Victoria Viaduct, at first (and sometimes still) called "Victoria Bridge," Sunderland. This Grade II* listed structure crosses the Wear Valley near Washington, Co. Durham, and is notable for having the second-widest conventional arch span in Britain (160 ft, 48 m). The listing text describes it as follows: "Rusticated sandstone. 4 main arches, the most southerly spanning the Wear, and 3 minor at each end: main spans 100', 160', 144' and 100'; height from foundations to top of parapet, 156'6". Arches have voussoirs and bands; impost blocks to the minor arches. 3 semi-circular buttresses continue as refuges in the parapet. Massive coping to plinths of cutwaters."

Note that the sequence of arch-widths may be reversed in the photo above, which was taken (if memory serves correctly) looking downriver, with south on the right-hand side. The listing text seems to be wrong about where the Wear flows: it flows through the second-most-southerly arch, as the photograph below shows more clearly.

The bridge/viaduct was designed by the Scottish civil engineer James Walker (1781-1862), under the supervision of Thomas Elliot Harrison for the Durham Junction Railway, and, interestingly, was based upon the Roman bridge at Alcántara, Spain. Started in 1836, it was officially opened on the day of Queen Victoria's coronation, 28 June 1838, but actually opened to trains in 1839, carrying the then London–Newcastle line over the River until 1868, when the line was rerouted via Durham.

These pictures were taken in 1990, after the bridge had undergone extensive renovation, and was still carrying goods traffic on the Leamside Line. But it closed the following year when the freight terminal at Follingsby closed. At present, Grace's Guide describes it as "mothballed": it may re-open.

Photograph by Colin Price and commentary by Price and Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or to the Victorian Web in a print document. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]


"James Walker." Grace's Guide. Web. 4 April 2022.

"Victoria Railway Bridge, Houghton-le-Spring." Historic England. Web. 4 April 2022.

"Victoria Viaduct." Grace's Guide. Web. 4 April 2022.

Created 4 April 2022