Wooden viaduct, Wickham Bishops

Tucked in a secluded spot by the golf course, an old wooden viaduct stretches across the River Blackwater near the village of Wickham Bishops.  It’s special: there are no other surviving wooden viaducts in the country, all others long since demolished or remade with more durable building materials.  In Victorian times, wood was the construction material of choice; indeed Brunel himself built similar structures in the West Country.

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This particular trestle viaduct, thought to have been built by engineer Thomas Jackson, used to carry the old Maldon to Witham railway, a small branch line long since closed, a victim of Beeching’s cuts in 1964.  Built between 1845 and 1847, it was to supply Maldon Docks with products from its agricultural hinterland, but business didn’t boom and demand from the docks didn’t expand as expected.  Nevertheless, passenger traffic was sufficient to warrant around ten trains a day in the mid-20th century.

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The viaduct is now a scheduled ancient monument and was restored by English Heritage in 1995 using Lottery funding.  Once a double track viaduct, it was reduced to single track soon after its construction to facilitate the creation of a raised embankment alongside the river which once separated the Blackwater from a mill stream serving a watermill.  The mill was knocked down in 1977.

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