Renowned as being one of the largest brick built structures in England, Chappel Viaduct is situated near Wakes Colne in Essex off the A1124 (Colchester Road) and spans the picturesque Colne Valley. It presently still supports the Sudbury to Marks Tey line which regularly connects with trains to and from London's Liverpool Street Station along the main line.
The foundation stone for this man-made wonder was laid on the 14th of September 1847. A bottle containing a newly minted sovereign, a half-sovereign, a shilling, a sixpence and a four-penny piece was placed underneath this stone. This bottle and all its contents were stolen shortly after the laying ceremony; the culprit was caught after he tried to pass over a brand-new sovereign coin in the Rose and Crown public house.
Chappel Viaduct is 1,066ft long and some 5 to 6 million bricks are believed to have been used in its construction. A work force of 606 men known at the time as 'navvies' were employed to complete the work which took two years, this was relatively fast for such a large structure. The Viaduct has 32 arches; each having a span of 30ft and at its maximum the height is 75ft. Although so many bricks were used in the construction, to save money and to cut down on weight, the piers were left hollow.
The engineer of the viaduct was Peter Schuyler Bruff and his plan was for the line to continue as far as Ipswich in Suffolk, but the railway company did not have sufficient funds for this. Bruff later built the line himself and is also credited for founding the Essex seaside resort of Clacton on Sea.
On the 2nd of July 1849, the first passenger train crossed the viaduct from Colchester to Sudbury carrying an official party. A large crowd greeted the honoured guests at Sudbury despite its station still being unfinished.
To this day Chappel Viaduct is in daily use by trains and is well worth a visit if you are in the area. It attracts many tourists and visitors every year and is a highly photographed structure. Bordering the viaduct is The Chappel Millennium Green and as the name suggests this was opened to celebrate the Millennium. It contains a walk around area and children's play area which should keep the kids amused while you take in this wonder.
If you are not familiar with the area, the best postcode to use for a sat nav would be CO6 2DD.
Why not combine your visit to the Viaduct with a trip to the East Anglian Railway Museum? Only a short walk up Station Road, the East Anglian Railway Museum is an open air site based at Chappel and Wakes Colne Railway station and the entire site forms the Museum, which is made up of Station Buildings, Signal Boxes, Goods Shed and Restoration Shed. The complex of Victorian buildings has a unique story to tell of railways in East Anglia from the 1840's through to the 21st Century.