Heritage Locations

Sankey Viaduct


World's oldest major railway viaduct still in operation, listed Grade I.


Constructor:
George Stephenson

Period of construction:
1800 - 1849

Transport Trust plaque:
No

Transport Mode:
Rail

Address:
Earlstown Station, Newton le Willows WA12 9AU

Postcode:
WA12 9AU

Nearest Town:
Newton le Willows

Heritage Centre:
No


The Sankey Viaduct was built between 1828 and 1830 by George Stephenson for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway Company to enable the railway to cross the line of the Sankey Canal with sufficient clearance for the Mersey flats, the sailing vessels for which the canal was constructed.

It is the earliest major railway viaduct in the world still in operation, constructed from yellow and ginger sandstone and red brick, with nine round-arched spandrels on sharply-battered piers. It is 183 m long, its arches are of 15 m(50 ft) span, and 21 m (70 ft) high. (But see Laigh Milton for the unqualified earliest).

The Sankey Canal was built principally to transport coal from the Lancashire Coalfield mines to the growing chemical industries of Liverpool, though iron ore and corn were also important commodities. These industries rapidly expanded, and spread back along the line of the Canal to St Helens, Earlestown, and Widnes, which were small villages until this period. The Sankey Canal was thus an important factor in the industrial growth of the region.


Bibliography:

Biddle, Gordon, Britain's Historic Railway Buildings, Oxford University Press, ISBN-10: 0198662475 (2003)

Biddle, Gordon & Nock, O.S., The Railway Heritage of Britain : 150 years of railway architecture and engineering, Studio Editions, ISBN-10: 1851705953 (1990)

Biddle, Gordon and Simmons, J., The Oxford Companion to British Railway History, Oxford, ISBN 0 19 211697 5 (1997)

Bonavia, Michael, Historic Railway Sites in Britain, Hale, ISBN 0 7090 3156 4 (1987)

Conolly, W. Philip, British Railways Pre-Grouping Atlas And Gazetteer, Ian Allan Publishing, ISBN 0-7110-0320-3 (1958/97)

Davies, Hunter, George Stephenson: The Remarkable Life of the Founder of the Railway, The History Press, ISBN-10: 0750937955 (2004)

Jowett, Alan, Jowett's Railway Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland, Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-8526-0086-1. (March 1989)

Morgan, Bryan, Railways: Civil Engineering, Arrow, ISBN 0 09 908180 6 (1973)

Morgan, Bryan, Railway Relics, Ian Allan, ISBN 0 7110 0092 1 (1969)

Ross, David, George and Robert Stephenson: A Passion for Success, The History Press, ISBN-10: 0752452770 (2010)

Simmons, J., The Railways of Britain, Macmillan, ISBN 0 333 40766 0 (1961-86)

Simmons, J., The Victorian Railway, Thames & Hudson, ISBN 0 500 25110X (1991)

Smith, Martin, British Railway Bridges and Viaducts, Ian Allan, ISBN 0 7110 2273 9 (1994)

Turnock, David, An Historical Geography of Railways, Ashgate, ISBN 1 85928 450 7 (1998)



Opening Times:
Visible at all times from a public footpath.

How To Find:
By Road: South west of Newton on the A572, turn south onto Wharf Road. A turning to the right, Bradley Lane, leads to a small car park from which a footpath heads northward under the viaduct. It follows the course of the now dried up canal.

Facilities:


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