In my previous post I mentioned our having visited the Balcombe / Ouse Valley viaduct on our recent wanderings in the UK and I threatened promised more photos of this very appealing structure. So, here they are…

public footpath

jaunty angle

It was designed by engineer John Urpeth Rastrick (in association with architect David Mocatta for the London-Brighton Railway) and was completed in 1842. The viaduct is 450 metres (±1,476 feet) long, almost 30 metres (±96 feet) high and is carried on 37 elegant arches with pierced piers. Apparently the 11 million bricks used in its construction were imported from Holland and were transported to the site by barge on the then navigable river Ouse, via Newhaven and Lewes.

Balcombe is still a working viaduct and carries over 100 trains a day between London and Brighton. In the short time we were there several passed overhead, at what felt and sounded like ferocious speeds. The fact that this almost 170 year old structure is still doing its job with such finesse is a testament to the skill of early Victorian engineering (and Dutch bricks, of course :)




Its obvious aesthetic appeal is in the amazing patterns created by the perspective of the receding brick piers and arches, these patterns morphing and changing as you shift your angle of view and alter your sightlines. But the other very appealing thing about the structure is the mottled brickwork – many years of patching & restoration have resulted in a wonderfully mellow, russety, abstract patchwork.

And if that abstract patchwork isn’t enough to get your pattern-buds a’tingling then what about these super-stripes, created by the piers’ long late-afternoon shadows draped across the surrounding fields.

field stripes

As an added bonus it frames the landscape beautifully…


Thank you, Mr Rastrick!