Brill Tramway

Brill Tramway
Huddersfield at Quainton Road.jpg
Manning Wardle engine Huddersfield at Quainton Road in the late 1890s with the Wotton Tramway's passenger coach of the mid-1870s, an 1895 Oxford & Aylesbury Tramroad passenger coach, and a goods wagon loaded with milk cans
LocaleAylesbury Vale
Dates of operation1871 (1871)–1935 (1935)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)

The Brill Tramway, also known as the Quainton Tramway, Wotton Tramway, Oxford & Aylesbury Tramroad and Metropolitan Railway Brill Branch,[note 1] was a six-mile (10 km) rail line in the Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, England. It was privately built in 1871 by the 3rd Duke of Buckingham as a horse tram line to help transport goods between his lands around Wotton House and the national rail network. Lobbying from the nearby village of Brill led to its extension to Brill and conversion to passenger use in early 1872. Two locomotives were bought but the line had been built for horses and thus trains travelled at an average speed of 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h).

In 1883, the Duke of Buckingham planned to upgrade the route to main line standards and extend the line to Oxford, creating the shortest route between Aylesbury and Oxford. Despite the backing of the wealthy Ferdinand de Rothschild, investors were deterred by costly tunnelling. In 1888 a cheaper scheme was proposed in which the line would be built to a lower standard and avoid tunnelling. In anticipation, the line was named the Oxford & Aylesbury Tramroad.

Although the existing line had been upgraded in 1894, the extension to Oxford was never built. Instead, operation of the Brill Tramway was taken over by London's Metropolitan Railway and Brill became one of its two north-western termini. The line was rebuilt in 1910, and more advanced locomotives were introduced, allowing trains to run faster. The population of the area remained low, and the primary income source remained the carriage of goods to and from farms. Between 1899 and 1910 other lines were built in the area, providing more direct services to London and the north of England. The Brill Tramway went into financial decline.

In 1933 the Metropolitan Railway became the Metropolitan line of London Transport. The Brill Tramway became part of the London Underground, despite Quainton Road being 40 miles (64 km) from London and not underground. London Transport aimed to concentrate on electrification and improvement of passenger services in London and saw little possibility that routes in Buckinghamshire could become viable passenger routes. In 1935 the Brill Tramway closed. The infrastructure was dismantled and sold. Little trace remains other than the former junction station at Quainton Road, now the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.

Map of a railway line running roughly southwest to northeast. Long sidings run off the railway line at various places. Two other north-south railway lines cross the line, but do not connect with it. At the northeastern terminus of the line, marked "Quainton Road", the line meets three other lines running to Rugby & Leicester, Verney Junction, and Aylesbury & London respectively. The southwestern terminus, marked "Brill", is some distance north of the town of Brill, which is the only town on the map. A station on one of the other lines, marked "Brill and Ludgersall", is even further from the town of Brill.
The full extent of the Brill Tramway system. Not all lines and stations shown on this diagram were open at the same time.


Brill is a small village at the top of the 600-foot (180 m) high Brill Hill in the Aylesbury Vale in northern Buckinghamshire, 12 miles (19 km) northeast of Oxford,[5] and 45 miles (72 km) north-west of London.[6] It was the only population centre in Bernwood Forest, a forest owned by English monarchs as a hunting ground.[6] Traditionally believed to have been the home of King Lud,[5] Brill Palace was a seat of the Mercian kings,[7] the home of Edward the Confessor,[8] and an occasional residence of the monarchs of England until at least the reign of Henry III (1216–1272).[7] Although a centre for manufacture of pottery and bricks,[7] Brill was a long way from major roads or rivers, and separated by hills from Oxford. It remained small and isolated.[6] In the 1861 census it had a population of 1,300.[9]

Wotton House and the Dukes of Buckingham

balding man with a dark bushy beard
Richard, Marquess of Chandos, later the 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos

Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, the only son of Richard Plantagenet Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, was born on 10 September 1823.[6] By the mid-19th century the family was in financial difficulty.[10][note 2] The family's estates and their London home at Buckingham House (No. 91 Pall Mall) were sold and the family seat of Stowe House seized by bailiffs as security and its contents sold.[10] Over 40,000 acres (16,200 ha) of the family's 55,000-acre (22,300 ha) estates were sold to meet debts.[10]

The only property in the control of the Grenville family was the small ancestral home of Wotton House and its associated lands around Wotton Underwood near Brill.[14] The Grenvilles looked for ways to maximise profits from their remaining farmland around Wotton, and to seek opportunities in heavy industry and engineering.[6] Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville (titled Marquess of Chandos following the death of his grandfather Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos in 1839) was appointed chairman of the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) on 27 May 1857.[6] After the death of his father on 29 July 1861 he became 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos,[10] and resigned from chairmanship of the LNWR, returning to Wotton House to manage the family's estates.[6] His efforts to pay debts incurred by his father earned praise from Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli,[15] and in 1875 he was appointed Governor of Madras, serving until 1880.[15]

Early railways in the Aylesbury Vale

On 15 June 1839 entrepreneur and former Member of Parliament for Buckingham, Sir Harry Verney, 2nd Baronet, opened the Aylesbury Railway.[4] Built under the direction of Robert Stephenson,[16] it connected the London and Birmingham Railway's Cheddington railway station on the West Coast Main Line to Aylesbury High Street railway station in eastern Aylesbury, the first station in the Aylesbury Vale.[6] On 1 October 1863 the Wycombe Railway opened a branch from Princes Risborough railway station to Aylesbury railway station on the western side of Aylesbury, leaving Aylesbury as the terminus of two small and unconnected branch lines.[6]

Meanwhile, north of Aylesbury the Buckinghamshire Railway was being built by Sir Harry Verney.[17] The scheme consisted of a line running southwest to northeast from Oxford to Bletchley and a second southeast from Brackley via Buckingham to join the Oxford–Bletchley line halfway along its length.[18] The first section opened on 1 May 1850, and the whole on 20 May 1851.[18] The Buckinghamshire Railway intended to extend the line south to the station at Aylesbury but the extension was not built.[4]

On 6 August 1860 the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway, with the 3rd Duke (then still Marquess of Chandos) as chairman and Sir Harry Verney as deputy chairman, was incorporated by Act of Parliament to connect the Buckinghamshire Railway (now operated by the LNWR) to Aylesbury.[18] The 2nd Duke ensured the new route ran via Quainton, near his estates around Wotton, instead of a more direct route via Pitchcott.[19][20] Beset by financial difficulties, the line took over eight years to build, eventually opening on 23 September 1868.[18] The new line was connected to the Wycombe Railway's Aylesbury station, and joined the Buckinghamshire Railway where the Oxford–Bletchley line and the line to Buckingham met.[18] A junction station was built. With no nearby town after which to name the new station, it was named Verney Junction railway station after Sir Harry.[21] Aylesbury now had railway lines to the east, north and southwest, but no line southeast towards London and the Channel ports.

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العربية: ترام بريل
català: Brill Tramway