NEXT year will be something special for Didcot, and for Appleford, Culham, Radley and Oxford, as it marks the 175th anniversary of the ‘branch line’ to Oxford.

We, along with colleagues from Appleford, Culham, Radley, Oxford and the modern GWR, are planning an event on Saturday, June 15, next year to celebrate the opening in 1844.

E T MacDermot’s History of the Great Western Railway talks about a 'probable branch' of 12 miles to Oxford in the original 1833 Great Western Prospectus.

A later Bill in 1837 promoted a line from Didcot via Cowley Road to a terminus near Magdalen Bridge.

However, the proposed terminus was strongly opposed by Christ Church and Brunel altered it to a site near Folly Bridge.

This pacified the university but was opposed by two landowners in the House of Lords.

While this was going on, passengers for Oxford had to travel to Steventon, which dealt with over 75,000 passengers in 1842.

In 1843 a Bill for the Oxford Branch was passed and work started on building the 10-mile line from Didcot to a field in the ‘liberty of Grand Pont’ with the capital provided by the Great Western Railway.

The branch was completed in early June 1844 and inspected on 10 June by Brunel and several directors.

Despite a problem with an insecure bridge carrying the Oxford to Abingdon Turnpike Road over the line, the inspector sanctioned the opening; the records note that although the bridge was insecure, the old road could still be used to cross the railway on the level so the opening went ahead.

On the opening day, June 12, 1844, a large junction station was also opened at Didcot, consisting of four lines and five very narrow platforms under an ‘all-over’ roof. This original station burned down on March 11, 1885.

There were two intermediate stations at Appleford, two miles from Didcot, and Abingdon Road, three miles from Didcot. When the Abingdon Branch was opened in 1856, Abingdon Road was renamed Culham. The third station on the line to Oxford, Radley, was built primarily for the boys of Radley College and opened in 1873.

The original station in Oxford was short-lived: in 1850 the GWR extended its line from Oxford to Banbury and in 1852 built a new station at Park End Street – the site of the current Oxford Station. The Grandpont terminus continued to be used as a goods station until 1872.

Was your family involved with the Oxford Branch? Please get in touch –