Heritage Locations

Radcliffe Viaduct


Also know as Rectory Junction Viaduct, this cast iron and brick arched viaduct crosses the river Trent near Nottingham. It is listed Grade II.

Constructor:
Unclassified

Period of construction:
1850 - 1899

Transport Trust plaque:
No

Transport Mode:
Rail

Address:
Colwick Industrial Estate, NG4 2

Postcode:
NG4 2

Nearest Town:
Nottingham

Heritage Centre:
No

The first bridges were probably of felled trees lain across the river (Stockbridge and Trowbridge both refer to tree trunk bridges) and then of worked timber.

The Romans built bridges in wood, and probably stone, but none remain in Britain. The oldest surviving timber bridge is over the River Ouse at Selby and dates from 1790.

The first simple stone bridges - clapper bridges comprise large slabs of stone rested on stone piers to span a stream or small river. Tarr Steps, which crosses the River Barle in Somerset, is the longest with 17 spans supporting stone slabs 5 feet wide. It is too narrow for carts but Pont Sarnddu in Carnarvonshire is ten feet across and wide enough for vehicles.

Packhorse bridges, small arched bridges, with very low parapets so as not to get in the way of the horse's panniers, can still be found for example at Wycoller in Lancashire, Moulton in Suffolk, and Fifehead Neville, Dorset.

More sophisticated stone bridges were built abundantly in the 13th century, the use of timber continued into the 16th century. The river Skell at Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire, is crossed by probably the oldest arched bridge in England. Thirteenth to fourteenth century bridges can be recognised by their pointed arches and by the V-shaped extensions over the cutwaters for pedestrian refuges. These were superseded by bridges which were ribbed under the arches (14/15century), and those with semi-circular arches.

But all of these styles are modified by the needs and knowledge of the locality. In the early eighteenth century Daniel Defoe observed "...the Nyd, smaller then the Wharfe, but furiously rapid, and very dangerous to pass in many places, especially upon sudden rains. Notwithstanding, such lofty high built bridges are as not to be seen over such small rivers in any other place".

Masonry arch and cast iron bridges derive from the late 18th and 19th centuries. Bridges were usually made from local materials. In the eastern counties they were first built with timber and then brick.

The bridge at Radcliffe was built in 1850 by Clayton & Shuttleworth of Lincoln on the Nottingham-Grantham Line for the Ambergate, Nottingham, Boston and Eastern Junction Railway.

The Trent Navigation Company demanded a minimum clear span of 30 m.(100ft), so the railway company built a 33 m.(110ft.) cast iron arch. The clearance above the water is 7 m.(24ft.) The iron arch was formed of six ribs, constructed in eight segments. Over the other half of the river there are three brick arches. The whole is impressive with its long brick-arched approach on a curve across water meadows.

The internal cast iron ribs were encased in concrete by British Rail in 1981 to increase the strength of the bridge, but the original cast iron ribs on the exterior were left exposed, leaving the bridge appearance little changed.


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)

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)

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

How To Find:
By Road: The approach is not straightforward, but the end result is rewarding. From Radcliffe find a footpath across meadowland bordered by Holme Lane. From Netherfield on the north bank drive through the Colwick Industrial Estate to the end of Road No. 4.

Facilities:


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