×

Sign up to the newsletter

Castlefield Viaduct – Manchester’s garden in the sky

Castlefield Viaduct is a historic structure that spans the Bridgewater Canal and River Medlock in Manchester, England. It was originally built in the 19th century as part of the Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway, which connected Manchester with Altrincham and other destinations in the region.

The viaduct itself, which is a 330m long landmark and was built in 1892, was constructed by Heenan and Froude the engineers who built the iconic Blackpool Tower.

Upon the viaduct’s completion, a local newspaper report declared it ‘a triumph of engineering skill,’ and stated that ‘some notion may be formed of the nature and importance of [the viaduct] from the fact that the total cost has amounted to £250,000.’

For the next 77 years, the viaduct was used to carry heavy rail traffic in and out of the area until it finally closed in 1969

 

During the early 20th century, the viaduct played an important role in the transportation of goods and people in the region. It connected Manchester to the cities of Warrington, Liverpool, and Chester, and was a key link in the transportation of goods between the industrial centers of Lancashire and the ports of Liverpool and the Mersey Estuary. However, by the 1960s, the railway industry was in decline, and the viaduct fell into disuse. The structure was in a state of disrepair and was at risk of being demolished.

In the 1980s, the viaduct was given a new lease of life when it was converted into a pedestrian and cycleway. The transformation of the viaduct was part of a wider regeneration project that aimed to transform the derelict industrial landscape of Castlefield into a vibrant cultural quarter.

Today, Castlefield Viaduct is a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of Manchester’s industrial heritage. The viaduct is also an important part of the city’s transport infrastructure and provides a vital link between the city center and surrounding areas. The viaduct has been recognized for its historical and architectural significance and is a Grade II listed structure. The viaduct is a popular destination for walkers, cyclists, and tourists, and is widely regarded as an important part of Manchester’s cultural heritage. Its red brick arches provide a striking backdrop for the many events and activities that take place in the Castlefield area, including the annual Manchester International Festival.

Colourful flowers- orange and yellow at National trust Castlefield Viaduct in the city centre urban park
Colourful and bright purple flowers on display at castlefield viaduct in Manchester

The Castlefield Viaduct is now set to undergo a transformation as the National Trust, with support from private donations and players of People’s Postcode Lottery, aims to bring it back into use and turn it into a freely accessible green space for the local community. The goal is to create a green ‘sky park’ in the heart of historic Manchester, celebrating the viaduct’s part in Manchester’s past, present, and future.

The project aims to create a hidden oasis sitting above the busy city, a space that respects the listed structure, celebrates the nature, beauty, and history of the viaduct, and fits in with existing plans for the city. The transformed viaduct will become a stepping stone to other South Manchester green spaces and attractions on foot or bike, bringing people closer to nature in the city.

The revitalization project will include a test opening from summer 2022 to summer 2023, during which time visitors will be able to enjoy free guided visits of the ‘sky park.’ Visitors will need to book their visit in advance via the website.

The project will transform the viaduct into a free-to-access park and meeting place for people and nature. The National Trust is keen to hear feedback and ideas from visitors to help shape the future of the viaduct and realize Manchester’s green potential. The transformed viaduct will take its place in this vibrant area for cultural and heritage, sitting alongside iconic Manchester venues such as the Science and Industry Museum and The Factory.

Overall, the Castlefield Viaduct revitalization project is an exciting development that will transform this historic railway viaduct into a green oasis in the heart of the city, allowing visitors to enjoy the beauty and history of the viaduct while providing a space for people to connect with nature in a busy urban environment

Full view of Manchesters sky garden in Castlefield with the main focus on the artwork in the centre. Designed and created by Manchester artist and designer Lazerian
"To be approached by the National Trust to help galvanise our community around this project is something we have run straight towards and we are thrilled to be working alongside them. From the humble beginnings of the Forum we have often stared up longingly at the old viaduct, thinking "what if?". We have always had it in our sights to bring it back to life, but now there's a very real chance the viaduct will be back in use. And sooner than we had ever expected." Calum McGowan, Chair of Castlefield Forum
park space with information of where the skypark is in relation to other city centre landmarks such as Science and Industry museum in the city history and

Castlefield’s Spirit of Place is a statement that represents what the area means to those who live and work there. The statement was created through the input of numerous people who love the area, and it was an inspiration for the main art installation in the sky garden created by Lazerian. The installation, which is part of the National Trust’s transformation project for the Castlefield Viaduct, celebrates the area’s history and natural beauty, and reflects the community’s spirit of innovation, creativity, and resilience. The art installation is a testament to the power of collaboration and community engagement, as it was created through the involvement of local people, artists, and designers. It is a fitting tribute to Castlefield’s unique identity and heritage and will be a valuable addition to the area’s cultural landscape.

Art sculpture close up of lettering that has been plasma cut displayed at its home at the sky garden at Castlefield Viaduct

The spirit of place is a term used to describe the unique character and atmosphere of a particular location or landscape. It encompasses the natural and built environment, as well as the cultural and historical context of the area. The National Trust recognizes the importance of understanding and preserving the spirit of place in their efforts to care for places of historic interest or natural beauty. Castlefield viaduct is a significant landmark in the Castlefield area of Manchester, UK. The viaduct was built in the 19th century as part of the railway network and has since become a cultural and historical icon of the city.

 

Full front view of the design of the artwork by Lazerian and Daren Newman on a digital mockup.

The National Trust, in collaboration with Castlefield Forum, is working to reveal and share the significance of the Castlefield viaduct and the surrounding area. The spirit of place statement of Castlefield is a collective expression of what the area means to the people who live, work, and visit there. It captures the essence of Castlefield’s unique character and its significance as a cultural and historical hub. The statement recognizes the importance of the Castlefield viaduct as a defining feature of the area, describing it as a “majestic structure” that “connects the past with the present.” The statement also highlights the importance of the canal network, which runs through the heart of Castlefield, as a vital part of the area’s spirit of place. The canal is described as a “peaceful oasis,” providing a tranquil contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city center. The statement goes on to recognize the role of Castlefield’s vibrant arts and cultural scene in shaping its spirit of place.

Overall, the spirit of place statement of Castlefield viaduct emphasizes the area’s rich cultural and historical heritage, as well as its unique blend of urban and natural environments. It celebrates the community’s connection to the area and the importance of preserving its distinctive character for future generations.

[]