Some old postcards in the Museums store inspired us to research the Solway Viaduct in more detail. The bridge and its railway line used to connect England and Scotland, it was also used in WW1 to supply HM Factory Gretna and its former site is located about 6 miles from The Devils Porridge Museum.
The Solway Junction Railway was built by an independent railway company to shorten the route from ironstone mines in Cumberland to ironworks in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. It opened in 1869, and it involved a viaduct 1 mile 8 chains (1.8 km) long crossing the Solway Firth, as well as approach lines connecting existing railways on both sides.
Reconstruction of the viaduct began in the summer of 1882: in the rebuilt viaduct, the three inner columns in each pier were still cast-iron, but the two outer ‘rakers’ were each a single wrought-iron tube filled with concrete and provided with timber ice fenders.
In 1914 an assessment of the maintenance needs of the viaduct was carried out. The long metal structure exposed to a marine atmosphere had deteriorated and £15,500 would need to be expended in maintenance work. The work was suspended on the outbreak of World War I, which saw increased use of the viaduct for iron-ore and pig-iron traffic from West Cumbria to Scotland. It was announced that stations south of the viaduct were to be closed from 1 February 1917 but this decision was promptly rescinded. The creation of a large munition works at Eastriggs, to the east of Annan, gave the line additional traffic; including (in May 1917) the Royal Train, carrying King George and Queen Mary on a four-day tour of that and other munitions factories.
Any future use of the viaduct was impossibly expensive, and after a period of dormancy, in 1933 arrangements were made to demolish it. Arnott, Young and Company purchased the bridge and dismantled it; much of the material found a second use, and some of the metal was used by the Japanese forces in the Sino-Japanese War. During the work three men lost their lives when attempting extraction of one of the piles; the men were inexperienced in boat work and their boat was caught in strong currents and capsized. The dismantling of the viaduct was completed by November 1935, but sections of the pier foundations remained in the bed of the estuary. The section of railway between the south end of the viaduct and Kirkbride Junction was dismantled as part of the process.
One of the Great things about having an exhibition on display is the things that it leads to. Our current exhibition in Haaf Net Fishing (which is on display until April 1st), has generated a lot of interest (from people in Cumbria as well as people on the Scottish side of the Solway). So far we have had object donations, objects on loan and on display for our Object of the Month Display and now we have had photographs and film footage shared with us.
The photo above shows a Haaf Netter at Loch and Dornock which is near the old HM Factory Gretna site and not far from Eastriggs, where the Museum is located.
These videos were shared with the Museum by Annan Museum and make interesting viewing:
Thanks to everyone who is sharing things with the Museum – we really appreciate it!
For more information on our Haaf Net Exhibition see: https://www.devilsporridge.org.uk/haaf-net-fishing
To purchase books or other items relating to Haaf Net Fishing, visit our online shop: https://www.devilsporridge.org.uk/shop-online
This month’s object of the month display was created by Łukasz, from Annan Academy, who does work experience at the Museum every Thursday.
Object of the Month – February
Haaf net fishing objects
The Museum’s current exhibition (running until March 31st) is on Haaf Net Fishing. These objects have been loaned to the Museum by local haaf net fishermen. We also have several other objects on loan in the exhibition including a full sized haaf net, a cleaning stick for stake nets (used to clean the nets when the tide was ebbing) and a fish storage box (a type used in Annan to transport fish packed in ice to London on the 6am train every morning except Sunday).
Fish Shipping Labels
These labels would be attached to boxes of fish for transport to markets in England. Some are pre-printed, suggesting fish was sent regularly from the Solway to these destinations (London and Grimsby). Other labels are blank so the address can be handwritten on. Fresh fish from the Solway used to be a major source of income for local people and was shipped across the UK by rail in boxes packed with ice. We were told by the donor of these objects that fish went out every day (except Sunday) at 6am on board the train from Annan.
Objects for knitting a haaf net
Haaf nets were traditionally made of hemp. They rotted away quite quickly and at least two nets had to be knitted each fishing season. The knitting of the nets could be done by the fisherman himself or by his wife.
The three objects to the left were used for knitting and the three objects to the right were used to make the nets the correct size. The squares of the net needed to be the right size to catch the right kind of fish.
The largest, thickest block was for making nets to catch salmon (far right).
The medium, lighter coloured block was to make a net for catching trout (in the middle).
The long, thin block was used to make a net for catching herling (nearest). A herling is a one year old trout.
These objects for knitting nets belonged to Slogger , the father of the donor of these objects and one of the organisers of the Haaf Net Exhibition.
For more details on our current exhibition see:
To purchase items relating to Haaf Net fishing from our online shop:
For more details about Haaf Net fishing see (photographs of haaf net fishing used in this article, courtesy of this website):
A selection of historic images can be seen here:
2020 is Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. The Devil’s Porridge Museum is located near the Solway Firth and we are part of the Solway Firth Partnership which works “to support a vibrant and sustainable local economy while respecting, protecting and celebrating the distinctive character, heritage and natural features of our marine and coastal area.”
On January 28th 2020, Georgina Reid from the Solway Firth Partnerhip’s SMILE project will be delivering a talk on the work of the Partnership with a particular emphasis on the SMILE project.
The talk will start at 7pm and the cost is £3 per person (payable on the door, no need to book).
The aim of the Solway Marine Information, Learning and Environment (SMILE) Project is to update the 1996 ‘State of the Solway Review’, using innovative communication methods to gather pan-estuary information, learn from stakeholders and promote a better understanding of the Solway Firth ecosystem. The update is required in the light of new demands made on the estuary’s resources and in the context of marine planning. The Review will provide some of the evidence by which a sustainable approach to planning and management may be achieved; thereby helping to deliver the ecosystem based marine planning frameworks developed for the Solway. The SMILE Project is a EMFF funded project running until the end of 2020.
Biographical information about the speaker
Georgina Reid, SMILE Project officer at Solway Firth Partnership
Studied for her master’s in Marine Spatial Planning and Management in Newfoundland, Canada 2016-18
Interned with the Coastal Zone Management Unit in Barbados in 2018.
For questions and enquiries, please contact Judith on 01461 700021 or email: email@example.com
For more information on the Solway Firth Partnership see: