The Flat Rat of Brunel’s Waiting Room

Submitted by David Dimmick

This is the true tale of the discovery of a mummified rat under a hearthstone during a renovation project at Bridgend Railway station during the 1970’s.

This discovery was made whilst I worked as a stonemason during the renovation of Bridgend railway station when the foreman and I were required to re-build the pine end of Brunel’s original building.

This re-build entailed the demolition of part of the building, including the waiting room, which was well-remembered by the residents of the borough for its open fireplace where many hands were warmed on a bitterly cold winter’s day. Much of the stone was dressed Bath stone, and this was retrieved in order to be re-used for the re-build.
Whilst this demolition was underway it fell upon me to remove the hearthstone in front of the fireplace, and imagine my surprise when I lifted the stone and found a very flat, mummified, rat! I was well aware it had long been the custom to place a coin under a hearthstone in order to ward off evil spirits, but apparently in times gone by it was the tradition to place the body of a small mammal (presumably dead!), for the same purpose. We would all agree, I think, that a coin is a much healthier option! The patrons of Bridgend railway station were obviously blissfully unaware that as they warmed themselves before the roaring fire near to where they stood were the remains of a rat, flattened.
Thus it was, following the completion of the demolition, the pine end was successfully rebuilt and included the insertion of two blind windows; the one I built was on the left and later featured a ‘bubble’ telephone booth. The dressed Bath stone was used to rebuild the corners of the building. The signal box, now demolished, was used as the site office and also as our canteen. This prominent architectural feature was sited in the station car park and has been sorely missed by rail enthusiasts, who recognise the railway’s importance to the industrial heritage of the area. There is an old photograph in existence of Bridgend railway station taken during the middle of the 19th century which appears to show a type of rail known as a Barlow Rail, and this type has also been found during the 1990s in the Garw Valley- but that is another story!

Submitted by David Dimmick

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