When Parliament gave permission for the Great Western Railway in 1835, Bristol merchants began to argue for an extension of the proposed line to Exeter. Permission was granted in 1836 and Isambard Brunel was appointed engineer. The line was completed in 1844. Over the next nine years branches were opened to Clevedon, Tiverton and Yeovil. Other branches followed in the 1860s (Chard, Portishead, Wells, Barnstaple and Minehead). The Bristol & Exeter Railway was a reasonable financial success and between 1844 and 1874 the annual dividend was 4.5 per cent.