Recorded Talks about Railways

Caring for our railway heritage: Network Rail & Railway Heritage Trust

Our railways are one of the Victorians’ greatest contributions to the modern UK. Today Network Rail owns and manages some 17,000 various buildings and structures – many of significant historic and architectural importance. Of these a staggering 1,650 are listed, with the age of some assets spanning almost 200 years.

The Victorian Society is delighted to host Frank Anatole, Network Rail’s Principal Architect, and Andy Savage MBE, Executive Director of the Railway Heritage Trust, for an illustrated discussion of the new, jointly developed, Heritage: Development and Care Design Manual.

Frank Anatole is Principal Architect at Network Rail, advancing a highly ambitious programme of strategic initiatives aimed at enhancing design quality and standards within Network Rail, principally through innovation, cross-discipline collaboration and design guidance.

Andy Savage is the Executive Director of the Trust, which he joined at the start of 2010. Prior to that he was Deputy Chief Inspector of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch of the Department for Transport, following a long career in railway civil engineering, and more recently, contractor safety.

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Queen Victoria’s Railways. A Talk by Steven Brindle

Queen Victoria made her first railway journey, from Slough to Paddington, in June 1842. She pronounced herself ‘quite charmed’ with the experience, and was a regular railway user for the rest of her life. This illustrated virtual lecture will be led by celebrated author and historian Dr Steven Brindle – who will take you on an in-depth exploration of Queen Victoria’s use of the railways.

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Online Autumn Talk Series 2023

Railway Architecture and Society in the Victorian Age.

When the The Victorian Society was founded in 1958 the railway system inherited from the previous century was still largely intact. Though much has since been lost, the railways of the period retained their fascination, both for their buildings and for their wider importance in forging the Victorian world.

The autumn lecture series revisited the society’s valiant campaign to save Euston station, the world’s first long-distance railway terminus. It explored some of the diverse and surprising ways in which the railway preservation movement has since found new homes and fresh uses for many less monumental buildings. Other talks present new discoveries on railway company architecture, and on the distinctive work of C.H. Driver. Framing the architectural subjects, two talks by leading scholars reassess the growth of the Victorian railway system and the liberating opportunities presented by the railway excursion. The series concludes with a panel discussion of Liverpool Street station, a great Victorian building currently threatened with ruinous redevelopment.

Each talk is £6 and includes a recording that you can access at any time.

SPECIAL OFFER: Buy one ticket and get 7 talks for the price of 6!

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Who Built the Victorian Railways and Did They Get it Right? A talk by Colin Divall

This talk by Colin Divall, Professor Emeritus of railway studies at the University of York, guides us through the profound impact of railway expansion on Victorian Britain. Inspired by Simon Heffer’s acclaimed work “High Minds: The Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain”, he will explore the role of moral purpose in shaping railway development. Discover how Peel and Gladstone drove progress, forever transforming society’s landscape. This talk will reflect on both the triumphs and shortcomings of the Victorian railway system and contemplate the relevance of strategic planning in today’s context.

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The Rise and Fall of Euston Station, 1835-1962, by Steven Brindle

The original Euston Station building was destroyed in 1961 and was the subject of one of the greatest of all conservation battles, a crucial moment in the establishment of the The Victorian Society. Dr Steven Brindle is a historian at English Heritage who has published widely on the history of architecture and engineering: his books include Paddington Station, its History and Architecture (English Heritage, 2005, revised edition 2013).

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The Stations of the London Brighton & South Coast Railway in the 1860s: By Benny O’Looney

Join us for a captivating talk on the architectural legacy of Britain’s railway stations. Discover the collaboration between talented architects and railway companies, from Brunel and Wyatt’s work at Paddington Station to Charles Henry Driver’s unique “house style” for the London Brighton & South Coast Railway (LB&SCR). This talk stems from a ten-year project to restore Peckham Rye Station, an urban junction station designed by Charles Henry Driver for the LB&SCR. Benedict O’Looney, an architect involved in the restoration, will share the story of Driver’s architectural style and the restoration project, placing it within the context of other Victorian railway architects.

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The Smaller Victorian and Edwardian Railway Station Reappraised, A Talk by John Minnis

The tendency to study railway architecture on a company or regional basis has had the effect of obscuring all sorts of interesting connections between the buildings of different railway companies. Recent research has brought out many previously unnoticed similarities between railway buildings in different parts of the British Isles and, indeed, in Europe. It has identified many examples of identical or very similar designs of building being constructed for companies that were completely unrelated other than for their choice of engineer and has also given scope for a different interpretation of some well-known structures. This reappraisal builds on material presented to the Second International Early Main Line Railways Conference held at the National Railway Museum, York, in 2018 and subsequently published in the conference proceedings in 2019.

John Minnis FSA is a retired Senior Investigator with Historic England. He undertook a national assessment of signal boxes in association with the NRM and Network Rail. His published works on railway architecture include Southern Country Stations: South Eastern & Chatham Railway, Britain’s Lost Railways and The Railway Goods Shed and Warehouse in England. Other books have included (as co-author), Carscapes: The Motor Car, Architecture and Landscape in England, England’s Motoring Heritage from the Air, Religion and Place in Leeds and Boston, Lincolnshire.

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Buildings in Motion: the Creative Reuse of Railway Structures in the Preservation Era by Simon Bradley

Britain’s preserved railways have helped to secure the future of many Victorian station buildings, along with numerous other distinctive structures from the age of steam, such as signal boxesand footbridges. An exploration of the preservation world reveals some of the challenges and rewards of keeping these buildings in active use. Simon Bradley is series editor of the Pevsner Architectural Guides.

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Women on the Move: Working Class Railway Excursions in the Early Victorian Period by Susan Major

The leisure opportunities for working- class women in early Victorian Britain have received little attention. The fast- developing railway network provided a ‘connectedness’ across the landscape, enhancing the potential mobility of the working classes. Early railway excursions gave women the opportunity to travel far away from home in crowded railway wagons, a cheap freedom, which they enjoyed, despite risking offensive behaviour by men. This talk uses evidence from contemporary newspapers and 19th century literature, to offer glimpses of the leisure activities of ordinary women from the 1830s to the 1860s. Susan Major completed a PhD with the Institute of Railway Studies & Transport History at the University of York in 2012.

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A Panel Discussion about Liverpool Street Station

Liverpool Street Station and the former Great Eastern Hotel, which was recently upgraded to Grade II* following the Society’s application, are one of London’s great railway set pieces. The are now under threat from partial demolition and a huge tower which will be cantilevered over and through the hotel. This is the second time that Liverpool Street has faced demolition. The Society was part of a campaign to save it from total destruction in the 1970s. The campaign’s success at public inquiry led to the sensitive conservation led scheme that we have today.

Join the Director of the The Victorian Society Joe O’Donnell who will chair a panel exploring the issues that this looming battle raises and what the precedent of the scheme will mean for heritage protection in London and the UK. Panellists include Robert Thorne, author of the 1978 book on Liverpool Street Station, who will reflect on what the fundamental problems of the station are, what was achieved at the 1975-6 Public Inquiry and how the Nick Derbyshire scheme furthered that achievement and The Victorian Society caseworker, Guy Newton, who will talk about the current plans.

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To find links to all of our recordings, please visit here.