Arthington Viaduct


ARTHINGTON VIADUCT was originally called “Wharfdale Viaduct” and by the workers as “Wharfe Viaduct.”

Building was granted by Parliament in 1846 when it was estimated by the Chairman of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway that the quantity of stone used would exceed 50,000 tons. The stone was supplied by James Bray who operated Pool Bank Quarries. There are twenty one arches, each with a span of 60 ft. The length of the viaduct is 1,510 feet with a road width of 30 feet. The above was drawn to attract investors prior to building, and shows various stages of intended development.

Before the commencement of the project is was reported in October 1845, that it had been originally thought “that the beautiful valley of Wharfedale would escape the view of the engineer on account of the difficulties presented by the hills on both sides”. However this was not to be the case as in July 1845 the Leeds and Thirsk Railway were soon to request tenders for the project.

A small new “village” was built at Bramhope to house all the workers. “There were 93 temporary cottages, each housing from two to twenty persons” (Taken from ”Railway History & Local Historian E. H. Fowkes, published in 1963 by East Yorkshire Local History Society)

The last arch was keyed in during July 1848. Some workmen/subcontractors were Garside, Parker and Oldroyd, with William Greenwood a stone mason. (documents). 20,000 men and 300 horses were employed in the tunnel and viaduct project.

It has been requested that as these notes were taken from the 19th Century newspapers by using the computer, they have a copyright but can be used for study purposes.

May 31st 1845 Leeds Times (extracts Railway Intelligence, Parliamentary Proceedings of Friday May 23rd

“Mr. J. Harris, a civil engineer, examined by Mr. Denison considers the prices generally put down by *Mr. Grainger as too low.

Mr. G.P.Bidder examined by Mr. Denison, has examined the line from Pill Moor to Collings’ cottage, and considers it to be free from all objection. Has also seen the line from Harrogate to Leeds. The Leeds and Thirsk will be very heavy work, while the Great North of England line will be comparatively light. The works on the Leeds and Thirsk are larger than on any other line with which he was acquainted. Made a report some time since and stated as his opinion that the Leeds and Thirsk line could never be executed for £1,500,00 and sees no reason to change that opinion now. The sum mentioned by witness is about double the estimate of Mr. Granger. His estimate was formed upon a general view of the line. It was not a detailed estimate”….

“Mr. Samuel Martin, engineering surveyor, has been instructed by the Leeds and Bradford Railway to survey an extension to Otley and Pool and the villages to the north. That line would render the Leeds and Thirsk quite useless to the northern villages”

Complains of “injury that would be done to the springs of Bramhope by the construction of the line. Mr. Baines, however, proposed that a clause protecting the inhabitants of Bramhope from inconvenience should be inserted “

*Thomas Grainger became the engineer for the construction of the “Wharfdale” viaduct.

Nov. 1845 Leeds Mercury: Leeds and Thirsk Railway. (20.10.1845)

The construction of this great undertaking by which a communication is to be opened from the town of Leeds to the northern part of the county of York and finally carried to Hartlepool, Stockton and Middlesborough, has now fairly commenced. The works were begun on Monday, the 20th October and the face of the country, in the neighbourhood of Arthington, Bramhope and Cookridge, has already assumed a very altered appearance. The contracts for making the railway from Wellington Bridge, at the western entrance to the township of Leeds, to Weeton in the parish of Harewood, a distance of about eleven miles, have been undertaken by Mr. Bray, the great contractor for works of this nature and several hundred men are already employed on the first contract, which extends from Wescoe Hill to Carr Bridge, a distance of five miles and a half.

The main operations at present are at Arthington and Bramhope where the tunnel, 3195 yards in length is to be formed and there are already 19 shafts preparing, of which 15 are working shafts and four permanent shafts, exclusive of the drifts. In some instances, these shafts are already 50 feet deep and in others varying from that depth to 12 to 20 feet. Preparations are in progress for making bricks at the rate of 50,000 a week during the winter and twice that number in the summer season and near Arthington, the cuttings for the permanent railway have made some progress.

The grand viaduct over the Wharf at Castley will be commenced without delay and the ceremony of laying the foundation stone will be performed by the chairman in the presence of the directors of the company.

