Site of the Rewley Road Rail Station
A plaque is all that remains of a lost Oxford transport hub.
In the middle of the 19th century, railway came to Oxford. And, as a consequence of the railway mania of the 1840s, Oxford, like many other British cities, suddenly got two railway lines. Being unable to agree on sharing their tracks and stations, each of the rail companies constructed everything of their own.
In 1851, Buckinghamshire Railway (a part of the London and the North Western Railway, LNWR), being unable to use the tracks of its rival Great Western Railway (GWR), had to construct its own parallel line into Oxford, which ended at a separate rail terminal at Rewley Road. The history of the Rewley Road station is interesting.
On May 1, 1851, the Great Exhibition was scheduled to open in London, in the specially constructed Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. The LNWR board not only decided to open their Oxford station on that very day, but also hired Fox and Henderson, the engineers of the Crystal Palace, to build the station in its likeness.
Both the London and Oxford structures were very revolutionary in the sense that they used prefabricated mass-produced cast iron structural components, allowing large buildings to be constructed within only several months. However, as the schedule was very tight and there were some complications in the acquisition of the land, the new terminal, indeed resembling the Crystal Palace, only opened on May 26, 1851.
The Rewley Road station was operational for exactly 100 years, until the dwindling passenger traffic was transferred to the GWR station in 1951. The freight yard was in use until 1984, while the station itself was used as a hostel and then a tire shop.
In 1999, the entire area was cleared, and the Saïd Business School building was built there. Nevertheless, you can still see the re-erected Rewley Road station in the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre in Aylesbury. What remains in Oxford is a small commemorative metal plaque on the pavement in front of the Saïd Business School. The plaque, which can be easily overlooked, contains the depiction of the old Terminal. A piece of the railway, though, still exists in the form of Rewley Road swing bridge nearby.
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