Blunsdon Station and the Crosslanes area

1887 OS Map
Image produced from the www.old-maps.co.uk service with permission of Landmark Information Group Ltd. and Ordnance Survey.
Thumbnail map
Note about the map. The original Ordinance Survey map from which the image above is taken was published in 1887, by which time the MSWJ was, of course, completed through to Cirencester.
But the publication date of a 19th Century Ordnance map does not imply that it reflects an up-to-date record of specific features. In many cases, 'new' maps were printed from an earlier engraving with the addition of specific new featues as these were recorded. Very often, there was a delay of some years before changes were made.
Conversely, it could also happen that the original publication date was retained on a map showing much later detail. An example is Sheet 69 of the 'one-inch' survey. This carried the date 1828 right through several revisions up to a printing in 1893, which was correct for railway detail up to 1891. This particular map therefore shows the full extent of the MSWJ in spite of its pre-railway era date.
The 1887 large-scale map shown on this page is an extract from a much larger survey that does in fact show the MSWJ built up to a point a little North of Rushey Platt Junction to the West of Swindon. The same map shows the GWR Swindon-Gloucester line, which was of course opened for traffic in 1841.
For all these reasons it is perhaps fair to believe that the map above shows the Crosslanes area - including parish boundaries - as they were before any work on this section of the line was anticipated or begun.

Link to system map

Blunsdon station is situated at one of those odd spots where a couple of hundred years' transport history come together in one small place.
The Road. Tadpole Lane, which crosses the Railway, was once part of an important highway. An indication of this is its change of name to Packhorse Lane on the other side of the Crosslanes crossroads. Today, it is just another minor country road but, in 1738, George II's geographer Cowley showed it as one of only two significant highways crossing North Wiltshire - the other was today's A4. Tadpole Lane was part of the Stage Coach route that ran from Bristol to Oxford via Malmesbury, Purton, Blunsdon and Highworth. Today, an indication of its former importance is the distance between its hedges in some places - there is almost enough room for a modern 'A' road.
The Canal. The North Wilts Canal passed under Tadpole Lane by the crossroads, where there was a lock. Opened in 1819 to link the Wilts & Berks Canal (from a junction in Swindon) with the Thames & Severn Canal and the Thames at Cricklade, it closed in as a commercial concern in 1912, having seen off the packhorses and then being unable to compete with the railways.
Today, little or nothing can be seen of the canal at Crosslanes. However, restoration of particular sections is either completed or well in hand. It is hoped by many -including the Swindon & Cricklade Railway - that the whole waterway will be restored, bringing even more tourism to the area.
The Railway. The rest of this web site says most of what there is to say at the moment! When the MSWJ was first built, a single line passed straight through to Cricklade. Blunsdon Station was not opened until 1895 (see 1900 survey below).
The Boundary. A small mystery here! Large-scale maps show the boundary between the parishes of Purton and Haydon Wick leaving the present course of the River Ray and making a pronounced loop, mostly through what is now the station car park. Many people say the railway builders embanked the river to eliminate a bend that would otherwise be difficult to bridge.
This could well be true. But the above map shows this boundary before the railway was built. Another question arises - was the loop created by some land being 'taken over' by Purton parish to embank the river to provide better foundations and security for a new river bridge? And was this done at the other obvious moment in history, when the canal was built in 1819? The canal builders would have been obliged to provide a canal bridge - what better time to put in a new river bridge, when all those people and professional skills were just a stone's throw away? Whatever the history, care was taken to preserve the line of the boundary with a series of stones, as the map shows.
We would like to hear from anyone who can settle this one way or the other!
1900 OS Map
Image produced from the 25-inch Ordnance Survey of 1900 with kind permission of the Ordnance Survey.
This extract from a large-scale Ordnance Survey sheet of 1900 shows Blunsdon Station in an almost familiar form.
The single-track railway passes under Tadpole Lane bridge and serves the station platform on its way to Cricklade. North of the bridge abutment, the station's one siding can be seen, curving sharply into what is marked as the Goods Yard.
Building the bridge.  Although the two maps on this page were drawn to different scales, it is reasonable to suggest that the bridge over the railway was built alongside the road, the latter being finally closed when the bridge was completed. Comparison of the roadway in relation to the line of the hedge on the older map suggests that this is what happened. In certainly happened in nearby Purton, where the old road became the station approach.
This being so, the 'back entrance' to the present Blunsdon Station was in fact once Tadpole Lane, and so was the strip of ground beside the opposite bridge abutment.


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