A Box of Books
The Door to the South

Two in One

Waiting for the rain to stop  HavershamA cyclist waits for the rain to ease off. As in most of these photos, the seam between each viaduct is visible as a line up the pier and along the underneath of the arch.

This looks like a railway viaduct. But it’s really two, built right next to each other at different times.

They are both about half a mile North of Wolverton station, on the West Coast Main Line.

Robert Stephenson engineered the first of these viaducts for the London & Birmingham Railway, and work began in 1837. In September 1838 it opened, carrying two lines across the Ouse Valley.

The Great Ouse had to be diverted 900 feet North during the construction; the old river bed now lies under the South Embankment. To leave the river in place would have meant the viaduct would have to be twice as long as it is now.

Cutwaters by the Great OuseThe viaducts take the railway over the Great Ouse and the Ouse Valley.

Side arch  Wolverton viaductOne of the three smaller arches at each end of the viaducts.

Before the viaduct came the Haversham road crossed the Ouse at Mead Mill Bridge, about 800 feet South of the modern bridge. The mill had long gone by 1837, but it had been somewhere near the sweeping bend on the modern road.

The viaducts are actually just in Haversham-cum-Little Linford parish, not Wolverton. The parish boundary follows what had once been the bed of the river, hundreds of years before the railway came. It was a twisting course, between the modern river and where the 19th Century Ouse once ran before Robert Stephenson had it diverted.

Wolverton Viaduct crosses the Great OuseThe Great Ouse now runs through the left arch only. When built, the river also flowed through the arch on the right.

Forty years after the viaduct was opened, two more lines were needed, and the second viaduct was built between 1878 and 1882 on the East side of the first one.

There’s an obvious seam in the arches where the two viaducts meet but they are not linked together. Because they are separate, if there was any differential settlement between them it wouldn’t put a strain into the structures.

Brick arch on the West Coast Main LineDetails of the arch construction. Wooden formers were put in place and the arch built upon them. Once the arch is finished the formers are taken away.

It’s hard to appreciate today, but most of the work building the viaducts and the approaching embankments would have been done by hand.

If you’d like the visit the viaduct, there’s a car park close by on the Haversham road.

Wolverton Viaduct pierThe piers between the arches taper slightly and they are four inches narrower at the top. The rounded bulge at the base is a cutwater. It guides flood water around the pier, and all the piers between the main arches have a cutwater at each end.

The Ouse Valley ParkFrom the car park on Haversham road, walkers can go under the arch and through the Ouse Valley Park to Old Wolverton and Stony Stratford.

I used Pentax zoom lenses for the photos in this post; earlier versions of the 10-17mm fisheye and the 16-50mm lens, but the same model of 60-250mm lens as in the link.

I make a small percentage from sales through these links, no matter what you buy while you are there on Amazon. This helps me but costs you nothing, so if you make a purchase via the NBW, thank you.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave a comment below.
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