Wharncliffe Viaduct (1836-1837)

Wharncliffe Viaduct (1836-1837)
Brunel’s first major structural design and the first contract to be let on his Great Western Railway. The viaduct carries trains across the Brent valley at an elevation of 65ft.

Constructed of brick, the 900ft long bridge has 8 arches, each spanning 70ft and rising 17ft 6ins. The supporting piers are hollow and tapered, rising to projecting stone cornices that held up the arch centring during construction.

Originally, the piers were 30ft wide at ground level and 33ft at deck level. The deck was designed to accommodate two tracks of Brunel’s broad gauge railway.

However, an Act of Parliament was passed in 1846 that made Stephenson’s narrow gauge standard across the country and so the viaduct was widened in 1847 by the addition of an extra row of piers and arches on the north side. The new width is 55ft.

In 1838, Great Western Railways opened a station at Hanwell. Trains ran four times a day to Paddington, Slough and Maidenhead. The Wharncliffe Viaduct, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was erected around 1836 to take the railway over the Brent Valley. It cost £40,000 to build and was named after Lord Wharncliffe. It is 300 yards long and 65 feet high. It is rumoured that Queen Victoria used to stop the royal train so she could admire the views.

The viaduct is still used today for trains running from Paddington to Bristol. Lord Wharncliffe’s coat of arms can been seen on the central pier on the south side. He was chairman of the Great Western Railway.

Original contractor: Grissell & Peto