Brockley Whins, South Tyneside
Brockley Whins, Railway Bridge
29 Aug 2023
Brockley Whins, South Tyneside
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This remarkable relic dates from the earliest passenger railways.
The stone abutments on each side are nearly 200 years old, which makes it one of the earliest surviving railway structures in the region. The old railway bridge was a vital asset for the Stanhope & Tyne, allowing access to the coal staiths at South Shields over the River Don from County Durham. The line opened in the 1830s, around the same time the line from Washington met Brockley Whins, which was the first railway to provide full uninterrupted access from London. From its outset around 1833 the intention was to utilise a set of staiths at South Shields for easy transportation of coal from the mines in County Durham. Much of the work was done with horses and inclines with stationary engines.
The original bridge will have been made of timber, with the ironwork a more modern rejuvenation of the bridge. Only the stone abutments survive from its earliest days.
Passenger provision was also provided - From April 1835, passengers were carried from South Shields to the corner of Lambton Park. It was free if you travelled in a coal waggon, but small passenger carriages were later hitched to scheduled coal runnings.
The line continued providing access to coal and later iron from the works at Consett. Operations continued into the 80s, utilising a flat crossing which are extremely rare nowadays.
The legacy does live on with this line - the Haway 50 bus from South Shields to Durham effectively follows the same route, which to me effectively explains why it was silly to close it.
If you want to learn more about the Stanhope & Tyne, you can read Rob Langham's
teaser piece on our website - https://northeastheritagelibrary.co.uk/amp/the-stanhope-tyne-railway-a-brief-history
And check out his book on the whole line: https://amberley-books.com/the-stanhope-tyne-railroad-company.html
Listing Description (if available)
Both maps above illustrate the immediate area from the 1860s until the 1890s. It was the spine of early railway workings south of the Tyne. The spur angling west from the south was the "first" East Coast Main Line, with trains making their way here from Darlington and Washington to reach Gateshead and latterly Newcastle. In fact, Queen Victoria will have used this line to open the High Level Bridge and formally be the first service to do so. The lines from west to north and the line east still exist as the freight line to Tyne Dock and the Newcastle to Sunderland Metro/Railway line.
This of course too was the days before the suburban sprawl of Biddick Hall and Boldon. Brockley Whins station served as an interchange for trains between Washington, Sunderland, Newcastle and South Shields with only a mill and farmsteads in the immediate vicinity.
Developments were still yet to reach the railway by the 1920s, with houses built here a few decades later post-war. Interesting, a shaft is illustrated here which may have been ventilation for nearby Boldon Colliery. The mill was still in situ albeit disused. The spur from the South Shields to Sunderland line was also yet to be constructed.
The graceful stone abutments of the original bridge can be seen here on the north side of the bridge.
This aerial shot from 2023 provides a decent insight into the operations of the bridge. It met the existing railway line via a flat crossing - an engineering pain but still a vital link at this time.
An iron ore service to Consett can be seen about to meet the railway bridge over the flat crossing. Brockley Whins railway station can be seen in the distance. Source: Boldon Colliery Heritage Group