HOCKLEY VIADUCT – D.N.& S.R.– by Rod Youngman, February 2013.
Officially known as Shawford Viaduct, this graceful 32 arched structure spanned the River Itchen and formed the final link to the L.S.W.R. Line at Shawford Junction and opened in 1891. It was built of concrete with brick facing, a composition of material thought to be unique in railway building. The Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway had ambitions to extend its line from Winchester Cheesehill with an independent route to Southampton but lack of funds led to it having to abandon this plan.
The line from Newbury to Shawford Junction closed in 1960 to passengers and in 1964 to through goods traffic, although Winchester Chesil remained until 1966. Eventually, the viaduct was sold to Winchester City Council for £1.00. As it gradually fell into disrepair the council, wanting to rid itself of this huge structure, asked The Royal Engineers to use it as an exercise in demolition and blow it up! Luckily, local citizens contacted the army, who declined to destroy it. So the viaduct slumbered on. The building of the M3 motorway gained the viaduct recognition as a useful shield against the noise of the traffic on the new road, particularly benefitting the residents of nearby St. Cross. During the last 30 years, people interested in saving this viaduct petitioned English Heritage to list the structure as an important and unique railway monument but to no avail. The National Lottery also refused funds as it wasn’t considered to be of national importance.
Eventually, a group of enthusiasts formed the Friends of Hockley Viaduct and came to the notice of George Beckett, who was a resident of nearby Compton. He recognised that Winchester had an impressive structure that was not only an important part of Winchester’s railway history but a picturesque addition to the local scenery. He persuaded the City Council of which he was the Leader, and also Hampshire County Council, to give substantial grants to restore the viaduct in conjunction with Sustrans, the National Cycle and Walkway group who have included the viaduct as part of their Route 23 from Reading to Sandown on the Isle of Wight.
Work started early in 2012. By December 2012, a new access had been constructed through Itchen Farm to the viaduct from the South Park & Ride site. The missing bricks have been replaced with similar ones. The stump of a signal post which remained on the viaduct will be replaced by an original L.& S.W. Signal arm recovered from Kew East Junction and a telegraph pole which also escaped felling will be restored. Meanwhile, following possible signs of bats nesting in the brickwork, new bat nesting boxes have been positioned at various points along the viaduct. The official opening of the completely restored Hockley Viaduct will take place this Spring, so come along and re-live the experience of crossing the viaduct and imagine the trains passing through on their way to and from Winchester Cheesehill once again.
This article was originally published in the Southern Counties Railway Society Newsletter, issue No 770 Feb 2013.
It was also published on the Southern Counties Railway Society website, but their web address www.southerncountiesrailwaysociety.co.uk now redirects viewers to a new site hosted on Google Sites.
This article appears not to have been carried over to the new SCRS website, so we are very grateful to its author, Rod Youngman, for permission to reproduce it here.
It had been saved by the internet archive machine at https://web.archive.org/web/20160116142147/http://www.southerncountiesrailwaysociety.co.uk:80/southern_counties_railway_society_TT_feb_2013.htm