Ivybridge Viaduct

Ivybridge Viaduct

The construction of the South Devon Railway was granted by an Act of Parliament in 1844. The last 21¼ mile stretch linking Totnes with Plymouth required the building of five substantial viaducts designed by the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806 – 1859). A newspaper article from 10 May 1848 reporting the official opening of the line, describes the spectacle marvelled by the first travelling passengers.

The portion of the South Devon Railway between Plymouth and Totnes is remarkable for its viaducts, the first from Plymouth is the Slade Viaduct, which is a truly magnificent structure, being in some parts upwards of 100 feet from the earth. The prospect presented at this point of the line is of the most enchanting description, on either side of the viaduct, stretches a valley of indescribable beauty, the distance being terminated with verdure-clad hills. At no great distance from Slade, the Moor Cross Blatchford viaduct, which like the former, is a fine structure. Leaving the lovely valleys behind, the train passes through a deep cutting to the Ivybridge station. This station is at present being built, as is also the case with that at Colebroke and Plympton. The town of Ivybridge is seen at the distance of about a mile on the south of the railway. Ivybridge viaduct is then approached, by this the railway is carried over the vale through which the river Erme runs. The centre piers of this stupendous piece of masonry are upwards of 100ft. in height, built of massive granite blocks, the girders being of wood and iron, over this as well as the other viaducts the train passed without the least perceptible vibratory motion. The scene here is more grand and picturesque, by reason of the proximity of the Dartmoor district, than the Slade viaduct. Crossing the Exeter and Plymouth Turnpike-road, near Bittaford Bridge by a fine skew bridge, on to the Wrangerton height at which place there is a station being erected, and then near Brent village and church, where there is another station being built, and thence across a fine piece of open country to the precincts of Marley the demesne of the Carews, at present occupied by the esteemed Lady Carew.

The Ivybridge Viaduct was the highest of the five at just over 104 feet with eleven bays covering a distance of 252 yards. The piers were built from local surface granite with a timber trestle superstructure which was strengthened with wrought iron girders 20 years after construction.

 

Built as a broad gauge railway, the line was converted for standard gauge in 1892 following a merger between South Devon Railway and Great Western Railway on 1st February 1876. The line originally had just a single track but was doubled to the west on 11 June 1893 and from the far side of the viaduct to the east on 13 August 1893. Sir James Inglis, the General Manager and Consulting Engineer of the Great Western Railway, designed a second viaduct for the South Devon Railway built of rock-faced granite and blue engineering bricks which allowed the two separate double-track sections to be joined up.

Messrs S Pearson and Sons of Victoria St, Westminster were contracted by Great Western Railway to undertake the practical reconstruction and doubling of the main line between Rattery and Hemerdon. The design for the new viaduct was to use granite for the arches but owing to a local mason’s strike, with grievances over piecework and the use of externally sourced dressed stone, the contractors had to resort to using bricks.

 

A number of Irish stonemasons came to Ivybridge at this time to help complete the vast undertaking.

Navvies in Ivybridge

The task of building the viaduct in Ivybridge was both labour intensive and hazardous. The name for workmen constructing the railway network across Britain was “navvies”. The word is derived from the word ‘navigator’, a description of the men who built the first navigation canals in the eighteenth century. Many at the time were fleeing famine in Ireland and travelled from job to job often living in appalling conditions in so-called shanty towns located alongside the bridges, tunnel and cuttings they built. However, as railways were a vital component of the Industrial Revolution, the work of these men was considered crucial and so they were well paid, at least compared to factory workers. Unfortunately they had a reputation of hard living, fighting and drinking heavily, which for respectable Victorians, brought considerable concern, with many towns fearing the arrival of the navvies!

Newspaper reports at the time estimated that there were around 400 men engaged locally in the double tracking of The Great Western railway during the early 1890s (within an area of 10 miles). This large influx of navvies prompted the local clergy to provide a ‘Navvy Mission Room’ to cater for their moral and spiritual welfare. Due to the very nature of their work these men were regarded as an isolated class so having a meeting place was beneficial. Church services were regularly provided as well as temperance meetings (which encouraged the consumption of alcohol in moderation or total abstinence) and other activities which focussed on the general welfare of the men and their families. The Navvy Mission Room in Ivybridge was located opposite the parish church and during the Great Blizzard of 1891 suffered extensive damage to the roof which was later repaired thanks to the generosity of the contractors of the railway. This mission room was later rebuilt as the first church hall in 1905.

