Sowe Viaduct


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Located on the London to Birmingham main railway line in Coventry to the east of the A4082 and spanning the River Sowe.


Ordnance survey map of Sowe Viaduct
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Located on the London to Birmingham main railway line in Coventry to the east of the A4082 and spanning the River Sowe.
Coventry (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


A railway viaduct by Robert Stephenson of 1838, for the London and Birmingham Railway.

Reasons for Designation

The Sowe Viaduct, completed in 1838, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Date: an early example of a viaduct dating from the pioneering phase of railway development; * Architectural and engineering interest: the viaduct is well detailed and shows a skillful handling of the engineering challenge of crossing the River Sowe; * Historic interest: designed by Robert Stephenson, one of the most important transport engineers of the C19.


The London and Birmingham Railway was established in the 1830s to build the railway line between London and Birmingham, with Robert Stephenson appointed as the company's chief engineer. This was to be the first main line railway between London and another major city. The first parts of the line were opened in 1837, with the remainder opening in 1838.

Much of the line was widened during the 1960s, but this work did not reach beyond Rugby. The viaduct over the River Sowe at Coventry forms part of the original construction phase of the railway and was completed in 1838. The viaduct is shown in an original sectional drawing for the railway, marked with Robert Stephenson's name as engineer. It is also shown in two wash drawings of 1837 and 1839 by John Cook Bourne, who documented the construction of the railway.


A railway viaduct by Robert Stephenson of 1838, for the London and Birmingham Railway.

MATERIALS: The viaduct is constructed of brick with stone dressings to the arches, stringcourses and cornice.

PLAN: The structure is orientated roughly east - west.

DESCRIPTION: The viaduct carries the main London to Birmingham railway over the River Sowe and consists of a large central arch flanked by three smaller arches on either side. The arches have large ashlar voussoirs with pointed ends. Within the piers supporting the side arches there are smaller pointed arches with blind panels. The voussoirs and stringcourses all have carved vermiculation. The underside of the central arch has a sprayed concrete coating.

There are giant pilasters flanking the central arch, with stone springing points for the central arch which continue across the base of the pilasters. The upper levels have dentilled cornices of ashlar with brick blocking course above and stone cappings above that. The cornice continues along the length of the viaduct, but without the dentils. There are further pilasters at each end of the viaduct. There is much replacement engineering brick across the structure.


Books and journals
Roscoe, T, The London and Birmingham Railway, (1838)


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

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