Ouse Valley Viaduct - History and Facts | History Hit

Ouse Valley Viaduct

The distinctive design of the Ouse Valley Viaduct makes it one of the most impressive viaducts in Britain.

Image Credit: Antony Cooper / Alamy Stock Photo

About Ouse Valley Viaduct

The Ouse Valley Viaduct is one of the most impressive viaducts in Britain. Completed in 1842, its distinctive semi-circular arches and arched vaulting generate an impressive visual effect when seen from below.

Ouse Valley Viaduct History

Known locally as Balcombe Viaduct, the Ouse Valley Viaduct is a landmark in Mid Sussex, southern England, and a functioning bridge which for over a century and a half has carried the London-Brighton Railway Line over the River Ouse.

Construction on the Ouse Valley Viaduct began in 1839, following an Act of Parliament which gave assent to the London & Brighton Railway Company for the development of a railway line between the two cities. By this time, Brighton had developed into an attractive seaside resort, with over 100,000 visitors travelling there annually by coach.

The viaduct, located just a few kilometres from the village of Balcombe, was opened on 12 July 1841. Around 450 metres long and composed of 37 arches, the viaduct was principally designed by John Urpeth Rastrick as well as David Mocatta, who also designed Brighton Railway Station.

Around 11 million red bricks sourced in the Netherlands were used in the construction of the Ouse Valley Viaduct. Caen Stone from Normandy was used for the decorative parapets and pavilions on the viaduct’s higher course.

The construction of the railway line cut short any hopes to modernise the Ouse canal. It was never a huge success anyway, but had in fact been used by barges to ferry the materials used in the construction of the viaduct from Newhaven and Lewes.

A significant renovation took place in the late 1990s, which included repair of the pavilions on the viaduct and the reconstruction of some of the Victorian brick piers.

Ouse Valley Viaduct today

Take the train from London to Brighton and you will cross over the Ouse Valley Viaduct a little over halfway through your journey, when a screen of trees dissolves for an elevated view over this pocket of the Weald.

The viaduct’s distinctive features have made it an attractive destination for walkers as well as photographers, who exploit the visual effect formed by the concentric arched vaulting which supports the brick piers. There are good views of the viaduct from Cuckfield Golf Centre, 3.5 kilometres away.

Getting to the Ouse Valley Viaduct

The viaduct is located between Haywards Heath and Balcombe in West Sussex. Balcombe Viaduct is easily incorporated into country walks originating at Ardingly Reservoir, Cuckfield and Balcombe Railway Station. There is a car park at nearby Ardingly Reservoir, while the easiest way to get to Ouse Valley Viaduct from London is to take the train from London Bridge to Balcombe, then walk the 3.5 kilometres to the viaduct.

Featured In

West Sussex Historic Sites

Here are 10 unmissable heritage attractions in the county of West Sussex, from Iron Age hillforts to dazzling Roman palaces.