Looking at Buildings

Building Types


Early Stations

Passenger-carrying railways were a British invention, so there were no foreign stations for imitation. The functions of a typical station were nevertheless clear from early on: offices for issuing tickets and handling goods, a waiting room for passengers, and accommodation for a station master and other staff. These could usually be accommodated in relatively modest house-like buildings, and in the early days of the railways some stations were adapted from an existing buildings such as inns.

The earliest station that survives is the Manchester terminus of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, the first major passenger railway, which opened in 1830. The architect is unknown. Its simple architectural detail is less remarkable than its form, which derives from the difference of levels between running line and street: the ground floor has segregated first- and second-class entrances with separate booking offices, and there are waiting rooms alongside the platforms above. Such split-level stations are especially common in cities, where the high cost of land required that the railway be carried on viaducts and bridges rather than embankments of earth. Since 1983 the building has formed part of the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.

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Birmingham, Curzon Street Station

Within a few years the railways were so well established that much more architectural effort was expended on their buildings. The outer face of Curzon Street station in Birmingham (London & Birmingham Railway, now closed), of 1838, was dressed up like a RomanGlossary Term triumphal archGlossary Term. This use of an ancient style may at first seem strange for such a revolutionary enterprise, but it shows the pride and sense of purpose of the new company. It is also significant that Philip Hardwick, one of the leading architects of the time, was employed to design it. By the late 19th century, however, most railway companies commissioned designs from their own architects or engineers instead.

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Wylam Station

Stations serving smaller towns and villages commonly took the form of ornamented detached houses, rather like suburban villas or the lodges and model farmhouses on big country estates. Some of the earliest can be found on the former Newcastle & Carlisle Railway, which was surveyed by George Stephenson and opened in 1835-9. The unknown designer of its stations adopted a TudorGlossary Term idiom: a pioneering instance of a 'house style' for a large commercial organization.



Types include: Basket arch or Anse de Panier (French, lit. basket handle): three-centred and depressed, or with a flat centre. Chancel: dividing chancel from nave or crossing in a church. Crossing: spanning piers at a crossing in a church. Depressed or three-centred: with a rounded top, but curving inward more at the sides. Four-centred: with four arcs, the lower two curving inward more than the upper, with a blunt central point; typical of late medieval English architecture. Jack arch: shallow segmental vault springing from beams, used for fireproof floors, bridge decks, etc. Ogee (adjective ogival): a pointed arch with a double reverse curve, especially popular in the 14th century; a nodding ogee curves forward from the wall face at the top. Parabolic: shaped like a chain suspended from two level points, but inverted. Relieving or discharging: incorporated in a wall to relieve superimposed weight. Shouldered: with arcs in each corner and a flat centre or lintel. Skew: spanning responds not diametrically opposed. Stilted: with a vertical section above the impost i.e. the horizontal moulding at the springing. Strainer: inserted in an opening to resist inward pressure. Three-centred: see Depressed, above. Transverse: spanning a main axis (e.g. of a vaulted space). Triumphal arch: influential type of Imperial Roman monument, free-standing, with a square attic or top section and broad sections to either side of the main opening, often with lesser openings or columns. Tudor: with arcs in each corner joining straight lines to the central point. Two-centred: the simplest kind of pointed arch.


The architecture of the Roman Empire, to which most of Britain belonged from 43 to c. 410 A.D. Our knowledge of Romano-British architecture depends mostly on archaeological reconstructions from foundations and fragments, though some notable fortifications and other military works survive above ground level in recognizable form.


Strictly, the architecture of the English Tudor dynasty (1485-1603), but used more often for late Gothic secular buildings especially of the first half of the 16th century. These use a simplified version of Perpendicular, characterised by straight-headed mullioned windows with arched lights, and by rooflines with steep gables and tall chimneys, often asymmetrically placed.