Whitacre Mill (Deighton) Viaduct

Whitacre Mill (Deighton) Viaduct

Opened by the London & North Western Railway on 7th October 1867, the 4½-mile branch connecting Deighton with Kirkburton was built with the intention of it forming part of a through route to the Barnsley coalfield, but this was thwarted by the withdrawal of other proposed lines. As a result, although sufficient land was acquired for two, only one running line was laid.

The branch mostly handled goods traffic; passenger services lasted only until July 1930. Most of the line was closed on 5th April 1965, the exception being a mile-long spur to the British Dyes chemical works where sidings were provided. This saw its last train on 1st February 1971 and was declared non-operational in December.

Work on the branch got underway in March 1865. The principal engineering features were two viaducts – one of six arches over Beldon Brook and another crossing the Huddersfield Broad Canal, a drain and the River Colne at Deighton. Built on a curve of 22 chains radius, the latter consists of seven arches, each spanning 64 feet and with a rise of 21 feet 4 inches. End to end, it extends for about 177 yards.

By the middle of February 1866, four of the arches were close to completion, the timber centring having been removed from the two most northerly spans eight weeks earlier. A slight subsidence was subsequently noticed in span 2 but this was not thought to be serious. However, at around 2 o’clock on the morning of Thursday 15th February, wet weather and frost caused it to collapse, bringing down with it the adjacent arch over the canal. Sixty men were set to work clearing away the debris, the cost of the damage estimated at more than £600. The 12-foot high pier supporting the third arch remained firm but was propped with timber beams as a precaution.

Messrs Eckersley & Bayliss acted as the branch’s main contractor although the viaduct construction was sub-let to Messrs Sigley, Miles & Haynes. Its predominant material is blue engineering brick although the arch faces appear red or yellow. Above the piers, measuring 8 feet 6 inches wide, are stone imposts from which the arches spring. The parapets feature masonry copings; no provision is made within them for trackworker refuges. The deck is 24 feet wide, tapering outwards slightly at its south end.

Identified as structure KBN/3, the viaduct was the focus of extensive remedial works in 2001, carried out by its owner British Railways Board (Residuary). In October 2007, a Kirklees Council study identified the structure as forming part of a possible greenway between Kirkheaton and Leeds Road at Deighton, but this has not yet been progressed.

March 2013