[Source: Peter Stephenson]

Date opened: 31 May 1841
Location: Within one-way system formed by Old Tetbury Road, Sheep Street and the modern Hammond Way
Company on opening: Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway
Date closed to passengers: 6 April 1964
Date closed completely: 4 October 1965
Company on closing: British Railways (Western Region)
Present state: The main station building still exists within a public car park
County: Gloucestershire
OS Grid Ref: SP020017
Date of visit: Various from 31 May 2016

Notes: Cirencester Town was the terminus of a 4¼ mile branch from Kemble, on the line from Swindon to Gloucester and Cheltenham. The station building was designed by IK Brunel and his residential assistant, RP Brereton. 

On the opening day, Cirencester Town station consisted of a narrow three-storey building with a single storey extension to the left, as seen from the road frontage. The three-storey building is still in existence but the single storey extension was substantially rebuilt in 1956. To the right was the single platform and a number of parallel tracks. There was a canopy along the front of the station that lasted until about 1948 and an overall roof over the platform and tracks. Most of the overall roof was removed in 1872.when the line was converted from broad to standard gauge. The wall down the right hand side of the car park (seen from the Tetbury Road) has always been the western edge of the railway lands. It supported the original overall roof.

An OS map of1875 indicates that the run round loop used the second and third tracks out from the platform, i.e. not the platform line. By 1902, this had been altered by joining the platform line to the adjacent track by a Y point. This, in turn, meant a short reverse curve to the platform line near the buffers. This is shown in photographs. The next change occurred around 1920. The platform and platform line were straightened. They were no longer parallel to the main building. This led to a new platform canopy which had to be tapered along its length. 

Up to WWII, passenger access to trains was via the single storey part of the station. A high wooden fence round the end of the platform line prevented direct access to the platform. By around 1948, the single storey section was in poor condition. The wooden fence was removed and a new booking office built at the far end of the platform canopy. There was now direct access from the forecourt to the platform. The original canopy along the station frontage was removed at about this time. The final change was in 1956 when the single storey section was completely rebuilt, and a new canopy constructed along the station frontage. After closure, the platform canopy and most of the platform was removed. A short representative section of platform remains.

The original goods shed (1841) was of timber construction and large for a single platform branch terminus. It had the curious quirk of some GWR goods sheds of the time, namely two tracks within it, but with only one track adjacent to a platform. Other examples were Ross-on-Wye, Bradford on Avon, Challow and Newbury. The main goods yard was south and east of the passenger station. It was significantly enlarged around 1920. This included several new sidings. It also included two double slips, which was unusual for a branch line terminus. A complication here is that the relevant OS maps, and consequently other maps drawn from it, omit this point work. It is however clearly visible in photographs. The goods shed was replaced in 1938 by one with a steel-frame structure and only one internal track. The other track formed an external siding between the goods shed and the main running line.

The town’s cattle market was located just west of the Town station and the cattle dock was therefore located south west of the station platform next to the most westerly siding. The 1920 extensions to the goods yard included a pig dock, located at the southern end of the goods yard near the old Somerford Road bridge. It was used to unload pigs bound for two bacon factories on the southern side of the town. It is visible in photographs taken from the road bridge.

The signal box was a GWR ‘Type 5’ signal box. Boxes of this kind were widely used on the GWR and were possibly the most common type on branch and secondary route. It may have been the only standard GWR design at Cirencester Town. Pre-WWI photos of the station show one or two lattice signals; this is an unusual type for the GWR and signals were subsequently replaced by standard GWR designs.

Cirencester’s loco shed for its standard gauge days was an eccentric wooden construction, built in 1872. It had a brick extension with chimney which was presumably needed for drying loco sand. The 1875 OS Map shows the loco shed opposite the goods shed and just north of the cattle dock. All other maps and all photos show it much further south, towards the station throat.

Even in its earliest days the railway brought visitors and tourists to Cirencester, and enabled local residents to take the train to other towns for day trips and holidays. Postal services relied on the railway, with large numbers of letters and parcels being handled. Local businesses used the station and the goods yard as the freight trains were frequent. Freight customers included coal merchants, farmers for milk and farm feedstuffs, corn merchants, the Council for building materials, two bacon factories, timber merchants/sawmills and livestock to and from the regular cattle markets.

