Chestergate, Stockport, Greater Manchester, UK
George Watson Buck
10th March 1839 - 21st December 1840, 1887 - 1889
Railway Viaduct |
ICE reference number
photo Paul Dunkerley / ICE R&D Fund
Stockport Viaduct is one of the largest brick structures in Britain and it features in the background of many L.S. Lowry paintings. It was built in 1840 for the Manchester & Birmingham Railway to carry the tracks over the River Mersey valley and is still in use. Among the developments it also overflies are the M60 motorway and a five-storey mill.
The viaduct was designed by the railway company's engineer George Watson Buck (1789-1854), formerly engineer to the London & Birmingham Railway. His treatise on oblique bridges was essential reading for railway engineers until the end of the 19th century.
The level structure rises 33.8m above the river bed and is 546.2m long and originally 9.4m wide. It has 22 semicircular arches of 19.2m span flanked by two abutment arches of 5.5m span on either side. All arch rings are 900mm thick. Both arches and spandrels are red brick set in lime mortar, with ashlar spring courses. There are 2.2m high parapets on each side of the viaduct and the distance between the crowns of the arches and the top of the parapets is 3.6m.
The red brick piers are 3m thick and 12.2m tall. They are solid to 7.9m above the springings and having 685mm thick walls filled with ballast thereafter. Piers at the abutments have rusticated facing. The 8.7m wide track bed was ballasted with sandstone arisings from the nearby cuttings on the same railway line and was drained by 100mm diameter iron pipes that exited through the piers.
The viaduct was constructed for £72,000 and is reputed to contain 11 million bricks and 11,300 cubic metres of stone. The scaffolding and centring for the arches was reused on the railway’s Dane Viaduct (SJ896657) 24km to the south. The line from Manchester to Stockport opened on 4th June 1840 and the viaduct was completed on 21st December that year, with the first locomotive passing over it on 16th July 1841 followed by rail traffic from 10th August 1842.
The viaduct was widened by 6.8m on one side to accommodate four tracks instead of two between 1887 and 1889, though the engineer Francis Stephenson retained the dimensions and form of construction. The new piers are solid and taper at 1 in 24. Another abutment arch was added at the Stockport end with some modifications where the lines met the station platforms. The contract was completed by direct labour.
The arch above Heaton Lane was repaired in 1929 after the rails and parapet lifted in hot weather (1915-7) and bricks fell from the soffit (1929). Defective brickwork was replaced with reinforced concrete, the arch was grouted and steel rails installed on the permanent way.
The viaduct gained Grade II* listing on 10th March 1975. Each of the three-lane carriageways of the M60 Stockport bypass (originally M63, constructed 1979-82) passes under a single arch of the viaduct. In 1989, the viaduct was cleaned and floodlighting installed during a £3m restoration project.
Architect: John Lowe
Contractors: John Tomkinson
Contractor: Samuel and John Holme
Resident engineers (1887-9): W. Adams, W.H. Perkins
"The strengthening of a defective arch in Stockport Viaduct (L.M.S. Rly.)" by C.M.A. Whitehouse, Institution of Civil Engineers, Manchester and District Association, Session 1932-33, read 15th February 1933
"A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Greater Manchester" by Robina McNeil and Michael Nevell, Association for Industrial Archaeology, 2000
"Crossings" by Deborah Mulhearn, in Mersey Book 2, pp.80-93, October 2007, available at www.merseybasin.org.uk