Wentbridge Viaduct                                                         Grid Ref SE 493171

A1(T) over River Went, Wentbridge                              Date of construction 1961

                                                                    Date of First Principal Inspection 1980 approx

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Location Map                Wentbridge Viaduct

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Wentbridge Viaduct is one of the finest and most elegant bridges built in Yorkshire, if not the UK, in the 20th Century.

It was designed by F.A.(Joe) Sims OBE BSc(Eng) FEng FRSA FICE of the West Riding County Council and completed in 1961. Joe Sims was also the resident engineer for the construction works.

This photograph was taken soon after, in June 1963. The total span is 450ft between abutments, which themselves are hollow and truly enormous inside.

The viaduct is notable for its ‘external’ prestressing cables and for the concrete hinges at the bottom of the inclined legs.

Speaking to John Dowell, residing in Bawtry in December 2012, I learned that as a young man he was working as a soils engineer for Cementation of Doncaster, who were engaged on the construction of the viaduct. A piled foundation design for the foundations of the scaffolding temporary works was abandoned in favour of a concrete slab in the valley bottom. John  was asked to determine the likely settlement of the slab under the imposed loading of the scaffolding, loading from 100mph wind and wet concrete of the viaduct. Whatever that answer was, John must have been right because the viaduct was successfully built without problem. Reference is made to this part of the construction in the paper in the Motorway Archive (see Link below) . John later left Cementation and went on to found the company Propile.

Principal Inspections were introduced by the Department of Transport for all their highway structures in the late 1970s. I carried out the first inspections on all the bridges on the A1 Trunk Road in the West Riding between Wetherby and Wentbridge, setting the standard and producing the prototype reports. The inspections differed from previous General inspections in that they involved a ‘hands-on’ approach necessitating hoists and specialist Underbridge Inspection  machines where the Engineer rode in a ‘bucket’ supported on hydraulic telescopic arms from a lorry mounted base unit, which was located on the road above.

Having carried out the first ever Principal Inspection of Wentbridge Viaduct in the 1980s, I discovered that the prestressing cables, external to the internal webs of the cellular box deck were at risk of corrosion from road de-icing salt. I introduced measures to remove the risk and protect the cables, by constructing ‘shower trays’ under the manhole access points into the boxes from the carriageways of the A1 trunk road.

More information about the bridge is available on the Motorway Archive Link.

Wentbridge Viaduct is now a listed building see the British Listed Buildings website.