a look back at the history of the Water Eaton grain silo as wartime facility nears its end

Oxford Mail: A lorry sheds its load of grain at the Water Eaton grain silo in 1964 A lorry sheds its load of grain at the Water Eaton grain silo in 1964

IT HAS been a landmark for more than 70 years, but not for much longer.

The Water Eaton grain silo, which dominates the skyline from the A34 and the Oxford-Kidlington road, was built at the start of the Second World War.

It followed the design of other wartime silos, helping to feed the nation when supplies were short.

The grain, including wheat, barley and oats, would be taken mechanically to the top of the seven- storey building and cascade through a series of driers on each floor.

It would then be stored in 200-ton bins for use by millers, brewers and cereal manufacturers.

In the early years, few farmers used it and by the mid-1950s there were fears it might close.

But by the 1960s, possibly because of wet harvests and the need to dry grain, farmers flocked to it, and some years demand for space was so great that staff found it difficult to cope.

The Oxford Mail reported in 1968: “The silo is working flat out as the delayed Oxfordshire harvest moves into top gear.

“The great rush has started, with queues of lorries waiting to tip the corn in huge heaps outside the silo.”

Three years later it was much the same story, with the Mail reporting: “So much grain has been coming in that they will be storing it in the basement before long.

“The silo has nearly reached its 6,000-ton capacity in one of the busiest seasons for many years.

“As much as 400 tons have been delivered in one day and staff having been working up to 14 hours a day to cope with the rush. Extra men are being recruited.”

In early days some of the grain would arrive in railway wagons in the nearby sidings alongside the Oxford-Bicester line.

The silo closed in the late 1980s, after which the yard and outbuildings were used by several businesses, including a pet food supplier and a car breaker.

In recent years it has been a target for graffiti vandals and grown ugly, damaged and rundown, though it still has its admirers.

It will soon be demolished to make way for the new Oxford Parkway railway station, part of Chiltern Railways’ £150m plan to create a new Oxford-London service via Bicester and High Wycombe to Marylebone.

The line will also eventually form part of the electrified Oxford-Milton Keynes-Bedford line approved recently by the Government.

The sidings remain in use, with freight trains bringing in stone and other aggregates from the Mendip Hills several times a week.

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