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Causey Arch

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Causey Arch
Stone arch railway bridge
North side of the bridge
Coordinates54°53′51″N 1°41′16″W / 54.8974°N 1.6878°W / 54.8974; -1.6878
OS grid referenceNZ 20126 55896
CarriesWaggonway (disused); footpath
CrossesCausey Burn
LocaleStanley, County Durham
Total length105 ft (32 m)
Height80 ft (24 m)
No. of spans1
DesignerRalph Wood
Opened1727 (1727)
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameCAUSEY ARCH
Designated19 July 1950 (1950-07-19)
Reference no.1240816[1]

The Causey Arch is a bridge near Stanley in County Durham, northern England. It is the oldest surviving single-arch railway bridge in the world, and a key element of the industrial heritage of England. It carried an early wagonway (horse-drawn carts on wooden rails) to transport coal. The line was later diverted, and no longer uses the bridge.[2]


It was built in 1725–26 by stonemason Ralph Wood, funded by a conglomeration of coal-owners known as the "Grand Allies" (founded by Colonel Liddell, the Hon. Charles Montague and George Bowes the owner of Gibside Estate on which the bridge is situated) at a cost of £12,000. Two tracks crossed the Arch: one (the "main way") to take coal to the River Tyne, and the other (the "bye way") for returning the empty wagons. Over 900 horse-drawn wagons crossed the arch each day using the Tanfield Railway.

When the bridge was completed in 1726, it was the longest single-span bridge in the country with an arch span of 31 metres (102 ft), a record it held for thirty years until 1756 when the Old Bridge was built in Pontypridd, Wales. After he designed the bridge, Ralph Wood was so afraid that his arch would collapse that he committed suicide in 1727,[3] but the bridge still stands today. An inscription on a sundial at the site reads "Ra. Wood, mason, 1727".

Use of the arch declined when Tanfield Colliery was destroyed by fire in 1739.

Present status[edit]

The Arch has been Grade I listed since 1950.[4] It was restored and reinforced in the 1980s. There are a series of scenic public paths around the area and the Causey Burn which runs underneath it. The quarry near the bridge is a popular spot for local rock climbers.

Causey Burn itself flows into Beamish Burn which then flows into the River Team eventually discharging into the River Tyne.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Historic England & 1240816.
  2. ^ "Sunniside Local History Society". www.sunnisidelocalhistorysociety.co.uk. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  3. ^ "Causey Arch Stanley, England". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  4. ^ Historic England (19 July 1950). "Causey Arch (Grade I) (1240816)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  • Skempton, A.W. (2002) Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Volume 1, 1500–1830, p 791–792. Published by Thomas Telford Ltd.

External links[edit]