Welland Viaduct

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Welland Viaduct
Welland Viaduct - geograph.org.uk - 227788.jpg
Coordinates52°34′1″N 0°39′14″W / 52.56694°N 0.65389°W / 52.56694; -0.65389Coordinates: 52°34′1″N 0°39′14″W / 52.56694°N 0.65389°W / 52.56694; -0.65389
OS grid referenceSP915975
CarriesOakham to Kettering Line
CrossesRiver Welland
Official nameWelland Viaduct
Maintained byNetwork Rail
Heritage statusGrade II listed
Total length1,275 yd (1.166 km)
Height60 ft (18 m) maximum
Welland Viaduct is located in England
Welland Viaduct
Welland Viaduct
Location in England
Welland Viaduct is located in Northamptonshire
Welland Viaduct
Welland Viaduct
Welland Viaduct (Northamptonshire)
Welland Viaduct is located in Rutland
Welland Viaduct
Welland Viaduct
Welland Viaduct (Rutland)

Welland Viaduct, also known as Harringworth Viaduct and Seaton Viaduct,[3] is a railway viaduct which crosses the valley of the River Welland between Harringworth in Northamptonshire and Seaton in Rutland, England.

It is 1,275 yards (1.166 km) long and has 82 arches, each with a 40 feet (12 m) span. The viaduct was built by contractor Lucas and Aird and completed in 1878. It is the longest masonry viaduct across a valley in the United Kingdom,[4] and a Grade II listed building.[5]

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



During the late 1870s, the Midland Railway began constructing the 17-mile line between Kettering, Northamptonshire and Manton, Rutland.[6] An obstacle on the route was the valley of the River Welland which required a long viaduct. In 1874, an Act of Parliament was passed, authorising the line's construction.[1] A contract for the construction of the viaduct was awarded to Lucas and Aird.[6]

The viaduct was a significant and challenging undertaking, crossing the Welland Valley and its flood plain. It is 1,280 yards long (1,171 metres) and at the time only the elevated multi-track approach to London Bridge railway station was longer.[6][1] It 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 later described the Welland Viaduct as being: "one of the grandest and most perfect pieces of workmanship to be seen in the United Kingdom".[6]

In 1875, the construction team built Cyprus Camp at the north end of the viaduct, adjacent to the village of Seaton.[6] The camp had 47 wooden huts, each typically housing seven men, two women and three children.[6] Another 12 huts were built at Gretton Hill.[1]

The viaduct was built by physical labour.[6] It has been estimated that every man who prepared the ground and built the earthworks shovelled more than 20 tons of earth in each 12-hour shift. At its peak, a workforce of 3,500 and 120 horses, were employed along the length of the line.[6] Several workers are known to have died during the viaduct's construction. A first-hand account of the workers and their living situation, Life and Work Among the Navvies, was written by Reverend D. W. Barrett, the vicar of Nassington who was curate-in-charge of the Bishop of Peterborough's railway mission.[1]

The viaduct contains around 30,000,000 bricks, most of which were fired onsite.[6] W. H. Lorden was the subcontractor for the brickwork and the bricks were produced by R. Holmes. Additional materials included 20,000 cubic yards (15,000 m3) of concrete and 19,000 cubic yards (15,000 m3) of stone.[1] Barrow lime used to produce concrete and mortar was supplied by Ellis and Sons of Mountsorrel Junction, Leicester. The viaduct was built on land belonging to Lieutenant Colonel Tryon of Bulwick Hall.[1]

In March 1876, the first brick was laid and the first arch was completed in June 1877.[7][1] The rate of progress was rapid, all 82 arches of the viaduct were constructed within 13 months.[6] On 5 July 1878, Lieutenant Colonel Tryon keyed the final arch in a ceremony to mark the viaduct's completion.[7]


Opened as a through passenger route on 1 March 1880, the Manton to Kettering line provided Nottingham with a more direct link to London with eight trains per day, four in each direction.[1] On 1 October 1885, the "Slip Coach", entered service to connect with fast trains to London, Northampton, Cambridge and the Eastern Counties at Kettering. By 1903, the line carried over a dozen express and stopping trains in both directions daily.[1]

