The Great Western Railway Company Collection

Scope and Content

Deeds and papers relating to The Great Western Railway Company, 1873-1953

Administrative / Biographical History

The Great Western Railway was created by an Act of Parliament on the 31st August 1835 to provide a double tracked line from Bristol to London. In 1833 Isambard Kingdom Brunel was appointed as engineer to oversee the construction. By 1864 a network of just under 1200 miles spread throughout the West, Wales and the Midlands. Coal was the most important running commodity that the GWR had to buy as all of its locomotives ran entirely on burnable fuel. Therefore in May 1878, the Great Western began its own mining operations in Blaenavon, Wales. Eventually, this gave employment to 2500 miners and provided the company with cheaper coal. After the First World War the railways were returned to the owners but at the same time, they were ordered to regroup themselves into just four regions, namely the GWR, the LMS, the LNER and the Southern. The GWR region became operative in 1923 and gained 560 miles of track, 18000 employees and a further 700 locomotives. However in South Wales, the company's mines and ironworks were decimated by the lack of work and the GWR had no alternative but to lay men off: 36 per cent of the working population of South Wales were made unemployed. The winter of 1940-1 brought fears of bombing raids from Germany. Serious damage occurred at the South Wales docks especially Swansea. With the end of the war, less than three years remained of independence for Britain's railways.


This catalogue lists the items chronologically under the headings stated in Scope and content.

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions.

Acquisition Information

The records were originally held at The Royal Institution of South Wales, Swansea. They were transferred to West Glamorgan Archive Service in the Spring of 2004 as part of The Royal Institution of South Wales Collection.


Compiled by Katie Millien for the West Glamorgan Archive Service.

Other Finding Aids

A hard copy of the catalogue is available at the West Glamorgan Archive Service. The catalogue can be accessed online.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual copyright regulations apply.

Appraisal Information

All records transferred to the West Glamorgan Archive Service have been retained.


Accruals are not expected.