Daniel Bingham (1830-1913) of Cirencester started his career at Cirencester Station and ultimately had a major role in the railways of the Netherlands. He became General Manager of the Dutch Rhenish Railways. His patron James Staats Forbes also worked at Cirencester. Daniel Bingham was a generous benefactor in Cirencester towards the end of his life viz:- Bingham House Gallery/ Library and Bingham Hall.

The station was renamed Cirencester Town on 1 July 1924 to avoid confusion with Cirencester’s other station, Cirencester Watermoor.

English Heritage listed the Old Station as a Grade II listed building on 23 July 1971.

While the original GWR main line was still being built, the Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway (C&GWUR) gained an Act in 1836 which gave them powers to build the Swindon to Cheltenham line and the Kemble to Cirencester branch. The Directors of the C&GWUR engaged Isambard Kingdom Brunel to survey and design their proposed broad gauge railway track and infrastructure and this included the Cirencester branch. The C&GWUR opened Swindon to Kemble and the Kemble - Cirencester branch on 31 May 1841. The Great Western Railway itself opened from Hays Lane (west of Swindon) to Chippenham the same day. This meant that, for a few months, railways were open from Paddington to Cirencester and Chippenham but not to Bath and Bristol (Box tunnel not complete) and not to Gloucester or Cheltenham (Sapperton tunnel not complete).

The C&GWUR was absorbed by the GWR in 1843.

When the line through Sapperton Tunnel was opened on 12 May 1845, Kemble to Cirencester became what it was always planned to be, i.e. a rural branch line. Hence the Cirencester branch is the first GWR branch and the station building is the oldest GWR branch terminus building still in existence.

The Squire of Kemble in 1841 objected strongly to the C&GWUR. As a result, an unnecessary tunnel had to be built on the main line just south of Kemble to hide the railway, and the initial Kemble station was a simple affair that merely permitted transfer between branch and main line trains. A separate station, initially called Tetbury Road and later Coates, was built just north of the A33 and off the Squire’s land. As a result, Kemble had sufficient sidings for transfer of goods trains to and from the Cirencester and Tetbury branches, but handled little other freight. It also explains why the delightful Kemble station buildings, still in good condition, date from 1882

The Kemble-Cirencester branch was originally built to the GWR’s broad gauge. It was converted to standard gauge in May 1872.

Cirencester’s other railway line (at Watermoor) was absorbed into the GWR in 1923. Nothing remains of its station buildings.

The branch line was one of a number selected in the late 1950s to test the use of small four-wheel railbuses as a way of reducing the operating costs of branch lines. Two new halts were opened at this time, namely at Chesterton Lane and Park Leaze. However, this experiment was not successful. The station and the branch line from Cirencester to Kemble closed to passenger traffic on 6th April 1964. The line was closed to freight on 4th October 1965 and the track was subsequently lifted.

The branch was worked by a shuttle service between Cirencester Town and Kemble. It is likely that poor connections at Kemble with trains to Swindon, Paddington, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tetbury discouraged traffic. The most frequent service in steam days was just before WWII and consisted of 10 up and 11 down trains on weekdays, 5 more on Saturdays and a total of 7 trains on Sundays. The first Sunday train was early afternoon, and the Sunday service finished around midnight with connections to and from the Neyland mail and passenger. The Neyland train would have been diverted via Gloucester because the Severn Tunnel was closed on Sundays. The Cirencester connection was apparently run for Services personnel. The railbus service provided 13 trains each way weekdays and 16 on Saturdays.

From the 1930s to the railbus era, passenger trains consisted of a two coach B set and were usually hauled by a pannier tank. Mixed trains were usually hauled by a light Prairie tank engine.

There were plans in the railbus era to run through services from Cirencester Town to Swindon. However, tests showed that the railbuses were too light to operate the track circuits reliably. In any case, the track layout at Kemble would have made it difficult to run a through service from Swindon to Cirencester.

This is the only known photograph of station frontage pre-1946, and is dated c1905. The three-storey building to the right is recognisable from what is there today. The photograph shows the original single storey, complete with tall chimney and a glimpse of the original fan light. The original canopy is along the station frontage. The buildings to the left behind the stone wall are the houses which then stood on the station side of Sheep Street. The building behind the tall chimney is marked on maps of the time as 'independent chapel'. It dominates photographs of the station platform and is still there today.

