Here is an extract from a newspaper in May 1824 commissioning the building of the Skerne Bridge in Darlington. Our Skerne Bridge collection continues to celebrate this structure with a range of UK made bespoke gifts featuring the bridge. Visit our Skerne Bridge collection here: https://www.therailwaystation.shop/product-category/homeware-food-drink/skerne-bridge-collection/
Durham, May 12th, 1824
To be LET by Proposal,
THE BUILDING OF THE STONE WORK OF A BRIDGE, to be erected on the line of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, across the RIVER SKERNE, near Darlington.
Proposals, containing the names and residence of two sureties for the completion of the contract, will be received until Friday the 28th instant, at the Railway Office, Darlington; where a Plan and Specification of the Work may in the mean-time be seen.
Durham County Advertiser, Saturday 22 May 1824
The Skerne Bridge was originally going to be designed and constructed under the supervision of George Stephenson. Stephenson’s original design was to be like his innovative bridge at the river Gaunless and made of ironwork and stone. However, the price of iron rocketed, the Gaunless Bridge was damaged during the bad winter of 1823-4 and Stephenson had trouble with the foundations. So, the Stockton & Darlington Railway Committee brought in Ignatius Bonomi to design the bridge instead. Bonomi was the County Architect for Durham but he had never built a railway bridge with such constant and weighty traffic. It was perhaps no surprise therefore that the bridge embankments started to show signs of weakness within three years of the railway being opened. The bridge was strengthened by John Carter in 1829 who was the S&DR’s part time inspector of works and building designer. Carter was already familiar with the bridge having acted as the S&DR’s inspector during the original building works and he was a stone mason by profession. He introduced curved flank walls to help support the embankments and created the distinctive design that is seen on early paintings. These curved flank walls were also replaced in the late 19th or early 20th century presumably to further help the bridge cope with the heavier traffic still being hauled along the line. It was also widened about the same time. The bridge remains in use today and is the oldest, continuously used railway bridge in the world. It featured on the UK five pound note in the 1990s and is now considered to be one of the UK’s one hundred most cherished buildings. You can read more about the Skerne Bridge in an article by Brendan Boyle here.