In 1906, the embankment to the north of the viaduct collapsed after heavy rain and insufficient drainage, leaving rails suspended in mid air and closing the line.[8] During the First World War, the Welland Viaduct was attacked by a German Zeppelin during 1916. It is believed the Germans recognised the route had strategic importance because of its role in transporting British troops to the ports on the English Channel.[9] In 1939, the viaduct was subject to threats of bombing by the IRA and the area around it was placed under guard.[10]

During 1967, as a consequence of the nation-wide Beeching cuts, all passenger services using the viaduct were discontinued but the line remained open for freight traffic.[1]

The viaduct's brickwork has suffered from extensive weathering and structural deterioration over the years. Before the privatisation of British Rail, repairs were regularly made by the Kettering and Leicester civil engineering staff. Many older bricklayers reported seeing the imprints of children's hands and feet in the bricks, from where they had walked on the clay-filled moulds before firing in the kiln.[citation needed] The viaduct is built from bricks manufactured and fired onsite, which have a red face. Subsequent repairs have used other types of bricks, predominantly blue engineering bricks, which have superior water resistance and are stronger, which makes 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.[6]

During 2004, in Network Rail's continuous structures maintenance programme, Birse Rail made structural repairs to the viaduct. The restoration cost £1.5m (equivalent to £2,110,000 in 2016).[11]. Traditional methods and materials were employed using modern access techniques to ensure the viaduct's long-term structural integrity.[12]

Between 2016 and 2017, a programme of works under Network Rail’s Infrastructure Projects East Midlands Civils Renewals was undertaken by Amco Rail.[6] It addressed all the recorded brickwork defects and prepared the viaduct for a long-term strengthening scheme aimed at raising its restrictive load capacity rating from RA0 (the lowest rating) to RA10 (the highest rating) so that traffic can cross more quickly. Freight trains with a 25-tonne axle-load was limited to 20mph when crossing and the goal of the strengthening measures is to increase this to 60mph.[6][13]

The parapets had 20mm joints saw-cut through them to allow for sheer movement, reducing the rate of cracking, while over 2,300 20mm-diameter vertical reinforcement bars were installed at one-metre intervals through the brickwork to anchor the parapets to the structure. Vertical cracks were fitted with 6mm stitch bars where applicable, and galvanised steel angle brackets were fixed onto either side of joints where the outwards lean exceeded 40 mm.[6] Network Rail required that no further use be made of pattress plates on the viaduct. Core-drilling of the parapets was performed by a bespoke 900kg rig, developed by Amco Rail, which reduced the programme's cost by £200,000 over conventional means even when including its development cost.[6][13]

Welland Viaduct from Seaton in 2009



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "The railway and viaduct". harringworthvillage.org. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  2. ^ Sources vary on the opening date; some claim that it opened during 1878, the same year as its completion.[citation needed]
  3. ^ The name Seaton Viaduct is the official name of another smaller viaduct a mile further north, but the name is applied by local residents to Welland Viaduct, as evidenced in this historic postcard.
  4. ^ Marshall, John. "The Guinness Book of Rail Facts & Feats". Guinness, 1979. ISBN 0-900424-56-7.
  5. ^ Historic England. "Welland Viaduct (1264288)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Harringworth Viaduct - Travel & Repeat." Rail Engineer, 1 August 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Welland Viaduct". Leicester Journal. England. 2 August 1878. Retrieved 23 September 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  8. ^ "Landslide on the Midland". Morning Post. England. 8 December 1906. Retrieved 23 September 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  9. ^ "Zeppelin Attack, 1916." harringworthvillage.org, Retrieved: 8 May 2018.
  10. ^ "Police Guard Viaduct". Grantham Journal. England. 29 July 1939. Retrieved 23 September 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  11. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  12. ^ "£1.5m project for historic viaduct". Northants Telegraph. England. 4 May 2004. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Harringworth half-term report." Rail Engineer, 1 August 2016.


  • Jack Simmons & Gordon Biddle (editors) (1997). "Entry for bridges and viaducts". The Oxford Companion to British Railway History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-211697-5.
  • Biddle, Gordon. Britain's Historic Railway Buildings: A Gazetteer of Structures (Second ed.). Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 9780711034914.