The blasting of the rocks in the shafts has already commenced and explosions, resembling the firing of artillery, are frequently heard in these once peaceful vallies. The least difficult part of the works, that between the entrance to the parish of Harewood and Thirsk, a distance of 28 miles, exclusive of the branches, has not yet been commenced; but preparations are making for obtaining the contracts and that part of the line will be completed long before the contracts from Leeds to Wescoe Hill. Two and a half years is the whole period estimated for completing the undertaking, according to which estimate, the whole line will be opened in the spring of 1848. That part of the line from Wscoe Hill to Thirsk is expected to be open in twelve or fourteen months. The length of the Wharf viaduct will be about 330 yards, a height of 75 feet from the bed of the river.

The excavators employed on the line are for the most part, strong and powerful men and their work is very laborious. We found that several of these men abstain from the use of strong liquors and that the persons who pursue this temperate course go through their work as well enjoy as good health and have more the appearance of long life than those who spend a considerable part of their wages in beer and spirits. The wages of workmen employed in this kind of labour vary from 20s. to 24s. a week and the persons employed as miners will earn 6s. a day. When the works are in full operation there will be from 2,000 to 3,000 men employed on the contracts between Wescoe Hill and the Leeds station. The complement is at present by no means complete, owing to the want of materials and the deficiency of accommodation for workmen and their families; but these impediments will soon be removed and as there is no deficiency of hands, the work will proceed with great spirit and dispatch.

Already the road from Leeds to Bramhope is crowded daily with carts employed in conveying brick, timber and working tools to the new railway.

We understand that Mr. Grainger, the engineer, was over the line on Saturday last and expressed his satisfaction at the progress of the works.

Oct 1845 Leeds Intelligencer. Valley of the Wharfe – It was thought that the beautiful valley of Wharfedale would escape the view of the engineer on account of the difficulties presented by the hills on both sides; but such is not to be the case, as very shortly the Leeds and York Company will commence making their line, which enters the valley through the Bramhope Tunnel, between Pool and Arthington, and proceeds thence across the river Wharfe. The projected Lancashire and Yorkshire North-eastern Company have surveyed and propose coming down the valley cid Otley to join the Leeds and Thirsk line near Arthington, thence eastward to York to join the York and Hull and the other railways which centre in that city. The Leeds and Bradford Valley Company have also surveyed and propose to; make a line from Shipley to Otley and Arthington; and last, although not least of these important undertakings, is the projected Leeds and Carlisle Railway. It is expected that very shortly the Leeds and Thirsk Company will announce their extensions in this neighbourhood.

10th Jan 1846 Railway News. Leeds and Thirsk. The works near Bramhope and Arthington, in the vicinity of Otley are rapidly progressing under the direction of Mr. Bray, the contractor. Several hundred men are actively employed in the first contract, which extends from Wescol Hill to Carr-bridge, a distance of about five miles and a half. Several of the working shafts for the Bramhope tunnel are nearly complete. The Cuttings for the permanent railway have made considerable progress. Owing to the want of accommodation for the workmen and their families, a number of cottages are being built near the line.

Bradford Observer 2nd April 1846

Wharfdale Viaduct of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway. – The ceremony of the laying of the first stone of this great work took place on Monday last, amidst an immense concourse of people, gathered from the vallies of the Aire and the Wharfe. The day was remarkably fine, and the proceedings were of a very animating character. From an early hour in the forenoon, the air resounded with martial music and the roar of cannon; and every road leading to the scene of this interesting ceremony continued to bring large numbers to the crowd. The nice little village of Bramhope too, – with its newly built wooden huts, presenting the appearance of a “new settlement” in an old and richly cultivated district and giving a “local habitation and a name” to scores of adventurers, who seek to supply the various wants of a new influx of strangers – gave up its crowd of railway labourers to add to the picturesque effect of the stirring scene. At one o’clock, a large procession, in which were the directors and other gentlemen with a goodly sprinkling of the gentler sex, started from Pool, with bands of music, and colours flying, and coming down to the river, the procession crossed over to the north side by means of a temporary wooden bridge. The stone was laid by H. C Marshall, Esq, the chairman of the company, who was presented with a silver trowel and beautiful mallet for the occasion. The stone being deposited and the ceremony over, the workmen were regaled with ale and edibles, and the directors and their friends, invited by the contractors, partook of a rich collation a the hospitable hotel of Mrs. Beanland, at Pool (the White Hart) We may add that the works on the Bramhope contract are proceeding most favorable, so much so that Mr. Bray calculates on being able to complete them six months sooner than the time specified in the contract. The strata found in the tunnel are easy; and to Mr Bray the stone will prove most valuable and profitable, affording sufficient to build nearly all the viaducts, bridges and mason work along the line.

