Culham in the news


Introduction

Besides the press coverage of the comings and goings from the nearby Nuneham House, various events have taken place at or near Culham station which have warranted mention in the press. Here are a few snippets of articles which we have found, some of which are amusing, but others sadly report on fatalities at or near the station not all of which were accidental.

~~ By way of an introduction, we start at the very beginning with coverage of the opening of the Didcot to Oxford Railway ~~



Facsimile page by Colin and Daniel Taylor, 2020. All rights reserved.

Opening of the Oxford Railway

Saturday 15th June 1844, The London Evening Standard

A long news article covered the opening of the Didcot to Oxford branch, the highlights of which are included here. It is reported that the journey between Oxford and London which could take up to eight hours by coach was now timetabled as being two hours and twenty minutes by train. The report first covers the official inspection of the line.

'On Monday the government inspector, General Paisley, Mr. Saunders, Mr. Brunel, and some of the directors of the Great Western, with a party of ladies made the first trial run of the new line. The distance from Paddington to Didcot, 53½ miles, was done in the short space of one hour and eight minutes,Mr. Brunel directing the engine. From Didcot to Oxford they travelled more slowly to give the inspector an opportunity of making the necessary survey. On arriving at the Appleford Bridge the centres had not been struck, and caused the steps of the carriages which hit against them to be twisted nearly off... ...The train, however, arrived safely at Oxford about half-past two. Carriages were in waiting, and conveyed the party to the Angel Hotel, where a champagne lunch had been provided.'
The champagne lunch may have swung it as, despite the potentially disastrous incident on Appleford Bridge, the line was passed for public use by the inspector. It is presumed that the bridge in question was that over the Thames which, like the Nuneham Bridge, was initially of timber construction. Together with other hints in the article, it suggests that there was still work to be completed at various places on the line.

The first public train left Oxford at ten minutes to eight on the following Wednesday morning, taking 26 minutes to reach Didcot. As well as labouring the superiority of the broad gauge over that of 'the narrow one used in the north of England', the article continues with a description of the line.
'The rail line between Oxford and the Abingdon-road station, a distance of seven miles, commands a view of country one of the most beautiful that can be imagined. Passing Hinksey, it crosses the road to Abingdon about 1¼ mile from Oxford, under a brick bridge; it passes on a short distance from the Isis, through Kennington, by Sandford, to Nuneham, the seat of the Archbishop of York, where it crosses the water, and shortly arrives at the Abingdon station, a pretty building of brick and stone, situated about three miles from Abingdon. Another mile and we are at Appleford station, a temporary shed. After passing under another brick bridge, then two mile of uninteresting country, and we are at Didcot... ...The temporary wooden station, erected or being erected, is, we imagine, from its scantiness, intended to last only a few days.'
Didcot, which at the time was a small village close to the new junction and station, does not receive very favourable coverage at all. Oxford station is briefly mentioned, almost as an afterthought, at the end of the article. 'We had almost forgotten to mention that the station at Oxford is entirely a wooden one. It is situated in the first field on the right hand side of the road after passing over Folly bridge, and commands a good view of Oxford.'

It is interesting to note that, besides the road over-bridges, Abingdon-road station was the only brick and stone structure on the line. All other buildings (including the two river bridges) being made from wood with some appearing to be very temporary in nature. This may indicate a certain outside influence when it came to the specification of what became Culham station - read more of this in the page describing the links with Nuneham House.

Appleford station was within a short walk from the old village, but passenger numbers must have been disappointing as it closed in the February of 1849. There were reported to be nine trains each way per day between London and Oxford with fares of, First Class 15s, Second Class 10s, and Third Class 6s. It is not stated whether these were single or return fares. The latter fare was only available on the luggage train however, this ran in addition to the other nine which were restricted to First and Second Class. The luggage train left London at 4:30 a.m. not arriving in Oxford until 10:30, a full six hours later. It is not reported when the luggage train left Oxford but it would probably be at the same unhelpful timings - a very early example of shaping passenger demand.

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