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Harringworth Viaduct to feature on new UKTV programme for Yesterday called The Architecture The Railways Built

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The history of Harringworth Viaduct and its effects on neighbouring villages will be explored in a new television programme.

The Architecture The Railways Built will be screened on UKTV channel Yesterday at 8pm on Tuesday (March 23) and will feature the iconic viaduct, as well as Catesby Tunnel, near to Daventry.

Barrowden man John Hillier, a keen photographer, has spent many years interested in the viaduct and was asked to be a part of the filming.

Harringworth Viaduct. Photo: John Hillier
Harringworth Viaduct. Photo: John Hillier

He met with programme makers in late October for a rainy day of filming but admits he is not looking forward to seeing himself on air.

John has been fascinated by the Grade II listed viaduct since he moved to Barrowden in 1992 and has photographed it many times.

“Although I have an interest in railways, I knew nothing about the viaduct until I first drove down the A47 when we moved here,” recalls John.

Harringworth Viaduct. Photo: John Hillier (45205563)
Harringworth Viaduct. Photo: John Hillier (45205563)

And although it is frequently photographed by passers-by, even those with no interest in the railways, it has never become boring for John.

“There is always something new to discover,” said John, a former chairman of Stamford Camera Club.

“There are so many different places you can photograph it and, with different weathers, it always looks interesting. Only recently I discovered a new vantage point.”

Towering 60ft over Harringworth, the viaduct is visible from several villages and hamlets as it spans 1,275 yards across the valley. The structure has 82 arches, each 40ft wide.

An Act of Parliament in 1874 authorised its construction, a necessary element of the plan by the Midland Railway to link Kettering with Manton, providing a route from London north to Nottingham, Leeds and, after crossing the famous viaduct at Ribbleheadin North Yorkshire – a mere 440 yards long with just 24 spans –then on to Scotland.

Harringworth Viaduct. Photo: John Hillier (45205549)
Harringworth Viaduct. Photo: John Hillier (45205549)

Designed by William Henry Barlow, work began in 1876 and although work was completed in 1878, the line to Manton didn’t open until March 1880.

Some of those who worked on building the viaduct, known as navvies, lived in shanty towns built along the route and one of these huts is still in Glaston.

The accident rate was high and many people were killed. Although most were buried in unmarked graves that of Alfred Clarke Smith, killed in April 1877 when his horse bolted during the construction of Glaston Tunnel, can be found in the churchyard at Seaton.

Regular long-distance passenger traffic ended in 1967 and the viaduct was then rarely used apart from by steel trains from South Wales to Corby.

In recent times, thanks to the upgrading of the route to carry faster and heavier trains, regular passenger trains cross the viaduct once again with East Midlands Railway services to London and Nottingham. Freight traffic has returned.

John said: “ There are quite long gaps between trains and patience is needed if you want to see a train cross. For those lucky enough to travel over the viaduct there are impressive views along the Welland Valley in both directions.”

He said that what can notbe seen from the viaduct are the area’s heritage secrets.

Around 1828 Thomas Cook (1808 – 1892) began his missionary work in nearby Barrowden. He married Marianne Mason who lived in the village at St Peter’s Church in 1833.

The village plans to recognise its most famous resident and its connections with the world-famous travel pioneer with an information board on the village green.

The Welland Valley Rail Partnership has proposed building a new link between the Kettering to Manton line with that between Oakham and Stamford. The aim is to improve the east-west rail connectivity and, as the line between Corby and south to London has been electrified, there are prospects of even more regular traffic over the viaduct.

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