Yorks Herald 4th April 1846. The ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the Wharfdale Viaduct of the Leeds and Thirsk railway, took place on Monday at the works near Arthington. The day was very find and nearly ten thousand persons were present. The company were enlivened by two bands of music and a plentiful supply of old English cheer. Henry Cowper Marshall esq. the chairman, performed the ceremony amidst the plaudits of the assembled multitude and the firing of cannon.

Mercury Serious accident. 2nd May 1846 On Monday, a serious accident befell an excavator, named Taylor, employed on the works of the Leeds and Thirsk railway at Kirskill. He was standing between two wagons coupling them together when some other wagons ran with great force against those he was coupling, pressing him between them, and lacerating his scalp severely. He is in as favorable state as can be expected.

Otley. Mercury 2nd May 1846 The town of Otley has lately been very much improved, in the expectation of a line of railway being brought to it. The old thatched houses are rapidly disappearing and giving way to modern ones of three stories high. The shopkeepers are taking down their old bow windows, and putting flat ones in their place. By far the best one of this kind is that of Messrs. S. & J. Waterhouse, of the Church gates, whose window is ten yards long. Should a line of railway be obtained, a great influx of visitors may be expected in the beautiful and romantic valley of the Wharfe; and Otley, with its pure air and water and splendid scenery, will no doubt obtain a full share of patronage.

Leeds Mercury – July 1846. Leeds and Thirsk Railway. A paragraph appeared in our last, on what appeared unexceptionable authority, in which Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Pullein, two very respectable gentlemen of Poole near Otley, were charged with having refused to allow the body of an unfortunate navigator, who had been employed on the above named railway to be buried in the church yard of that place, though he had died in the township. We are glad to be able to call attention to an explicit contradiction of the charge, which appears in a letter from Messrs. Payne, Eddison and Ford, solicitors of this town, inserted in our Supplement; and to find that the words “Disgraceful Affair”, with which we headed the original paragraph, are altogether unjustified by the real facts of the case. We regret that the columns of the Mercury should have contained a charge calculated to wound the feelings of the respectable parties, whose conduct appears to have been in the very matter in question, perfectly proper.

Leeds Mercury 15th July 1846 Dear Sirs, A paragraph appeared in the Mercury of Saturday last headed “Disgraceful Affair” having reference to the refusal to inter at Poole, George Thompson, a navigator from Thirsk, who was killed on the railway at Bramhope, is in the parish of Otley on the 2nd July inst.

On inquiry, we find that Thompson’s lodgings were in the township of Arthington and from the personal explanation of Mr. Nicholson of Poole, we are quite satisfied that there was no right to demand burial in Poole church yard. The reflections conveyed against Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Pullan (?Pullein) because they refused to allow Thompson to be buried at Poole, appear to have rested entirely upon the erroneous impression on the minds of Mr. Bray, the contractor, and Mr. Robson, one of his men, that Thompson’s lodgings were in Poole township. It appears that there are peculiar rights at Poole church, which we think quite justified Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Pullan in refusing to inter anyone who was not an inhabitant of that township and we very much regret that any such statement has appeared. We have known Mr. Nicholson for some years and we are quite satisfied that he is incapable of acting in any manner that could be considered unfeeling or unkind towards the relatives or friends of the deceased, especially when in connexion with so melancholy an accident.

Leeds Mercury 5th Sept. 1846 part of the report of the Directors of the Leeds and Thirsk railway “As the shareholders are aware operations were first commenced at the southern division of the line where the heaviest works occur. The sinking of the shafts in the Bramhope tunnel has come on almost without interruption; the masonry is now going on at three different parts of the tunnel; and excavation for the purpose of commencing the building is also going on at five other places. The embankment across the Wharfe makes rapid advances and the erection of the Wharfedale viaduct proceeds in a satisfactory manner. About two thousand men and three hundred horses are employed on this contract.”

York Herald Sept 1846 Engineers Report Bramhope contract – This contract extends from Carr – bridge to a point to the North side of Wescoe Hilll in the township of Weeton, being a distance of six miles. The principal works upon the railway are included in this contract. These consist of the tunnel under Bramhope Ridge, and the viaduct and other works on the vale of The Wharfe. Mr James Bray is also the contractor for third division of the line. Sixteen shafts are being put down, and several of them are sunk to the level of the tunnel and part of the tunnel itself formed. When these shafts are all completed the contractor will have it in his power to work from thirty two faces at the same time. The work is being carried on night and day and every exertion is made to have the works completed in the time specified. As respects the viaduct the North abutment is completed and the South abutment is about fifteen feet above the foundations. Five of the piers are completed to the level of the spring of the arch, and a considerable quantity of materials intended for the different parts of the work are upon the ground. One of the coffer dams for one of the two piers to be erected in the river Wharfe, has been completed. A considerable amount of stuff has also been laid out in the embankment. The drift-way of the short tunnel under Wescoe Hill has also been completed and the strata ascertained to be exceedingly favourable. The strata of the Bramhope tunnel is also favourable, so far as it has been ascertained, but the flow of water is more copious than was anticipated.

