GWR Stables (2): Internet archaeology

I have a thing for GWR stable blocks.  The subject isn't well covered in the literature, so in a previous post I tried to obtain a tentative overview of the major types and styles. Since then I’ve been searching Britain from Above, Google street view and old online  maps looking for past and present traces of stable blocks. It's all a bit esoteric, but for what it's worth here is a selection of my favourite 'finds'.


It's 1929 and a plane soars over Westbury, capturing the photo above. The small stable block with the distinctive roof vents can be seen at the entry to the goods yard, a common and logical location for the them (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

The stable block at Westbury can be seen in this 1901 map.  The stables here were built in 1899, with capacity for three horses. Many of the standard stable blocks on the GWR were built around the turn of the century, when the GWR decided to rely less on agents and do more of its own cartage (National Library of Scotland, Creative Commons).

A grainy close-up, showing also the cattle dock. There must have been a lovely whiff in this part of the yard :) (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

Toboldlygo on RMweb has modelled Westbury stables, using the 4mm Timbertracks kit.

Note the manure pit, a standard feature. Thanks to Toboldlygo for allowing use of the photos, there's more about the build in his RMweb thread.

So, does anything remain of the Westbury stable block today? A look on Google maps suggests that there is in fact a building more or less in the location where the stables were situated! (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

But alas, it is only the signal box which was built on the site later on. Nothing seems to remain of the stable block (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).


The stable block at Basingstsoke has had a happier fate. Well, sort of. Lost in a sea of cars, it is seen here on Google Maps in the guise of - appropriately - a car wash. Thanks to RMwebber Western Star for the tip (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

This 1949-68 series map shows how  the stables at Basingstoke were originally located at the perimeter of the goods yard, near the road. The structure does not appear in pre-1914 maps (National Library of Scotland, Creative Commons).

The Basingstoke stable block in Google street view. Looks like the car park has been covered since the first photo was taken (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

Details of the roof vents on the Basingstoke block, which - judging by drawings - appear to be in original condition (though not the colour!). The vents are often a useful distinguishing feature when looking for stable blocks in aerial photos etc (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

Chipping Norton

The stable block at Chipping Norton was built in in 1904. In 1929 it was converted - like many other stables - to a garage for GWR motor buses  (National Library of Scotland, Creative Commons).

Alan Lewis' excellent photo of the Chipping Norton stable block in 1983 (Copyright and courtesy Alan Lewis).

The stable block at Chipping Norton lives on today, the only remaining building of that station (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

There's a Royal Mail facility next to it, so the delivery theme hasn't entirely gone (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

The stable block itself seems to be on private property now. It isn't much to look at from the road, but think of all the stories it could tell (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).


Moving on to the lager types, this is the stable block at Slough in 1928, again conveniently situated between road and yard (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

Slough was a fairly large example of what I call the "Archetype" design. The large variants of this design were simply "stretched" versions of the smaller versions of this design. Note the horse drawn vehicles outside. I wonder if they were parked there overnight  (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

Like most stable blocks of the standard designs, the one at Slough had no windows at the back, presumably to keep things quiet for the horses. Prairies on the line!  (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

Today’s, er, view. The stable block was approx. where blue container/lorry is (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

Park Royal

An aircraft passes over modern day London NW. The red line below shows the extent of what used to be the main GWR goods yard at Park Royal (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

Back in the heyday, Park Royal had a 12-stall stable block  (National Library of Scotland, Creative Commons).

And here it is. The stable block at Park Royal was almost identical to the one at Slough, but had an extra door and room for fodder. It is seen here in 1930, illustrating how substantial these buildings were (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

Here is the Park Royal stable block again in the 1950s, now a good deal shorter! Part of the building has been torn down and turned into a garage (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

My 4mm model of the Park Royal stable block. Details here.

Handsworth & Smethwick

Multi-storey stable blocks were only found in the major urban areas, where space was in high demand. So far the smallest I have come across was the one at Handsworth & Smethwick, as seen on the Warwickshire Railways site

The two storey stable block is seen at the bottom of this map, showing one of the yards at Handsworth & Smethwick. Another one storey stable block was located next to it, and can be seen to the right in the photo above  (National Library of Scotland, Creative Commons).

I was intrigued to find that the lower sidings of the yard can still be seen on Google maps at the time of writing, now apparently a scrap yard (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

It's hard to be certain, but I wonder if the yellow structure top center in this view is in fact the cut-down and shortened remains of the old two-storey stable block? The location and door/window relationship fits - though one window on the left side is missing (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

Paddington Mint

Lastly, a look at the big one - Paddington Mint stables. (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted.)

The original stables here were built in 1878, but expanded and rebuilt several time since then.  I've often thought that the interior yard and ramps would make an interesting diorama. There's good info and drawings in Janet Russel's "Great Western Horsepower" (Getty Images, embedding perimitted).

A modern day view of the Mint stables (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

The stables now house St Mary's Hospital. Some interior views can be seen here (Google Maps, Map data ©2019 Google, Google Fair Use principles).

I found a 1922 view of Paddington Mint on  Britian from Above, and zoomed in. Two horses can be seen on the upper level, bringing life to the scene (Britain from Above. Embedding permitted).

I tried to zoom in further to see the horses better - but it's a funny thing, the past: When you try to pin it down... slips through your fingers :-)