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Wearmouth Railway Bridge

Last Updated:

29 Aug 2023


This is a


54.909830, -1.383480

Founded in 


Current status is


Designer (if known):

Thomas Harrison


Grade II listed

I love the Wearmouth Railway Bridge. It’s one of a few iron truss bridges in the world with these Vierendeel style rectangular frames. It makes for a really pleasing design and sets it apart from others in the region.

It was built by Hawks Crawshay in 1879 - one of the biggest iron works in the country with a large works in Gateshead. They built the High Level Bridge too. It was envisioned to link the Brandling Junction Railway, which previously terminated at Monkwearmouth Station, to a brand new through station in the middle of Sunderland.

The Brandling Junction had essentially 3 termini Gateshead, Tanfield, South Shields and Wearmouth in in the 1840s, though later spread. It was the first real "network" on Tyneside, and ambitions were sought to link with the railways that went south of Sunderland towards the growing ports of Hartlepool and Middlesbrough. This crossing created the first north-south link on the North Sea coast, though the Durham Junction Railway had already crossed the Wear at Washington.

It was designed by T E Harrison, a railwayman through and through. He was the chief engineer of the Newcastle & Berwick and later became the same for the North Eastern Railway - making him one of the most influential fellas in the industry at this point.

Though from Fulham, he moved to Sunderland as a young child and eventually joined the rafts of others in the shipbuilding business. His skills in engineering brought him on to meeting the Stephenson’s and becoming their counterpart.

Other notable works he designed include the Tyne Dock, York Railway Station and Selby Swing Bridge.

Listing Description (if available)

Railway bridge and viaduct to north. 1879. For Monkwearmouth Junction Railway of North Eastern Railway Company. Engineer Thomas Harrison. Wrought-iron arch, rock-faced abutments with ashlar dressings. Girder deck and bow-string arch with girder ties braced by pierced plates graduating from circles to tall ovals. Piers arch-pierced with plinths and top bands below square ashlar rail-bed piers with plinths, top bands and chamfered coping. Abutments and viaduct of rock-faced stone have high accommodation arches over Sheepfolds Road and Easington Street with voussoirs, and flat-coped ashlar parapets. Built to link former Brandling Junction Railway line terminus at Monkwearmouth Station with a new Central Station in Sunderland; the first through line between Newcastle and Sunderland. Said to be `the largest hog-back iron girder bridge in the world' when built. The railway bridge and viaduct to north is linked with Monkwearmouth Station (qv). Listing NGR: NZ3962557416

Both maps above illustrate the environs around the River Wear after the bridge had been built. In the 1890s, Monkwearmouth Station still retained terminus, but incorporated 2 through platforms which are still navigated through today.

The Wear was an incredibly industrious river at this time. There are small distinct changes in the two decades between the surveys though. Shipbuilding and repairing became the dominant industry on the river by the 1910s - the bottle works under Wearmouth Bridge was replaced by another dock in the 1900s, which was a floating pontoon. Much of Monkwearmouth Station had been repurposed as a goods shed by the 1910s also.

This 3rd map dates from a long time before the advent of the bridge - just over 2 decades in fact. Monkwearmouth station can be seen at the top of the map, which had one platform and a turntable to allow locomotives to switch around and work the front of the service. A short waggonway also took limestone to a lime works on the banks of the Wear. This has long disappeared.

A number of buildings had to be demolished for the extension of the line and the bridge. A coach house, two stables, part of a terrace and an engine house all had disappeared either before the construction or cleared during.


Wearmouth Railway bridge in 2023


The Wearmouth railway bridge and older footbridge in situ from the Lambton drops in 1902. Source: Sunderland Libraries


The bridge in 1988 with a Tyne and Wear liveried Pacer. Source: Stephen Craven, Geograph

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