The new Ivybridge viaduct was brought into use in 1894. It was on a different alignment which forced the construction of a new westbound (down) platform further back from the old line. The eastbound (up) platform was widened and this left the building set back at an odd angle to the track. Six of the surviving granite piers of the earlier Brunel viaduct can still be seen.

 

The present Inglis Viaduct and the remaining six adjacent piers of the original Brunel construction were Grade II listed in 1984.

The new Ivybridge viaduct was brought into use in 1894. It was on a different alignment which forced the construction of a new westbound (down) platform further back from the old line. The eastbound (up) platform was widened and this left the building set back at an odd angle to the track. Six of the surviving granite piers of the earlier Brunel viaduct can still be seen.

 

The present Inglis Viaduct and the remaining six adjacent piers of the original Brunel construction were Grade II listed in 1984.

IVYBRIDGE VIADUCT

The construction of the South Devon Railway was granted by an Act of Parliament in 1844. The last 21¼ mile stretch linking Totnes with Plymouth required the building of five substantial viaducts designed by the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806 – 1859). A newspaper article from 10 May 1848 reporting the official opening of the line, describes the spectacle which was marvelled by the first travelling passengers.
The portion of the South Devon Railway between Plymouth and Totnes is remarkable for its viaducts, the first from Plymouth is the Slade Viaduct, which is a truly magnificent structure, being in some parts upwards of 100 feet from the earth. The prospect presented at this point of the line is of the most enchanting description, on either side of the viaduct, stretches a valley of indescribable beauty, the distance being terminated with verdure-clad hills. At no great distance from Slade, the Moor Cross Blatchford viaduct, which like the former, is a fine structure. Leaving the lovely valleys behind, the train passes through a deep cutting to the Ivybridge station. This station is at present being built, as is also the case with that at Colebroke and Plympton. The town of Ivybridge is seen at the distance of about a mile on the south of the railway. Ivybridge viaduct is then approached, by this the railway is carried over the vale through which the river Erme runs. The centre piers of this stupendous piece of masonry are upwards of 100ft. in height, built of massive granite blocks, the girders being of wood and iron, over this as well as the other viaducts the train passed without the least perceptible vibratory motion. The scene here is more grand and picturesque, by reason of the proximity of the Dartmoor district, than the Slade viaduct. Crossing the Exeter and Plymouth Turnpike-road, near Bittaford Bridge by a fine skew bridge, on to the Wrangerton height at which place there is a station being erected, and then near Brent village and church, where there is another station being built, and thence across a fine piece of open country to the precincts of Marley the demesne of the Carews, at present occupied by the esteemed Lady Carew.
The Ivybridge Viaduct was the highest of the five at just over 104 feet with eleven bays covering a distance of 252 yards. The piers were originally built from local surface granite with a timber trestle superstructure which was strengthened with wrought iron girders 20 years after construction.
Built as a broad gauge railway, the line was converted for standard gauge in 1892 following a merger between South Devon Railway and Great Western Railway on 1st February 1876. The line originally had just a single track but was doubled to the west on 11 June 1893 and from the far side of the viaduct to the east on 13 August 1893. Sir James Inglis, the General Manager and Consulting Engineer of the Great Western Railway, designed a second viaduct for the South Devon Railway built of rock-faced granite and blue engineering bricks which allowed the two separate double-track sections to be joined up.
 Messrs S Pearson and Sons of Victoria St, Westminster were contracted by Great Western Railway to undertake the practical reconstruction and doubling of the main line between Rattery and Hemerdon. The design for the new viaduct was to use granite for the arches but owing to a local mason’s strike, with grievances over piecework and the use of externally sourced dressed stone, the contractors had to resort to using bricks. A number of Irish stonemasons came to Ivybridge at this time to help complete the vast undertaking.
The new Ivybridge viaduct was brought into use in 1894. It was on a different alignment which forced the construction of a new westbound (down) platform further back from the old line. The eastbound (up) platform was widened and this left the building set back at an odd angle to the track. Six of the surviving granite piers of the earlier Brunel viaduct can still be seen.
The present Inglis Viaduct and the remaining six adjacent piers of the original Brunel construction were Grade II listed in 1984.