Cirencester Watermoor

Tickets from Michael Stewart and Brian Halford. Route map drawn by Alan Young.



  • Rebuilding of Cirencester Town Station, news item in Railway Magazine March 1956, p 197
  • The Branch Lines from Kemble, Colin G Maggs , 1958, Railway World, December, p 367
  • Railbus services in the Western Region, MGD Farr, June 1960, pp 365-6, Trains Illustrated
  • End of an Experiment, John M Tolson, October 1964, pp 742-8, Railway Magazine
  • Railbuses extant, B Hancock and M Brown, 1979, Railway Magazine, August, pp 376 - 378
  • The First Broad Gauge Branch, Christopher Awdry, June 1993, British Railway Modelling
  • Diesel Railbus Halts, Part 1, On the Cirencester and Tetbury Branches, Michael Farr, November 2012, Railway Modeller, p 985
  • Beeching 50 - Tetbury and Cirencester, Chris Leigh, Steam World, May 2014, pp 52 - 54
  • Cirencester & District - Railways, Nigel Bray, 2016, Victoria County History of Gloucestershire Vol XVI
  • Mike Fenton, 2019, Kemble Station - the branches and the rail bus years, Part One, Back Track, vol 33, No 1, pp 52 - 57
  • Mike Fenton, 2019, Kemble Station and its branches, Part Two: The Railbus Years, Back Track, vol 33, No 3, pp 172 - 177

See Chesterton Lane Halt and also Cirencester Watermoor

Cirencester Town Gallery 1 c1905 - 1930s

This painting is the earliest known illustration of Cirencester station and is believed to date from c1850. Although some artistic licence is assumed it probably shows the overall roof to the right of the station building. This overall roof was removed at the end of broad gauge in 1872.
The painting is in the possession of the Bingham Library Trust.

This 1:500 map of 1875 shows the station layout not long after conversion to standard gauge. The platform is straight and the run-round loop appears to use two adjacent sidings rather than the platform road. The platform itself is comparatively short. By 1902 the left hand track from the goods shed had been removed and the platform extended as far as the shed. The map shows the canopy along the station frontage and a further canopy along the left (west) side. Both were probably left when the main overall roof was removed. The map also shows houses on both sides of Sheep Street. Those backing on to the station forecourt have since been demolished. Click here to see large version

1902 1:2,500 OS map.. Compared with the 1875 map, the run-round loop now uses the platform track which is curved near the buffer stops, and the platform is extended to reach the goods shed. The map shows the original size of the goods yard, i.e. before the c1920 enlargement. The road overbridge at the bottom of the map remained until closure and formed the view point for many photographs. The wharf marked towards the right hand half of the map, towards the bottom, was on the Cirencester arm of the Thames and Severn Canal.

1932 1:2,500 OS map. This shows the extent of the station area after the c1920 alterations. The platform is straight and the goods yard has been significantly enlarged. However, this map, like all OS maps from 1920 onwards, omits the two double slips introduced into the goods yard. They are, however, visible in a number of photographs and the SBS signal box diagram.

Cirencester Town station staff pose for a camera in the early years of the 20th century beside an unidentified saddle tank and two horse boxes at the end of the line.
Photo from Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery

This is the only known photograph of station frontage pre-1946, and is dated c1905. The three-storey building to the right is recognisable from what is there today. The photograph shows the original single storey, complete with tall chimney and a glimpse of the original fan light. The original canopy is along the station frontage. The buildings to the left behind the stone wall are the houses which then stood on the station side of Sheep Street. The building behind the tall chimney is marked on maps of the time as 'independent chapel'. It dominates photographs of the station platform and is still there today.
Photo from Lens of Sutton collection

Photograph of goods yard, probably dated 1900-1910 although it has been dated around 1930. It appears to have the pre-1920 track layout and the goods wagons also suggest the earlier date. On the extreme left is part of what appears to be a saddle tank. Looking from there along the down (left hand) side are the water tower and signal box and, in the distance, what is thought to be part of the original overall canopy. The photograph shows the original goods shed. The goods yard is busy, so it is perhaps not surprising that it was subsequently extended.
Photo from Corinium Museum, Cirencester

