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The History of the Ranges

The Ranges

The Ranges are based within the old Devizes railway tunnel which was first conceived in 1830 before the Great Western Railway (GWR) had begun to construct their main lines. Devizes was regularly considered by the GWR as a main stop on its London to Bristol Line but lost out to Swindon due to its lack of population and growth in the previous decade, expansion of only 5,000 to 6,500 in size.

The Railway

A station in Devizes was needed to support industry and agriculture in the town as the only other way out of the town was the Kennet and Avon Canal, opened in 1810, which has 29 locks and took 6 hours just to leave Devizes.

Devizes railway station opened on 1 July 1857, 21 years after its initial conception and one week ahead of schedule, much to the annoyance of the locals who were preparing a celebration. After starting with 7 trains a day services were reduced to four a day, most probably due to overinflated claims of traffic before it was built. Although Devizes opened as a branch line it was soon recognised as a stop on the route to London and received all kinds of traffic including passenger, freight goods and express trains. Devizes was later returned to Branch status in 1900 when the GWR opened the Stert and Westbury Railway between Patney and Chirton railway station and Westbury which by-passed the steep gradients of Devizes and got from London to Plymouth faster.

Devizes Station and the Devizes Branch Line was closed in 1966 under the Beeching Axe. Its failure to gain main-line status, which would have saved it, was blamed on its low population, awkward geography and reduced traffic due to competition from the Chirton to Westbury line.

The Site Today

Today there is little trace of a railway station in Devizes. The road bridge over the old Pans Lane Halt station and the footbridge at Devizes remain. The track was removed many years ago and is now covered by undergrowth. The tunnel built under Devizes Castle has been bricked up at one end and is now The Ranges shooting range, shop and ballistics testing facility, with plans to further expand to include a cafe.