The Brickworks Bridge on Hadleigh Marsh

Facts and theories

West-bound steam train passing the derelict SALIC bridge abutments, Thursday 31st Aug 1961
© Brian Pask
Bridge for the brickworks

This 31st August 1961 photograph shows a typical train passing the derelict abutments of the Salvation Army brickworks bridge. The steam engine is quite modern, built in 1955, and still exists in a derelict state today. The wooden carriage is of 1920s vintage, soon to be scrapped, as the wires are up, and electric trains would be running by the end of the year.

Note the castle under scaffolding in the background, forever falling down, and far left, the elevated electrical equipment as a precaution against another 1953 flood event.

A more recent photograph of the bridge appears in: Places/Salvation Army Farm Tramway and Railway – the early years – by Graham Cook. In his article, Graham quotes from an 1892 Salvation Army Colony report that: “The total cost of the railway when completed will, the committee are assured, not exceed £7,925. The original estimate was £5,590. The excess is occasioned by the requirements of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway Company (LTSR) for a bridge over their line of greater width than their contractor had provided for.
“It is alleged that the railway will be a necessary adjunct to the brickfield… it will open up all the markets that can be served by water carriage of the Thames and its tributaries and that it will reduce the cost of freights by land to other markets which the Railway Company in the absence of competition would be able to charge.
“There are no data on which to base estimates of future profit, but there seems no reason to doubt that… with good management and cheap water carriage to London, profitable results should follow”.

The bridge was agreed to and completed later in 1892. Two more threads before returning to the above:
Railway historian Peter Pay writes that in 1925, the London Midland and Scottish Railway (who as the Midland Railway had taken over the LTSR in 1912) devised a scheme to meet the pressure for more trains by widening the railway from two to four tracks all the way to Southend. Imagine the consequences for Benfleet and Old Leigh. This scheme was never started, and the capacity needed was found by using better signalling equipment and running longer heavier trains.

Fautley and Garon in their book “Essex Coastline Then and Now” [Potton Publishing 2004 pp.224 (viewable on line)] reported that in 1911 a station was planned for Hadleigh, but the Salvation Army refused it and it was dropped. I do not know their source for this. Roger Shinn in a comment on my Hadleigh signal box article recalls that there were plans to build a station but put on hold as the road up to Castle Lane would be too steep for horses and carts. Interesting, and good to know his source.

Back to the photograph above. It is very clear that in 1892 the LTSR made the Colony build an unusually large and costly bridge, adding 50% to the cost of the whole brickworks to wharf railway. What is unusual is that the abutments are placed right on the LTSR’s land boundaries (note the two fence lines in the photograph) and the bridge spanned the gap in one span with no supporting piers or columns allowed, for no apparent physical reason, and quite unlike any normal private accommodation over-bridge.

It could have been that the LTSR wanted to allow future space for sidings at the site, ever hopeful of winning the brick traffic, or even as early as 1890 having hopes for a station at the site, and thus wanting to reserve enough space at the bridge.

My darker theory is based on the quotations above – that the Colony was somewhat anti-railway and strongly intent on using its own “cheap water carriage” rather than pay the LTSR’s alleged monopolistic rates. Hence I suspect that relations were quite frosty between the LTSR and the Colony. The LTSR expected to have the lucrative brick traffic, but the Colony had a statutory right to bridge the railway to get to its wharf. Consequently the LTSR was as difficult as possible, requiring an expensively wide bridge with no abutments on its land.

Perhaps this is why the Colony later resisted a station at Hadleigh, although I rather more suspect that it wanted to preserve the isolated nature of the Colony for the therapeutic benefit of its then “service users”, rather than have a ready access to London on its doorstep.

The brickworks railway and bridge appear to have closed in 1914, and the 1920 Ordinance Survey map shows both as disused. The 1936 map shows the bridge still there but no railway. Was the bridge removed for scrap in the 2nd World War?

Why were the abutments never removed when the banks either side were levelled  – recorded to have taken place in April 1976?

A lengthy article describing the brickworks railway and tramways in detail by H. W. Parr appeared in the Industrial Railway Record, June 1982, and as it is out of print, I have permission for it to be loaded onto this website.

Comments and further sourced material on the above will be very welcome.

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  • Excellent photograph supported by excellent research and knowledge-backed propositions. For my part many thanks and a great addition to the archive, Nigel Seaman.

    By Robert Hallmann (04/09/2016)

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