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Stanley Ferry Aqueduct
River Calder, Stanley Ferry, Stanley, West Yorkshire, UK
Stanley Ferry Aqueduct
associated engineer
George Leather
John Wignall Leather
date  1836 - 8th August 1839
era  Georgian  |  category  Aqueduct  |  reference  SE354230
ICE reference number  HEW 191
photo  PHEW, courtesy ICE
Thought to be the largest cast iron aqueduct in the world, Stanley Ferry Aqueduct carries the 1820s new cut of the Aire & Calder Navigation (ship canal) over the River Calder north east of Wakefield. The aqueduct has been restored and remains in commercial use.
Improvement works to the Aire & Calder Navigation, planned in the 1820s, included a new cut on the branch from Castleford to Wakefield, bypassing a meandering section of the River Calder between Fairies Hill and Broadreach. The 1839 aqueduct at Stanley Ferry carries the navigation over the sometimes turbulent river.
The original peoposal was a six or seven span aqueduct with a cast iron trough and overhead trusses, approved by Thomas Telford (1757-1834). In 1834, this was changed to a single span as a better response to the possibility of the river flooding and causing damage.
The design of the aqueduct is attributed to George Leather junior (1786-1870) of Leeds, though itís likely that his son John Wignall Leather (1810-87) was responsible for a large part of the design work. It follows a Greek Classical style, with Doric detailing.
In 1836, the construction contract was let to Hugh McIntosh (1768-1840) of Bloomsbury, London. McIntosh was involved with other projects on the navigation, and subcontracted the cast iron work for the aqueduct to brothers William Graham (1780-1862) and Robert Graham (1793-1874) of Milton Ironworks at Elsecar, Sheffield.
The aqueduct consists of a water trough suspended between two compression arches, and is one of the earliest known through-bridges of this type. Two cast iron segmental arch open-web ribs, 9.3m apart, span 47.2m over the river, held in place by masonry abutments founded on timber piles.
The I-section ribs weigh around 112 tonnes each and reduce in depth from 3m at the abutments to 1.8m at the crown. They are composed of seven ladder-like segments with four openings in the web per section. The ribs are tied together with two cast iron I-section lattice girder trusses near the crown of each arch.
The cast iron trough is made of flanged plates bolted together and is 50.3m long, 7.3m wide and carries water 2.6m deep. It holds 955 tonnes of water in all, and sits on cast iron I-section cross beams. These are 585mm deep at the centre and 360mm deep at the ends, and suspended from the arches by 35 wrought iron hangers of 57mm diameter on each side. The cross beams and hangers are spaced at 915mm centres. The hangers vary in length and each consists of two rods meeting at a stepped joint inside a large threaded nut.
Cast iron side frames bolted to the top of the cross beams resist horizontal water pressure in the trough. The water level is maintained by a small masonry overflow weir at the south east corner of the trough, which discharges into the river via a curved channel.
Below the frames, the trough sides are faced with decorative fluted iron columns aligned with the hangers and arranged so that the arches pass through the collonade without interrupting it. Each side has more than 50 columns and entablature. The abutments are disguised by four pedimented porticoed pavilions, with gabled roofs and seven bays of similar columns, positioned on either side of the ends of the aqueduct.
Near the south west corner of the trough stands the aqueduct toll house (SE355229) or navigation office, built in about 1839. It is a single storey stone building with a portico of fluted Doric columns and a Welsh slate roof.
In 1970, inspection revealed fractures in the aqueduct and twisting in one of the arches. Following a report on its condition in 1972, some of the hanger rods were re-tensioned to ensure the suspended weight is distributed evenly.
A further cause of potential damage to the trough is the passage of modern barges, which are larger than the horse-drawn vessels it was designed to accommodate. In addition, faulty rubbish-collecting screens in the river under the aqueduct were allowing objects to hit the outside of the trough when the river was high.
If the trough should fail, it would release all the water from the navigation between the nearest locks (some 7.2km apart) into the River Calder ó around 32 million litres ó which would result in significant flooding. A rapid draining of the cut would also lift the pressure the water exerts on its banks, potentially causing collapse, as well as endangering the safety of navigation users.
To mitigate the risk of the trough failing, work began in the late 1970s to install new rubbish screens, and to construct a second, wider, aqueduct more suited to motor barges. The new prestressed, precast reinforced concrete structure was completed in 1981 and is located on the east side of the original.
In the 1980s, the new aquduct carried the navigationís traffic while the original was repaired and repainted. New lighting was installed to illuminate it from the canal banks. Access through the trough was improved by the removal of the towpaths, and the original iron handrailing was replaced in replica.
The Georgian aqueduct was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument in February 1976, and Grade I listed in October 1987. In 2013, the Canal & River Trust described it as a "nationally outstanding example of early industrial architecture which is at the same time functional, innovative and aesthetically highly accomplished". The toll house office was Grade II listed in November 1977.
In 2015, the aqueduct was illuminated by new energy efficient floodlighting. It appears to have been repainted around the same time.
Masonry: H. McIntosh
Cast ironwork: Graham & Co, Milton Ironworks
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH NorthBDCE1

Stanley Ferry Aqueduct