Pensford Viaduct

Pensford Viaduct

Opened in 1873 to carry the Bristol & North Somerset Railway over the valley of the River Chew, the striking viaduct at Pensford comprises six discrete sections: four arches extend from the abutment, followed by a smaller arch, then a series of three arches and a king pier. This arrangement is mirrored to reach the other abutment, forming the complete 16-arch structure. 332 yards in length, rail level reaches a maximum height of 95 feet.

Built from local stone but with brick soffits to the arches, the viaduct features tall, tapering piers, with those flanking the smaller arches being thicker and panelled. Later repairs have been carried out in concrete, although sympathetically dressed to resemble masonry.

The last passenger train had headed northwards over the deck on 31st October 1959, after which it was used only for goods. That traffic mostly ceased in 1964, leaving only occasional excursions. The line was officially closed on 15th July 1968, just days after flooding hit Pensford, weakening the structure.

Since September 1984, Pensford Viaduct has been Grade II listed. It was offered for sale for £1, together with a maintenance grant of £70,000, but the associated liabilities meant there were no takers. The structure therefore remains part of BRB(R)’s ‘burdensome estate’, (structure number FNS3/17m 4ch) with the Board having carried out renovation work in 2003 to improve the deck and its associated drainage.

(William Avery’s photo is taken from Wikipedia and used under this Creative Commons licence.)

April 2012