History Files


Modern Britain

Railway Walks: Portishead to Pill (and Bristol)

by Peter Kessler, 17 April 2019

Bristol Temple Meads once had a large number of branch lines heading out in various directions from the city centre. One of those was the GWR Portishead Branch which left the Bristol & Exeter Railway immediately to the south of Parson Street station (Portishead Junction until 1932). Stations along the branch were at Ashton Gate (immediately following Ashton Junction which provided a freight connection to Canons Marsh and the floating harbour (see links, below)), Clifton Bridge (shortly before the line passes underneath Brunel's suspension bridge), Nightingale Valley Halt (a little way north of the suspension bridge), Ham Green Halt (in countryside to the east of the hamlet of the same name), Pill, Portbury, and Portishead.

The branch opened in 1867, but was closed to passenger traffic in 1964, remaining in use for freight services until 1981, In 2002 a freight-only branch was opened between Pill and Portbury Royal Dock. The rest of the line was left in place to become overgrown (quite different from 1960s practice when it would have been ripped up within weeks). With 2019 looking very positive in terms of reintroducing passenger services along a rebuilt line to Portishead (possibly by 2021), it became necessary to describe the line before any work began by using this series of photos which largely date from 2015.

(Mobile users should select to view the gallery in portrait mode, and then switch to landscape for the best display.)




Main Sources

Buchanan, Angus & Cossins, Neil - Bristol - Industrial History in Pictures, David & Charles, Devon, 1970

Conolly, W Philip - British Railways Pre-Grouping Atlas and Gazetteer, Fourth Edition, Ian Allen, London, 1965

Course, Edwin - London Railways: Then and Now, B T Batsford Ltd, London, 1987

Dale, Peter - Somerset's Lost Railways, Stenlake Publishing Ltd, Ayrshire, 2001

Vincent, Mike - Reflections on the Portishead Branch, Oxford Publishing Co, 1983

Online Sources

BBC News

Cornwall Railway Society: Bristol Temple Meads to Portishead

Disused Stations

National Library of Scotland Geo-Referenced Rail Maps

North Somerset Times: Portishead railway clearance complete



Images and text copyright © P L Kessler except where stated. An original feature for the History Files.