Bulletin December 2021

Bulletin 164 Front Page

BIAS BACKS CAMPAIGN TO SAVE HISTORIC BRUNEL COAL DROPS

By Tony Patey

BIAS is backing a major campaign to save some rare Brunel-designed coal drops under threat from plans for reopening a closed railway station just north of Bristol.

The coal drops – almost certainly the last surviving ones from broad gauge – are included in plans being developed for Charfield Station by South Gloucestershire Council.

With housing growth on the agenda there has been talk of reopening the station for some years, and proposers say the nearby town of Wotton-under-Edge would benefit.

David Hardwick, a senior lecturer at the Cultural Heritage Institute (RAU Swindon) and a BIAS member, said: “The proposal appears to destroy entirely the historic coal drops (mentioned in BIAS Journal No 11 1978 “Charfield Station” by Will Harris).

“A previous application to list these failed largely by not establishing a national significance for them and this I believe was because the information sent was incomplete. They are almost certainly the only surviving broad gauge coal drops AND they are IK Brunel designed – both points I think were omitted at the time of the application

“They are ‘locally listed’ and also included on the South Gloucestershire Historic Environment Record (HER) as well as on ‘know-your- place’.”

Official lists of surviving mid-19 century coal drops – around seven – show almost all are in the north of England – but none of these is broad gauge and none is associated with Brunel.

David added: “It should be appreciated that ‘Local listing’ does not give any statutory protection. These structures are, therefore, now very much at risk

“The coal drops were vital for the mills in Charfield and Wotton-Under-Edge which were moving over to steam power from waterwheels. They are, therefore, of considerable local importance regarding the development of these communities as well as being an important part of transport history.

“The booking hall, stationmaster’s house and toilet block/water tower are all individually listed as officially ‘the only intact group of buildings on the line.’ At the time, the goods shed (which still exists) and the coal drops were not specifically mentioned.