30,000,000 Bricks

by Gethin Thomas February. 23, 2021 278 views

This is the Welland viaduct and it crosses the valley of the River Welland between Harringworth in Northamptonshire and Seaton in Rutland, England.

The viaduct is 1,275 yards (1.166 km) long and has 82 arches, each with a 40 feet (12 m) span. It is the longest masonry viaduct across a valley in the United Kingdom. Built by the contractor Lucas and Aird, a total of 30 million bricks were used in the viaduct's construction. Completed during 1878, it has since become a Grade II listed building.

The Welland Viaduct is on the Oakham to Kettering Line between Corby and Manton Junction, where it joins the Leicester to Peterborough line. The line is generally used by freight trains and steam specials. In early 2009, a single daily passenger service was introduced by East Midlands Trains between Melton Mowbray and St Pancras via Corby, the first regular passenger service to operate across the viaduct since the 1960s. The viaduct is on a diversionary route for East Midlands Railway using the Midland Main Line route.

The viaduct, which crosses both the Welland Valley and its flood plain, was designed by William Henry Barlow and members of his company, including his son Crawford, who was the resident engineer, and his former pupil Charles Bernard Baker. Crawford described the Welland Viaduct as being: "one of the grandest and most perfect pieces of workmanship to be seen in the United Kingdom".

In 1875, Cyprus Camp was built at the north end of the viaduct adjacent to the village of Seaton to house construction workers and their families. The camp had 47 wooden huts, each typically housing seven men, two women and three children; at its height, it had a reported population of 560 people.

The viaduct was principally built by manual labour. It has been estimated that every man engaged in preparing the ground and building the earthworks shovelled more than 20 tons of earth in a 12-hour shift. At its peak, a workforce of 3,500 and 120 horses were employed along the length of the line. Several workers died during its construction. An account of the workers, Life and Work Among the Navvies, was written by Reverend D. W. Barrett, the vicar of Nassington, curate-in-charge of the Bishop of Peterborough's railway mission.

All 82 of the viaduct's arches were completed within 13 months. On 5 July 1878, Lieutenant Colonel Tryon keyed the final arch in a ceremony to mark the viaduct's completion. At the time of its construction, only the elevated multi-track approach to London Bridge railway station exceeded the viaduct's length of 1,280 yards (1,171 metres). Even by the early twenty-first century, it remains the longest masonry viaduct across a river valley in the United Kingdom.

During the First World War, the viaduct was attacked by a German Zeppelin, possibly because of its strategic importance in transporting troops to the ports on the English Channel. In 1939, bombing threats issued by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) resulted in the area around the viaduct being placed under guard by police.

The viaduct's brickwork has suffered from weathering and structural deterioration. Before the privatisation of British Rail, repairs were made by Kettering and Leicester civil engineering staff. Bricklayers reported seeing the imprints of children's hands and feet in the bricks from when they had walked on the clay-filled moulds before firing in the kiln.

Repairs have used other types of bricks, predominantly blue engineering bricks, which have superior water resistance and are stronger, making them suited for arch re-lining and face brick replacement. The use of different bricks has given the viaduct a red-and-blue patchwork appearance in places.

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Camellia Staab 7 months ago

I like the fact that it has a variety of colors and I never knew there was such a thing as blue bricks, had to look it up.

7 months ago Edited
Gethin Thomas Replied to Camellia Staab 7 months ago

Coming from the Midlands we are well used to blue bricks as most of the Midlands was built with them. You name it, railway arches, canals factories everything. I used to work in a shop which was in a Victorian terrace the whole area out back, yard, outbuildings, chimneys, communal washhouse, was all blue brick.

7 months ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Gethin Thomas 7 months ago

To me it is such a nicer color than the ordinary red brick, but then again I am partial to blue. grinning

7 months ago Edited
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