Kielder Viaduct marks 10th heritage anniversary

Blacksmiths gather for the 10th anniversary of ironwork panels being added to Kielder Viaduct

Zoe Hall at the Kielder Viaduct
Zoe Hall at the Kielder Viaduct

A decade ago 10-year-old Zoe Hall designed a decorative panel for a historic Northumberland viaduct.

Now, Zoe, 20, has returned to the Kielder Viaduct to see her owl design as part of celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the event which saw the ironwork panels added to the 1862 structure.

The wrought iron panels were made by about 60 blacksmiths from across the country at the Forge In event at Kielder Water and Forest Park in 2004.

However, the illustrations which inspired the decorative panels, drawn by schoolchildren 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 the drawings at blacksmith Stephen Lunn’s forge in Red Row, Northumberland.

Kielder Viaduct, which was built 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.

The redundant Kielder Viaduct was on the verge of being demolished 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 which encircles Northumbrian Water’s reservoir.

Oral historian, Dr Liz O’Donnell, who made contact with blacksmith Stephen Lunn, said: “Stephen helped instigate the Forge In event. 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 was one of the children who drew local wildlife, plants and trains for the decorative panels 10 years ago.

She said: “I hadn’t seen my original owl drawing since the event 10 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, chairman 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 anniversary was also an opportunity to unveil a series of new interpretation features, developed as part of the Viaduct Heritage Project and which tell the story of the structure.

These 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 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.

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.

The Kielder Viaduct Heritage Project is a partnership project that aims to help people discover, learn more about and share Kielder’s heritage, with a focus on the historic viaduct and railway. The partners are Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, Kielder History Group, Northumberland & Newcastle Society, The Heritage Centre at Bellingham and the community, and the project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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