Some of the bridges are completed and others in a very advanced state, and upon the whole the works upon this division whether considered with reference to the progress made, or the quality of the work, is satisfactory to me and very creditable to Mr. Bray the contractor.

During the last month there were about 2000 workmen and 300 horses employed besides those employed on the line in providing and bringing forward materials

Leeds Mercury 5th Sept. 1846. Serious Accident On Wednesday a serious accident occurred on the works of the Leeds and Thirsk railway near Arthington, to a laborer named Jacob Smith, who we understand comes from the neighbourhood of Skipton. He was at work when a quantity of earth fell upon him fracturing one of this thighs and otherwise injuring him so severely that we was taken to the Leeds Infirmary the same day.

Leeds Mercury 31 st Oct. 1846 “We stated last week that a large additional supply of most excellent water might be had from the works of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway at Bramhope and suggested that powers should be obtained from Parliament to make this water which now runs to waste, available for the use of the inhabitants of this place. Since that time a resolution has been adopted to give public notice of an intended application to Parliament for the requisite powers to carry this object into effect.”

Bradford Observer Sept. 1848 The Wharfdale Viaduct is, we understand, nearly completed and a further portion of the line from Weeton to Poole it is expected will be opened in the course of two months. Since the opening of this line many of the Harrogate and Ripon coaches have ceased to run, and amongst the rest the old Telegraph after a campaign of 70 years.

Bradford Observer Dec. 1848 Of the Aire and Wharfdale viaducts: “These viaducts are admitted to be the most substantial pieces of masonry in the kingdom.”

Bradford Observer Dec. 1849 Accident on the Leeds and Thirsk Railway. An accident occurred yesterday forenoon to the 10.27 passenger train from Thirsk on the crown of the Wharfdale Viaduct and within a few hundred yards of the Poole Station (*now Arthington) It occurred thus: The 11a.m. train from Leeds was due at Poole at 11.30 . To allow it to pass a down luggage train was shunted on the “up” line ; and should have been immediately replaced on the ”down” line when the train from Leeds had gone by. While doing this, however, the engineer accidentally crushed his finger, and immediately left his post and ran to the station to get his wound tied up – leaving his train across the rails, half on one line and half on the other. The train from Thirsk was due in about five minutes; but at this instant, the sound of the approaching whistle was heard; every effort was employed to warn the driver of the danger ahead, but he observed none of the signals till within 100 yards of the luggage train. He then shut off his steam, but the momentum of his engine was not checked; on he went, smack into the luggage train.. The collision was witnessed by several persons present, who fully expected that the train would be thrown over the embankment. But happily the event proved less disastrous than expected. By the concussion, the first Goods carriage was forced up into the air and fell right on to the top of the engine, the others were thrown of the line. The passenger train was brought to a sudden stop but kept its place. It was only a short train and contained but six passengers, all of whom were more or less hurt but non of them seriously.

Thought: 10th Sept. 1880 Arthington. “ Venerable Villager. Christiania Clapham familiarly known in the village as “Old Crisy” still resides in a cleanly and very neatly ordered thatched cottage on the roadside between the railway arch and Arthington. She was 90 years of age last July.” She kept a lodging house for many of the navvies during the building of the Leeds/Thirsk railway line. (Wharfedale Observer.) She would carry two stones of flour on her head from Arthington Mill to her home declaring, “that’s not much”. She died aged 94, living in the same thatched cottage she had occupied all her life.

Laying foundation stone of Wharfedale Viaduct

Bradford and Wakefield Observer 21st Oct. 1847, Fall of an Arch at the Wharfdale Viaduct – Two Lives Lost

Considerable sensation was felt throughout Wharfdale on Tuesday morning last, owing to an alarm of several workmen having been killed by the fall of one of the arches of the Wharfdale viaduct of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway. The report as the fatality connected with the accident was, however somewhat exaggerated. The loss of life was not so great as was reported. Two young men only, named William Drake and James Verity fell a sacrifice.