A photograph of the station c1910. It shows the original platform awning, wooden stockade round the end of the track, Y-point plus reverse curve at the end of the platform, and what appears to be the last section of the overall canopy to the left. The Independent Chapel is the large building to the right and the trees of Cirencester Park can be seen on the far side of Tetbury Road.
Photo from Corinium Museum, Cirencester

This is the best known photograph of the original goods shed. It was probably taken at the same time as the previous photograph, i.e. c1910. It shows the key features of the original goods shed. There are two tracks into the shed but only one with an unloading platform. It is timber built. For a single platform branch line terminus, it is large, as can be seen in comparison with the covered van. The photographer appears to be standing on the cattle pens which were just off the left hand side of the photograph. The white building adjoining the goods shed is labelled 'Grain Platform' on a contemporary site plan.
Photo from Corinium Museum, Cirencester

At the time of the First World War Britain was still reliant for the most part on horses for agricultural purposes and the industry was very labour intensive, while food imports and especially grain all but ceased. With men and horses sent away to war along with the need to dramatically increase domestic food production, the Government decided to import internal combustion tractors from the USA. The primary purpose of the tractors was to plough up grassland to allow food to be grown, a situation which was to repeat itself during the Second World War. The tractors seen in this view at Cirencester are International Harvester (IH) Titan 10 - 20 models. The Titan was imported in large numbers. The John Deere 'Waterloo Boy', which was rebranded as the 'Overtime' for British use, also appeared in large numbers. The Titan was manufactured at the IH factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the former Deering factory which company IH had taken over. The Titan 10 - 20 was a two-cylinder horizontal petrol/paraffin machine, meaning it was started on petrol and once warmed up switched to paraffin a once very common arrangement. The engine produced 20hp at 575rpm, giving 10hp at the drawbar and 20hp at the belt pulley. It had two forward and one reverse gear with a maximum speed of 2¾mph in second gear. The tank, which was of 40 gallon capacity, seen here on the front of the tractors was for water and acted as the engine cooling radiator. The imports were controlled by, perhaps surprisingly, the Ministry of Munitions and the numbers painted on the tanks were probably applied at this Ministry's request. Ordinarily the 'Titan' name along with other information was applied horizontally to the water tanks just above the centre line and the application of the numbers below the centre line suggests the 'Titan' name was present, although the photograph shows no obvious sign of it. The Titan dated from 1915 and the British order was placed sometime during 1917, with IH completing the order in April 1918. What is not known is whether the photograph shows new tractors on delivery or if the tractors are being moved to Cirencester from elsewhere in the country. Their condition, insofar as can be determined from such an old photograph, suggests they were new. This in turn means we can cautiously date the photograph to sometime in the 1917 - 1918 period, more likely during the latter year allowing for manufacturing and shipping time. The wall in the background gives the location away, it is the north-west corner of the station site and the tractors are sitting on the northern extremity of the goods dock. The west face of the dock was served by a siding which extended almost to Tetbury Road, out of view to the right behind the hut which today no longer exists. This is the siding on which the Dean clerestory coach is sitting, but the reason for its presence at this particular spot is not known.
Photo from Derek King collection

This is a general view of the station looking north and is dated 8 June 1934. The original wooden goods shed is on the right. Various changes can be noted from the 1910 photographs. The goods shed windows have been blocked. The platform and platform track have been straightened. The platform canopy has been extended outwards to reach the new platform edge. The canopy now has two peaks; the right hand one is the tiled original, as in the 1910 photographs, and the left-hand one is glazed. There is an unusual lattice signal, acting as down inner starter. The wooden fence at far end of platform is still there, but the canopy along the far right hand wall has gone. The covered wagons behind the platform are on the track extending out of the northern wall of the goods shed.
Photo from John Mann collection

One of the few photographs taken in the 1930s. It is of a train leaving Cirencester Town for Kemble. It is dated 9 April 1936. The train is hauled by a GWR pannier tank and appears to consist of a B-set plus some covered vans. Also, there is at least one covered van on the track behind the platform.
Photo from WA Camwell collection 28948.

Click here for Cirencester Town Gallery 2
c1948 - c1958




[Source: Nick Catford]

Last updated: Wednesday, 29-Dec-2021 13:58:18 CET
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