dissolved, and the company was operating again under the name of 'Reynolds & Son' with the Railway Hotel still being run in conjunction with his coal and other business interests. In its issue of Friday 20th December 1935, the Berks and Oxon Advertiser carried a short article 'Fifty Years a Licensee.—Mr.J.R.Reynolds, of the Railway Hotel, Culham, has just celebrated his fiftieth year as a licensee. He claims to be the oldest licensee in Oxfordshire.' It is not known when the business closed, but 'Reynolds & Son' still had an entry in the 'Colliery Yearbook' of 1938 albeit now at Sutton Courtenay.

The Gloucester Carriage and Wagon Company have many records of dealings with this business for the hire, sale and repair of various wagons. The first being for the hire of three second hand 8-ton wagons in 1880, followed by other hire agrangements in 1881, 1882 and 1886. The first purchase of wagons looks to have been in 1888 when he bought a second hand 10-ton wagon followed in 1893 by the purchase of a second hand 8-ton wagon in 1893. In November 1897, the business bought an 8-ton wagon from Messrs.S.J.Claye (of Long Eaton near Derby) and nunbered it 1. Wagon number 2 came from the Midland Railway Carriage and Wagon Company in November 1900. This was followed by wagon number 3, seen in the photograph, possibly in 1904.


The 1876 edition of 'Harrod's Directory of Oxfordshire' notes in its entry for Culham 'Smith, coal merchant and vict. "Railway Hotel"'. The directory entry is a bit confusing however as Arthur Robert Smith, landlord of the hotel, is known to have died in a fall in February 1873 but we think the business may have carried on in his name for a time. One possible clue to support this lies in an announcement found in Jackson's Oxford Journal from Saturday, 27th June 1874 which said Faringdon, Berks. To be LET with immediate possession, - The "Folly House Inn" ... Apply to Mr.T.Smith, on the premises, or at the Railway Hotel, Culham Station. Thomas Smith was a slightly older brother and the announcement implies that he may have moved to Culham, taking over the tenancy of the hotel and other business interests for a couple of years following the death of his brother.