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Darcy Lever Viaduct

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in Darcy Lever, Bolton, Lancashire

This eight span viaduct with tall stone piers crosses the valley of the River Tonge. The main spans have four wrought iron Warren truss girders installed in the 1880s, but the prominent feature is the use of light lattice girders on the outside. These date from 1848 when the bridge was built for the Manchester and Leeds (Liverpool and Bury) Railway. The decking was replaced by pre-cast concrete in 1958. The line was closed to passenger traffic in 1951 and to all rail traffic in 1970.[1]

It is said to have been the first iron lattice girder in England.[2]

The bridge was designed by James Thomson. One source states that this was James Thomson (1822-1892) (born County Down, the son of James Thomson, and brother of Lord Kelvin).[3]. A William Thomson was involved in the construction, and this was probablyWilliam Thomson, James Thomson's brother (Sir William Thomson referred to the work of his brother James in an 1881 I.C.E. discussion on girder bridges).

Newspaper Reports

1848 [4]: 'THE LIVERPOOL AND BURY RAILWAY ..... We then soon arrive at points where the most remarkable and interesting works of magnitude on the line occur - the “Bolton Valley” and Darcy Lever viaducts. Both of these structures are composed of wrought iron lattice work, supported on stone piers of great height and strength. They are exactly similar to each other in arrangement, &c., and are the first of the kind constructed in England. The one nearest to Bolton [ Croal Viaduct ], which extends over the river Croal and the Manchester, Bolton, and Bury Canal, near Strawberry-bank, consists of six spans of 73 feet each. The Darcy Lever viaduct is near Messrs. Gray's cotton-mills, Dam side, and has six spans of 84 feet and two of 54 feet each ; the height of the roadway, from the bed of the River Tonge, over which it passes, being 86 feet. On both these viaducts there are four sets of beams (one set for each rail), which are ten feet in depth, are formed of bars of wrought iron, and are together at right angles, leaving diamond-shaped openings of two feet each. In addition to the four sets of beams already named are two exterior sets, of similar construction and arrangement, but of lighter materials: they are fourteen feet in depth, so as to form a parapet on both sides of the viaduct, above the level of the rails. The whole of the beams rest on cast iron wall plates, bolted into the masonry of the abutment and piers, and are firmly secured and held together by transverse ties also of the lattice form. The structures present the appearance of lightness combined with strength. ....

'.....On Saturday and Monday the Government Inspector, Captain Wynne, went over the works of this line of railway, for the purpose of examining it previous to its being taken from the contractor, and opened by the Company. He was accompanied, on both occasion, by the Contractor, Mr. William McCormick, the Consulting Engineer of the Company, Mr. James Thomson of London, the Acting Engineer, Mr. William Thomson, and Mr. John Hawkshaw, Consulting Engineer to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company; and we are happy to be able to announce to the public, that not only have the Works been approved of by Captain Wynne, but he has been pleased to express his unqualified satisfaction at the excellent manner in which the contractor has executed his work. This line was commenced in the month of January 1846, and consequently has been completed in less than three years, notwithstanding that it was considerably retarded by the railway panic of '47.

... Leaving Bolton, the line passes over a segmental cast iron girder bridge, and runs on the Bolton Viaduct, which is constructed of wrought iron lattice work, on the same plan as that which was designed by Sir John Macneil for the Dublin and Drogheda Railway. This viaduct, which is 700 feet long, cannot, we are certain, be equalled in England for beauty and durability. At Darcy Lever there is one of similar design. The height of the piers of this portion of the work averages 120 feet. ....
It may be added, that the Inspector tested the Darcy Lever viaduct in the most particular manner, with a very heavy locomotive engine, and the deflection proved to be only the hundredth part of a foot. .....
Mr. Holme .... The lattice viaducts, the iron work of which had been done by his friend, Mr. Daglish, had been peculiarly interesting to him, the diamond supports striking his mind with the idea of a “cluster of diamonds”.'

1881 The L&YR advertised for tenders for work including 'Masonry and Ironwork required the renewal of the Darcy Lever Viaduct, near Bolton'.[5]

1883 'PITCH PINE—OFFERS WANTED for the Purchase of the TIMBER forming the Staging, about 40,000 cubic feet, of the Darcy Lever Viaduct, near Bolton.— For particulars apply to F. H. CHEESEWRIGHT, on the site, or Spa-road, Bolton'[6]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Historic England website: DARCY LEVER VIADUCT OVER THE RIVER TONGE
  2. 'The Britannia & Other Tubular Bridges' by John Rapley, Tempus Publishing Ltd., 2003
  3. 'The Evolution of Iron Bridge Trusses to 1850' by J. G. James, Newcomen Society, 1981
  4. Bolton Chronicle - Saturday 18 November 1848
  5. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Tuesday 31 May 1881
  6. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Friday 16 February 1883