Residents and blacksmiths returned to a historic Northumberland viaduct to mark the 10th anniversary of its decorative ironwork panels (Sunday April 27 2014).
The wrought iron panels on Kielder Viaduct were made by about 60 blacksmiths from across the country at a ‘Forge In’ event at Kielder Water & Forest Park in 2004.
However, the illustrations that inspired the decorative panels, drawn by school children and community groups in Kielder, were thought to have been lost.
When members of the Kielder Viaduct Heritage project team started researching the viaduct’s stories, they found them at the forge of a blacksmith in Red Row, Northumberland.
Kielder Viaduct, which was built in 1862 by the Border Counties Railway, serviced the mines and quarries in the North Tyne Valley and carried passengers between Hexham and Scotland until the line closed in 1958.
Eight years later, the redundant Kielder Viaduct was on the verge of being blown up until the Northumberland & Newcastle Society stepped in to save it, buying it for just £1.
Now, the viaduct is part of the Lakeside Way, a 26 mile multi-user trail that encircles Northumbrian Water’s reservoir.
Oral historian, Dr Liz O’Donnell, who made contact with the Red Row blacksmith Stephen Lunn, said: “Stephen helped instigate the ‘Forge In’ event in 2004. I had no idea when I went to record Stephen’s memories of the day for the Viaduct Heritage Project that he had kept the original designs.”
Zoe Hall, now a young adult, was one of the children who drew local wildlife, plants and trains for the decorative panels ten years ago. She returned to the viaduct at the weekend to see her lost drawing of an owl and to celebrate the anniversary.
Zoe, aged 20, from a farm near Kielder, said: “Until the weekend, I hadn’t seen my original owl drawing since the event ten years ago. Seeing it was really weird and brought back a few memories, but it was nice to see it and be a part of history - I feel proud knowing that the panels on the viaduct are going to be there for a long time.”
Three of the blacksmiths involved in making the original panels also returned to the viaduct to create a commemorative plaque which was unveiled by Councillor Val Tyler.
Norfolk blacksmith, Bill Cordaroy, Chair of the British Artist Blacksmiths Association, who led the ‘Forge In’ event, said: “It was wonderful to be part of the original work on Kielder Viaduct, probably one of our best projects because of its spectacular location.
“I’ve always wanted to go back to commemorate the work we did there and when the Kielder Viaduct heritage group got in touch, I knew it was a brilliant opportunity to return to the special destination with an anniversary panel.”
The ‘Forge In’ anniversary was also an opportunity to unveil a series of new interpretation features, developed as part of the Viaduct Heritage Project.
The resources, which reveal the story of the viaduct, include a short film, a new trail map, graphic panels, an audio post with snippets of oral history and family-friendly activity sheets.
Project volunteers and members of the local community who had worked with the project team to develop the interpretation, were invited to come along and see what had been achieved.
With the help of local people and part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Kielder Viaduct Heritage Project team has drawn together stories and photographs of the viaduct, creating a collection celebrating the history of the listed structure and how it is used today so others can learn more about its heritage.
To share your story and memories of the viaduct and railway, or find out what else is in the project archive, visit www.visitkielder.com/ourhistory, or the Kielder Historical Project page on Facebook.