HS2 uncovers world’s oldest railway roundhouse at Curzon Street archaeological site

Related Articles

Related Articles

HS2 Ltd has unearthed what is thought to be the world’s oldest railway roundhouse at the construction site of its Birmingham Curzon Street station.

The roundhouse was situated adjacent to the old Curzon Street station, which was the first railway terminus serving the centre of Birmingham and built during a period of great significance and growth for the city. Built to a design by the 19th century engineer Robert Stephenson, the roundhouse was operational on 12 November 1837 – meaning the recently discovered building is likely to predate the current titleholder of ‘world’s oldest’ in Derby by almost two years.

HS2’s initial programme of trial trenching at Curzon Street revealed the remains of the station’s roundhouse, exposed toward the south-eastern corner of the site. The surviving remains include evidence of the base of the central turntable, the exterior wall and the 3ft deep radial inspection pits which surrounded the turntable.


Curzon Street Roundhouse – Credit : HS2

The 19th century station at Curzon Street is among the very earliest examples of mainline railway termini and the limited later development of the site means that any surviving remains of the early station represents a unique opportunity to investigate a major early railway terminus in its entirety. As the HS2 project heads towards Main Works Civils, the final archaeological excavations on the site are about to take place.

HS2 will see the site become home to the first brand new intercity terminus station built in Britain since the since the 19th century. Birmingham Curzon Street station will be at the heart of the country’s new high-speed railway network, providing seven platforms, a new public space, and be integrated with an extended tram network.

Initially providing passenger services, Curzon Street originally consisted of two station termini, servicing the London and Birmingham Railway (L&BR) and the Grand Junction Railway (GJR); before being converted to a single goods station (following the opening of Birmingham New Street Station in 1854), and which operated until the 1960s.

Beginning at Curzon Street Station, Birmingham, and finishing at Euston Station in London, the 112-mile long L&BR took 20,000 men nearly five years to build. It has been estimated that to build the railway, construction workers shifted more material than the ancient Egyptians did when they constructed the pyramids.

The roundhouse, and specifically the turntable, was used to turn around the engines so locomotives could return back down the line. Engines were also stored and serviced in these facilities. The railway’s 1847 roundhouse at the southern end of the line is now better known as the world-renowned Roundhouse music venue in London’s Camden.

The L&BR terminus opened to passengers in 1838 and was fronted by the grand ‘Principal Building’ which survives in situ (as do elements of the GJR neo-classical screen wall). This Grade I listed building represents the world’s oldest surviving piece of monumental railway architecture. Various structures were demolished from 1860 to 1870 to allow for the expansion of the goods station, including the engine roundhouse.

Archaeological excavations are due to take place on the site between mid-February and mid-March, uncovering the roundhouse and other historic railway structures for the first time, including the remains of the Grand Junction Railway terminus.

The archaeology undertaken ahead of the construction of the new Curzon Street station will record the historical significance for the site and determine whether the remains can be preserved in situ.

Jon Millward, Historic Environment Advisor, HS2 Ltd, said:

“HS2 is offering us the opportunity to unearth 1,000’s of years of British history along the route and learn about our past. The discovery of what could be the world’s oldest railway roundhouse on the site of the new HS2 station in Birmingham City Centre is extraordinary and fitting as we build the next generation of Britain’s railways.”


Header Image – Curzon St site turntable – Credit : HS2

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Camulodunum – The First Capital of Britannia

Camulodunum was a Roman city and the first capital of the Roman province of Britannia, in what is now the present-day city of Colchester in Essex, England.

African Crocodiles Lived in Spain Six Million Years Ago

Millions of years ago, several species of crocodiles of different genera and characteristics inhabited Europe and sometimes even coexisted.

Bat-Winged Dinosaurs That Could Glide

Despite having bat-like wings, two small dinosaurs, Yi and Ambopteryx, struggled to fly, only managing to glide clumsily between the trees where they lived, according to a new study led by an international team of researchers, including McGill University Professor Hans Larsson.

Ancient Maya Built Sophisticated Water Filters

Ancient Maya in the once-bustling city of Tikal built sophisticated water filters using natural materials they imported from miles away, according to the University of Cincinnati.

New Clues Revealed About Clovis People

There is much debate surrounding the age of the Clovis - a prehistoric culture named for stone tools found near Clovis, New Mexico in the early 1930s - who once occupied North America during the end of the last Ice Age.

Cognitive Elements of Language Have Existed for 40 Million Years

Humans are not the only beings that can identify rules in complex language-like constructions - monkeys and great apes can do so, too, a study at the University of Zurich has shown.

Bronze Age Herders Were Less Mobile Than Previously Thought

Bronze Age pastoralists in what is now southern Russia apparently covered shorter distances than previously thought.

Legio IX Hispana – The Lost Roman Legion

One of the most debated mysteries from the Roman period involves the disappearance of the Legio IX Hispana, a legion of the Imperial Roman Army that supposedly vanished sometime after AD 120.

Popular stories

Legio IX Hispana – The Lost Roman Legion

One of the most debated mysteries from the Roman period involves the disappearance of the Legio IX Hispana, a legion of the Imperial Roman Army that supposedly vanished sometime after AD 120.

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.