Lydbrook Viaduct and Courtfield.
Lydbrook Valley and viaduct.
This fine photo taken by a local photographer looking northwards clearly demonstrates how the Viaduct dominated the whole of the valley. The foundation stone was laid on November 9th 1872 and the work was contracted by the Crumlin Viaduct Works at a cost of £7,396. Billups carried out the masonry work. The viaduct comprised 5 stone arches and 3 wrought iron girders of the warren pattern, 2 with a 120ft span, the other with a 150ft span. The viaduct was 90ft above the valley floor and was opened on 26th August 1874. The first passenger train arrived in Lydbrook Junction from Lydney at 1.20pm on 23rd September 1875. The route followed was: Lydney Junction, Lydney Town, Whitecroft, Parkend, Speech House Road, Drybrook Road, Upper Lydbrook, Lower Lydbrook, Lydbrook Junction. The locomotive which pulled the train was Robin Hood. Regular Passenger services were withdrawn from 8th July 1929. The line was eventually closed on 30th January 1956. The Viaduct was removed in 1965. The railways in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley all passed through unsurpassed scenery. The main road bottom right curves to the right within six feet of the highest support column thence to a "T" junction. To the left is the road to English Bicknor and Coleford, to the right the road to Walford and Ross on Wye. Across the "T" junction is the river Wye. In earlier years the river was forded here to take by barge and horse coal and iron products up and down the Wye to Bristol and Hereford. Cottages grouped around the viaduct columns are there because of the iron works with forges and tinworks and the use of the river. Earlier scenes would show the chimneystacks and millstones of a flourmill. The first row of cottages on the right were called "Mill Row". In the next group was the Saracen's Head Inn and at the end of this row, the last house with the orchard in the rear belonged to Mr R Constable. He was the local cider maker for many years and himself took a flagon of cider to work each day. It did him no harm as he lived into his nineties. The long roof at the end of the row was yet another pub the "Forge Hammer". Near the Forge Hammer stood the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel built in 1864. It is now demolished and a local amenities building stands on the site. The large gable end with two windows is "The Priory", another very old property. Legend has it that an underground tunnel ran from this house, under the river into the Courtfield Estate high up on the other hill in Herefordshire. Between the two columns is "Lydbrook House", for many years the residence of the local doctors Dr Crichton and Dr McMinn, This house as with may others near the river was subject to flooding. On occasions the doctor would have clamber from his bedroom window into an awaiting boat to make his rounds!. The 1947 floods were marked at seventeen feet on the highest column. Behind The Priory was a small cottage with an off-licence called the "Tinmans Arms". The people of Lydbrook were a thirsty lot after the hot dusty work in the Forges and Tinworks. A waterspout from the hillside can still be seen. Now a couple of stories about the Viaduct itself. In the 1950's a special passenger train took local the schoolchildren on the last run over it. Lynda Sollars my daughter was one of them. At some unknown date a local practical joker hung an effigy from the viaduct causing much consternation until the hoax was discovered. In another incident a player from the local Lydbrook rugby team kicked a ball clear over the viaduct.
(25-11-2004) E. R. Walford adds : The white
building in the extreme bottom right hand corner of the photo was once
also a pub the "Sawyer's Arms". The Mr Constable mentioned
in the text as living right by the Sawyers was a Special Constable. The
Wesleyan Chapel was wiped off the face of the earth when a large part
of the viaduct actually collapsed during the demolition proceedings.
No one was hurt despite the very close proximity of the Forge Hammer
Inn, a cottage, a shop and bakery and the main road going down through
Lydbrook. At certain times of the day quite a busy road as it carried
people to work at the "Cable Works" and to Temco, as well as
anyone travelling towards Ross on Wye. I think that the crane, as seen
in the picture showing the viaduct's demolition, also fell into the valley,
the crane-driver having only just left the crane to go for his meal break.
To follow on from the kicking of the rugger ball over the viaduct, I knew a man, now dead, who "walked" the length of the bridge on the "outside" of the stonework and the bridge's girderwork. The big house in the trees at the centre horizon, is Courtfield. Reputed to have been the home of Sir John Falstaff, the one and the same as in Shakespearean plays; The young prince who became King Henry V, who was of course born in Monmouth, was cared for, tutored and groomed at Courtfield by Sir John Falstaff.
Roger Matthews added (November 2009): "... Legend has it (in Broadwell) that the the man who kicked a rugby ball over the viaduct was actually a soccer player named Colin Hamblin who played for Broadwell AFC. He was a legend in his own right in any event! He played in the late thirties, I believe - possibly even earlier. My late father first told me about it".
A photocrom image of Lydbrook Viaduct.
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