Sidney Gardens is steeped in history. the oldest park in the City of Bath. It is listed as a grade 11 and recognised as an important Park on a national level. It was planned and laid out by the architect Harcourt Masters in 1795. 12 acres in size, it became very popular towards the end of the 18th and 19th century and was frequently visited by members of the Royal Family. Also regularly visited by Jane Austin, who was a resident of Bath.
By 1810 this romantic landscape was altered forever when the Kennet and Avon Canal was built.
In about 1839 work started on the section of the Great Western Railway that runs through the Gardens, effectively cutting the Gardens in half.
While the design of the canal endeavoured to avoid any important features, the railway cut straight across, sweeping away the labyrinth, castle and walkways and destroying the remainder of the outer ride. The cutting through Sydney Gardens resulted in exceptional architecture because Brunel concerned himself with every level of design and detail combining the talents of a surveyor, a civil engineer, a mechanical engineer, an architect and planner, creating railway structures which were designed to blend in with the picturesque designs of the garden. The railway added new features within the landscape of Sydney Gardens resulting from the construction of two retaining walls, a footbridge to connect the footpath from the Holburne Museum to Sydney House, a cast iron footbridge and two road bridges which form part of the boundary to Sydney Gardens.
Brunel being a typical showman, utilised the gardens to create a fittingly theatrical setting for his railway. It could have been hidden in a cutting or a tunnel, but Brunel wanted his railway to be seen by all, so it was designed to be accessible to visitors to the gardens. The railway and its associated structures soon became an attraction in their own right and groups of spectators gathered to watch the passing trains.
Perhaps an idea of the theatre that Brunel envisaged is seen here with fittingly a Great Western King 4-6-0 locomotive of 1930 No 6024 King Edward I heading a rerun of the famous Bristolian express through the gardens on Saturday March 2012. The large number 473 is the train reporting number (not the locomotive number)