The Great Western Railway Company was incorporated by the Great Western Railway Act of 31st August, 1835. The Act of Incorporation authorised a Railway from Bristol (Temple Mead) to a junction with London and Birmingham Railway (afterwards incorporated in London and North Western Railway) in the Parish of Hammersmith, with branches to Bradford (Wilts) and Trowbridge.
A further Act, the Great Western Railway Act, 3rd July 1837, authorised the extension to Paddington in lieu of a junction with the London and Birmingham Railway.
Opening took place in stages; from Paddington to Maidenhead on 4th June 1838, to Reading on 30th March 1840 and throughout to Bristol on 30th June 1841.
The company retained its name at the grouping of railway companies in 1923, amalgamating with or absorbing a number of smaller companies up to that date.
The Great Western Railway ceased to exist at the end of 1947, forming the bulk of the nationalised British Railways/Western Region, that name to be later shortened to British Rail.