Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway Viaduct


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway Viaduct, Manchester and Salford


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1200837.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 05-Mar-2021 at 16:35:04.


Statutory Address:
Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway Viaduct, Manchester and Salford

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Manchester (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
Salford (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Railway viaduct for the Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Railway Company, 1846-9, constructed by David Bellhouse Jnr. Red brick with some small sections of blue brick, sandstone dressings and cast-iron bridges.

Reasons for Designation

The Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Viaduct is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Design interest: it is an impressive 1 3/4 mile long urban viaduct incorporating a series of well-detailed bridges; some with highly decorative Gothic-style ironwork;

* Date: it is an early example of a railway viaduct dating from the second phase of railway development - the period from 1841-50 often referred to as 'railway mania' - in which commercial speculation and competition for routes led to the rapid construction of lines and expansion of the railway network;

* Historic interest: the viaduct forms an important and integral component of the Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Railway, which was one of the country's earliest suburban railways, and Manchester's first; helping to bring this form of transport to the hinterlands;

* Group value: the viaduct has strong group value with neighbouring railway structures (both contemporary and later), including two other railway bridges crossing the River Irwell (the 1830 Grade I listed stone bridge and the 1869 Grade II listed girder bridge) and their associated viaducts, the Grade II listed Castlefield Viaduct (c1880), the Grade II listed stations of Manchester Oxford Road (1958-60) and Deansgate (1896), and the Grade II listed former goods offices (c1850-60) and train shed (c1881) at Manchester Piccadilly Station.


The Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Railway viaduct was constructed in 1846-9 by David Bellhouse junior for the Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Railway (MSJ&AR) Company; Bellhouse was also responsible for laying the track. Several of the cast-iron bridges situated along the viaduct were built by his son, the engineer and iron-founder, Edward Taylor Bellhouse, along with others by the line's Chief Engineer, William Baker, and William Cubitt.

The MSJ&AR line is one of the country's earliest suburban railways and was the first in Manchester. It was started as a joint venture between the Manchester & Birmingham Railway (later the London & North Western Railway, LNWR) and the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne & Manchester Railway (later the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway, MS&LR) which operated London Road Station (known as Manchester Piccadilly Station since 1960). The aim was to create an extension of their lines, known as the South Junction line, that would be carried along the southern boundary of the city centre on a viaduct and then join the Liverpool and Manchester Railway at Ordsall Lane in Salford, providing access to the lucrative port and city of Liverpool. A branch line, leaving the South Junction line at Castlefield, would also follow the Bridgewater Canal to Altrincham. The Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Railway Act received Royal Assent on 21 July 1845.

300,000 cubic feet of stone (91,440 cubic metres), 50 million bricks and 3000 tons (3048 tonnes) of cast iron were used in the viaduct's construction. The MSJ&AR line opened on 20 July 1849, although sections of the viaduct were not opened until 1 August 1849. The line ran for 8 1/2 miles from London Road Station via Oxford Road and Deansgate Stations to Altrincham, with the viaduct forming a 1 ¾ mile (2 ¾ km) long stretch: the northern branch terminating at the north-west bank of the River Irwell, and the southern branch terminating at the east side of Dawson Street.


LOCATION: The viaduct runs from Manchester Piccadilly Station via Oxford Road and Deansgate, following approximately the route of the River Medlock (crossing it at a number of points), and then branches into two at Castlefield, with the northern branch terminating on the north-west side of the River Irwell, and the southern branch terminating at the east side of Dawson Street.

ARCHITECTURE: The viaduct is approximately 1 ¾ mile (2 ¾ km) long and incorporates 224 brick arches that average a span and height of approximately 30ft, and a width of 28ft; many of the arches, particularly those near to Manchester Oxford Road Station and Deansgate Station, have been in-filled and converted into commercial premises. The tallest arches can be found in the section between Manchester Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations where the ground level is lower. A brick parapet has been altered and rebuilt in places and later repairs have been carried out to some of the arches.

The viaduct incorporates a series of predominantly arched, cast-iron bridges by Edward Taylor Bellhouse, William Baker and William Cubitt that cross various streets, the Rochdale Canal, and the Bridgewater Canal. The bridges have an average span of 70ft, although one of Baker's bridges, which spans the Rochdale Canal has a span of 105ft. A number of the bridges incorporate highly decorative Gothic-style ironwork and detailing and castellated towers (referencing the location of a Roman fort at Castlefield), whilst others, such as a bridge over Gloucester Street are more classically detailed. A bridge over Egerton Street by William Baker was replaced in steel in 1976. Some of the viaduct's brick arches and bridges are skewed. The Irwell Bridge at the north-west end of the viaduct is of brick with two segmental arches, each of approximately 65ft span, with a central pier and cut-water. Rusticated stone voussoirs and pilaster strips exist to the central pier and abutments, and the parapet above the western arch incorporates cast-iron panelling.

Following electrification of the line in the C20 the viaduct now incorporates a series of C20 and early-C21 gantries along its course. Also along the viaduct's course are a number of attached or abutting buildings, most of which are later in date and are un-related to the viaduct's use; all are excluded from the listing, which relates solely to the viaduct. Manchester Piccadilly Station, Deansgate Station and Manchester Oxford Road Station (the two latter stations being constructed on top of and to the side of the viaduct) are all separately listed at Grade II.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Dixon, F, The Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway, (1994 edition)
Hartwell, C, Pevsner Architectural Guides: Manchester, (2001), 215-217
A Guide To Civil Engineering in Manchester. Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Railway, accessed from


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 30 Jun 2001
Reference: IOE01/04281/29
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Charles Madders. Source Historic England Archive
Archive image, may not represent current condition of site.
To view this image please use Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or Edge.

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].