The Wharfdale viaduct of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway is situate about a mile east of Pool and lies between Bramhope and the little village of Castley; the village of Arthington lying a short distance on the east of the viaduct. The valley at this point is a wide expanse; there being a distance of at least a mile and a half between the summit on the one side of the valley and that on the other The line of railway stretching from one side of the valley to the other is a high embankment nearly completed, meeting at each end of the extensive viaduct of 21 arches, in the lowest point of the valley. Workmen are busy at the “tip” of each embankment, which rises perhaps 50 feet and on each also a locomotive engine continually plies on the rails bringing from behind the distant hills on either side long wagon trains of ballast with which to fill up the short spaces between the ends of the embankment and the viaduct. The viaduct, as we have said, consists of 21 arches of various heights. Six on the south side or on the side nearest Bramhope, are already completed; the “centres” or supporters having been removed from three, the other three having, although just finished, the centres beneath them. Centres have also been placed beneath other three arches – Nos. 7, 8, 9, and the seventh arch was in the process of being quioned on Tuesday morning last, when it fell. Only a few stones had been placed on the 8th and 9th arches. The piers of the remaining twelve arches are all complete, but stand without centres; in fact, the mode seems to be to remove one at a time, three centres which have been standing during the time, other three arches have been completing, to the alternate three tiers or archways, and accordingly the centres beneath arches 7,8 and 9, have been recently removed from the first three arches; the next three keeping their centres till Nos. 7,8 and 9 are also finished. The 5th, 6th and 7th arches across the Wharfe, their piers rising from its bed, with a span of 60 feet and at the height of 70 feet above the surface of the water.

The 7th arch, which is 30 feet in width, was in process of being quoined on Tuesday morning. The key-stones had been applied to about 20 feet of arch, the mortar had been spread for the remaining 10 feet of key-stone, which had been first tried in the bed and found to fit the place for which it was designed. Some ten or twelve men were engaged on the top of the arch. This was a little before eleven o’clock. At this moment, however, a loud crash, as if from the breaking of timber was heard and in a moment Mr. Armytage Fairburn, the superintendent of the workmen, quickly ordered the men to flee for safety. The destruction, however was instantaneous; and before the bulk of the workmen could clamber from the archway, the centre beams gave way with a loud and terrible crash, and both the timber and the greater portion of the arch fell into the bed of the river. Two of the workmen, James Verity and Wiliam Drake, fell down with the stones and timber; one being at the top of the arch and the other on the “Golliah”, below the arch. The poor fellows were, at a short distance, observed falling with outspread arms to instant death.

Verity fell on his head against a large stone in the bed of the river and Drake fell, almost buried beneath stones and timber. When taken up, the leg of Verity was severed from his body; and the head of Drake was smashed to atoms. What was exceedingly remarkable is that the side of the arch which had been quioned alone fell, the other, the unquioned portion of it, a very narrow strip, remaining to span the way in a rude, broken and rickety condition! From that cracked and narrow archway, was left suspended one side of the “Golliah” a sort of ladder by which the workmen decended from the top to the gantry, or scaffolding beneath – and two workmen named Stephen Smith and James Murphy, were on the Golliah at the moment the other side of the arch fell. The poor fellows escaped from their perilous position in tremor and consternation that can be well imagined; proceeding up the ladder and across the remnant of the arch: The piece of the arch remaining is on the east side. The fear at the moment was that the arches adjoining were falling; but the rest, with their piers, happily remained in a firm position. They did not seem to have sustained any injury by the accident.

The loud and terrible crash was heard at a great distance and in the few minutes the temporary bridge over the river and beneath the fallen arch, was crowded with a large number of people and, during the day as report of the event spread, the numbers visited the site from various parts of the hills and the valley.

The bodies were, during the afternoon, removed to the house of Mr. Samuel Rhodes of the Malt Shovel, Castley. Verity was first removed for he was more readily obtained than Drake, who was partly covered with stone and timber. Both Verity and Drake are single men; the first being 22 years of age and a native of Otlley, the second being 21 and a native of Castley. The parents of both are living. The subcontractors under Mr. James Bray on this part of the line, Messrs. Garside and Parker, evince deep sympathy for the friends of the unfortunate men.

Workmen were yesterday employed in removing the stones and broken rafters from the bed of the river and little knots of people continued to arrive during the morning for the purpose of inspecting this scene of affecting fatility.

The inquest will be held at ten o’clock this morning before Mr. Brown Coroner of Skipton, at the Malt Shovel Inn, at Castley.

1848 Dec. The final “Topping” stone was laid.

1848 July Last arch keyed in.

Arthington tunnel workers c. 1927