Dent Head Viaduct, Cowgill, Dent, West Riding of Yorkshire. Engineer, John Sydney Crossley, 1870-1875. Dent Head Viaduct is the next viaduct on the Settle-Carlisle Railway after Ribblehead Viaduct, going towards Carlisle. Though considerably shorter, it also presented huge challenges, as Dent is in "one of the wildest and loneliest parts of Yorkshire. All around is wild moorland, closed in by vast hills" (Williams 503). [Click on this and the following image for larger pictures.]

The same early commentator explains:

It is in the magnificent Dent Valley, the town of Dent being, however, some eight miles to our left. This viaduct is 200 yards long, of ten semicircular arches, rising 100 feet above the public road, and also over a little mountain torrent that falls into the Dee, which runs hard by on our left. The line continues up the valley of the Dent, which is richly cultivated at its base, but is enclosed right and left by hills that soon become too steep to retain the soil, much of which is carried downwards into the meadows, or is washed away by the waters of the river Dee, which rushes and roars over a bed wonderfully paved, as though by hand, with black marble ; the line itself skirting along the hill-side at an elevation of some 300 feet above the stream, and not more than 200 yards from it. (Williams 501)

In fact, Dent is hardly a town: it is a pretty village with cobbled lanes, a little closer to the station than the viaduct; and the black marble mentioned here is really fossilised black limestone (see Toothill and Armstrong 8). Modern measurements make the length of the viaduct 199 yards ("Viaducts"), but that is a quibble. The height given here is exactly right, and the tenor of the description is accurate too. Leach and Pevsner describe the view from Dent Station, the highest mainline station in the country, as "spectacular" — and it is.

Illustration from Williams, p. 501. Photograph by Jacqueline Banerjee [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or to the Victorian Web in a print document.]

Related Material


Leach, Peter, and Nikolaus Pevsner. Yorkshire West Riding, Leeds, Bradford and the North. The Buildings of England series. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009.

Scholes, Ron. Yorkshire Dales. 3rd ed. Ashbourne, Derbyshire: Landmark, 2008.

Toothill, David, and Marian Armstrong. The Settle-Carlisle Railway: A Guide to Your Journey: Leeds. Settle. Carlisle. The Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Company, 2010.

"Viaducts." The Settle-Carlisle Railway. Web. 20 August 2011.

Williams, Frederick Smeeton. The Midland Railway: Its Rise and Progress. A Narrative of Modern Enterprise. London: Strahan & Co., 1876. Internet Archive. Web. 20 August 2011.

Last modified 22 August 2011