Recognition of Severn Valley’s ‘forgotten heroes’


Helen Smith at Falling Sands Viaduct.

A century and a half after they perished during the construction of the Severn Valley Railway, 10 navvies have been honoured with a commemorative blue plaque. Its installation marks the completion of a project to restore the railway’s Falling Sands Viaduct. 

The £1.3 million Falling Sands project not only saw the restoration of this vital piece of the SVR’s infrastructure but also the creation of two permanent exhibitions telling the story of the construction of the original line and the 1000-plus navvies who built it.

Victorian railway construction was extremely hard and dangerous work, which resulted in many accidents, and significant numbers of people losing their lives. The Severn Valley Railway was no exception; at least 10 navvies are known to have died and there are countless reports of serious accidents during the two phases of construction.

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“Unlike today, health and safety measures were not considered important,” said Helen Smith, the SVR’s managing director. “For the Victorian navvy, danger was just an occupational hazard. It is fitting that we’re now commemorating these forgotten heroes, who constructed most of our rail system by hand and who, until now, have received little recognition.”

The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which made a substantial grant towards the restoration of Falling Sands Viaduct, was keen to see the omission rectified. It’s funded the commemorative blue plaque in honour of the 10 men who died building the railway during the Victorian era.

New interpretation panels have also been fitted to the viaduct illustrating its original construction and eventual restoration more than 140 years later.

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Falling Sands Viaduct is located next to the new Silverwoods mixed-use development, half-a-mile from the SVR’s Kidderminster Town station.

Detail of the commemorative plaque.

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