The magnificent Victorian brickbuilt viaduct that crosses the River Stour at Stambermill, near Stourbridge, is undergoing repairs to one of its piers.
We are grateful to the Amblecote History Society, in particular Mike Perkins, editor of the Society’s newsletter and member Geoff Longmore, who brought this to our attention The company charged with the work is AMCO Rail (Amalgamated Construction), who provide a diverse range of specialist construction and engineering services.
For those in the Black Country who admire the engineering skills and building techniques of our Victorian ancestors, plus architecture on a grand scale, then the work being carried out on the viaduct is of vital importance.
AMCO Rail weren’t available to speak to us directly about the contract, but Mike Perkins did glean the following information after a recent visit to the site.
He reported: “On the 27th August work commenced on a six-week refurbishment of the brickwork on the Stambermill Viaduct.
“It began with the laying of metal sheets on the grass leading up to the building for the works vehicles to drive over and the erection of yards of mesh fencing to keep the public safe.
“One of those on site explained why there was a need for diggers, etc., if maintaining the brickwork was the main objective.
“He said that the River Stour was being Underneath the arches..
..Vital repairs begin on a Victorian viaduct masterpiece dammed and diverted to allow the brickwork at the base of one of the piers to be repaired or replaced if necessary.
“The pier nearest the Stour was obviously giving cause for concern, so it’s this refurbishment that will take the six weeks and not on the whole viaduct. You can only imagine how long it would have taken to do that!” To our Victorian ancestors the Stambermill viaduct must have been one of the architectural wonders of the world.
But the one we see today wasn’t the first to cross the River Stour at this point.
It was the new railway line operated in the early 1850s by the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway, that needed a viaduct so that trains could progress north from Stourbridge, and who better than the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel to be called upon to design and engineer the construction.
He first built stone piers across the valley and then placed a wooden viaduct over the top. It was opened in 1850, and there is still a tantalising glimpse of Brunel’s work in the brick abutment that stands alongside the new viaduct.
Then in March 1852 Brunel resigned from his post and John Fowler was appointed resident engineer on the OWWR .
In the Amblecote History Society Newsletter Geoff Longmore said: “Con- By John Workman struction of the new Stambermill Viaduct to replace the wooden structure was begun by Messrs. Kellet & Bently in September 1881, and took until May 10, 1882, to complete, costing £13,835. Passenger traffic was eventually withdrawn on July 30, 1962.” Awesome Standing underneath one of Stambermill’s ten arches is an awesome experience, and apart from the current work being undertaken, the blue bricks, all 4 million of them, look to be in good stead.
But that couldn’t be said of the old wooden structure which came under scrutiny as early as 1858, as Geoff Longmore explained.
“In the London Gazette of November 23, 1858, the OWWR proposed a multipurpose Parliamentary bill which included asking for powers to get rid of four timber viaducts, Coalbourn, Churchill and Kidderminster (Hoobrook), as well as the one at Stambermill, and replace them in the best way they thought suitable.
“Luckily Hoobrook, Churchill and Stambermill were all locations where it was possible to build a new masonry or brick viaduct close to the existing one without the need to close the railway for long periods of time.
“After completing the new build, the track at each end would be diverted on to the new structure and the old viaduct removed. But it would take nearly 25 years before these new structures would be opened for the railway to use.
“Thankfully three of the four ‘new’ viaducts still exist, Stambermill being the second longest at 190 yards, and they are a tangible reminder of our railway heritage and of the pioneers of engineering and architecture who had to negotiate many barriers to get the Black Country on the move.”
Did you ever travel on a train across this viaduct? What were your memories? Email us at editor@blackcountrybugle .co.uk or log on to www.black countrybugle.co.uk or write to us at 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.