Heritage Locations

Sankey Viaduct

World's oldest major railway viaduct still in operation, listed Grade I.

George Stephenson

Period of construction:
1800 - 1849

Transport Trust plaque:

Transport Mode:

Earlstown Station, Newton le Willows WA12 9AU

WA12 9AU

Nearest Town:
Newton le Willows

Heritage Centre:

The Sankey Viaduct was built between 1828 and 1830 by George Stephenson for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway Company to enable the railway to cross the line of the Sankey Canal with sufficient clearance for the Mersey flats, the sailing vessels for which the canal was constructed.

It is the earliest major railway viaduct in the world still in operation, constructed from yellow and ginger sandstone and red brick, with nine round-arched spandrels on sharply-battered piers. It is 183 m long, its arches are of 15 m(50 ft) span, and 21 m (70 ft) high. (But see Laigh Milton for the unqualified earliest).

The Sankey Canal was built principally to transport coal from the Lancashire Coalfield mines to the growing chemical industries of Liverpool, though iron ore and corn were also important commodities. These industries rapidly expanded, and spread back along the line of the Canal to St Helens, Earlestown, and Widnes, which were small villages until this period. The Sankey Canal was thus an important factor in the industrial growth of the region.


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Opening Times:
Visible at all times from a public footpath.

How To Find:
By Road: South west of Newton on the A572, turn south onto Wharf Road. A turning to the right, Bradley Lane, leads to a small car park from which a footpath heads northward under the viaduct. It follows the course of the now dried up canal.


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