Digswell viaduct

Photographs by Bill Martin

By Llinos Thomas

Digswell Viaduct
Bill Martin
Digswell viaduct
Bill Martin

Bridge Over Troubled Water

The Welwyn Viaduct, also called Digswell Viaduct, carries the East Coast Line Railway over the River Mimram. Designed by William Cubbit, it was originally opened by Queen Victoria, 6 August 1850 who was said to be so frightened of the height she refused to travel across the viaduct.

The viaduct is around 1,560ft (475m) long and comprises forty arches of 30ft (9.1m) span, and is 100ft (30m) high.

More photographs by Bill Martin can be found on Flickr.

This page was added on 02/07/2009.

Comments about this page

  • I see this and thought it was great piece of engineering fabulous im 81 now and ive told my grandaughter chelsie smith about it sorry my eyes are failing ron smith thanks for the memory fantastic it was shown to me by my boss and friend h walker of walker brothers clvil engineers

    By Ron smith (29/07/2019)
  • This may indeed be an oft-repeated railway legend. There are numerous newspaper accounts of the opening of the London to Peterborough section of the Great Northern Railway, which took place on 6 August 1850. The line ran from Regent’s Canal to Peterborough and had been passed fit by a Government Inspector a few days previously. However, Queen Victoria did not open this section of railway, the inaugural travellers were a party of 400 gentlemen in 17 carriages. The train left London at 9:00am and stopped at Welwyn allowing the passengers to disembark and ‘view the magnificent viaduct by which the railway there crossed the valley’. The party arrived in Peterborough around 1:00pm where they enjoyed a meal at the Crown Hotel. The Chairman of the Great Northern Railway Company proposed a toast to the health of the Queen, Prince Albert and the Royal Family and ‘expressed the hope that they would one day honour the Great Northern Railway by travelling on it’. A year later, Queen Victoria and her family did travel on the line en-route to Balmoral; in carriages specially made for the occasion. She left from the newly built Kings Cross station at 2pm and reached Hitchin at 2:43 pm where the train stopped for water. The Royal Progress to Balmoral was reported in national and local newspapers, with accounts of decorated stations, children waving by the trackside, short receptions and overnight stops. It seems unlikely therefore that she disembarked or refused to cross the viaduct if she made it to Hitchin in 43 minutes. In their 1986 book Welwyn’s Railways, Gladwin, Neville and White mention the story, but not its source; and also think it unlikely. If there was an official opening ceremony, or perhaps a topping out ceremony for the viaduct, it may have enjoyed Royal patronage, Sources: ‘Railway Intelligence’, The Times, 6 Aug 1850, p.5; ‘The Royal Progress To Scotland’ The Times, 28 Aug 1851, p.4; Gladwin, Neville and White, Welwyn’s Railways, (1986), pp.37-38

    By Karen Rothery (12/11/2013)
  • Among the myths and legend about Welwyn Viaduct is the behaviour of Queen Victoris when she opened Welwyn Viaduct on 6th August 1850. According to her diary she was in Osbourne at the time. Is there a proper refernce for the information? Tony

    By tony rook (26/10/2013)
  • I think you will find that the designer of the viaduct was Lewis Cubitt (1799-1883) brother of William Cubitt who was also the architect of King’s Cross station. (ref. e.g. Welwyn’s Railways, Gladwin, Neville & White 1986)

    By Allan Lupton (08/02/2012)
  • When Queen Victoria came to open the Viaduct, her journey terminated at Hatfield and she probably came on by carriage. There was a Royal Waiting Room specifically for Queen Victoria at the Hatfield Railway Station, directly opposite Hatfield House main gateway. The building was still in use by the railway authorities until the 1960’s but has since been demolished.

    By Don Spicer (20/03/2010)

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