Henley’s Heritage – Transport

Improvements to the Henley roads in the 18th century meant people and goods started to be moved by road rather than by river.  Despite the river trade slumping, Henley continued to thrive with coaching and wagon traffic which passed through the town. In 1830 horse-drawn coaches travelled daily to and from London, Oxford, Stroud, Cheltenham and Gloucester.

The dawning of the motor age, saw coach companies operating in Henley; the first bus service from Henley to Reading was The Venture (a 3ton Halford DA-type with seating for just 22) in 1914.  In common with many other early vehicles of that type, the vehicle featured opening doors on the offside as well – this was however then outlawed after accidents to passengers who stepped out in the traffic!   Henley’s original operators which included Butler’s Crimson Coaches based at Queen Street Garages (22 Queen Street), Northfield Coaches (based at 25-27 Northfield End), and Henley Venture Coaches (20-22 New Street where D&G Travel now have their offices). As well as local bus services, operators operated  trips to the coast (Eastbourne, Bognor, Southsea, Bournemouth and Brighton) leaving early in the morning.  In 1923 Butler’s Crimson Coaches charged 12 shillings for a return trip to Eastbourne.

The Great Western Railway opened Henley-on-Thames station in 1857. Originally there were three platforms, serving visitor traffic and freight traffic from a nearby goods yard.  The original station was demolished in 1975 and the station reopened with the shortening of the line and one platform in 1986 as part of the joint development with Hallmark Cards building (now The Hub).

Other facilities at the station included a large goods yard (closed 7 September 1964) which is now the car park, a goods shed, signal box (closed 20 March 1972), engine shed (closed 5 October 1958), and turntable. The steam locomotive turntable and coal siding was situated in the middle of Station Road where the landscape area is across from the present station.  In 1903 Station Road was widened and the turntable replaced alongside the station’s main building.