TWO Red Wheel heritage plaques have been unveiled side-by-side on the Nine Arches viaduct.

The plaques celebrate the significance of the Sankey Canal, which used to run under the structure, and the landmark's historical place as the world’s earliest major railway viaduct still in use.


What is the Red Wheel scheme?

Red Wheels are similar to English Heritage’s blue plaque scheme, and commemorate Britain's greatest transport heritage sites.

There is an emphasis on key locations of engineering and transport importance.


'A key part of our railway heritage'

Lady Judith McAlpine, chair/president of the National Transport Trust, visited the site in Newton-le-Willows to unveil the plaques.

She was joined by heritage campaigners, Conor McGinn MP, the Mayor of St Helens, Cllr Sue Murphy and councillors.

Newton Councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron, the deputy leader of St Helens Borough Council, was among the party which gathered for the official event.

He said:  “It was an absolute pleasure to meet Judith, Lady McAlpine who unveiled the plaque.

"The McAlpine name is synonymous with railway heritage and it was an honour to show off our Grade I listed Viaduct.

"Full thanks need to go to Barrie Pennington for all of his hard work on pushing this project forward to recognise key parts of our railway heritage.

"It coincides perfectly with the launch of our campaign for Newton-le-Willows to become the home of Great British Railways.”

St Helens Star:

The Nine Arches in Newton-le-Willows

How to see the plaques

The plaques are attached to the viaduct under the arch known as Number Three as this archway has an existing footpath/cycle path directly under it.

The footpath is on level ground and is suitable for wheelchair access. The public can see the plaques from the path.

The plaques are 500mm in diameter, weigh four kilograms each and are made from cast aluminium.

The Nine Arches and a place in history

The Sankey Canal was the first industrial canal in England completed some four years before the Bridgewater Canal and in no small way contributed to the growth of Liverpool as a major port by providing the quantities of coal needed in a speedy fashion.

Campaigners believe the plaques and associated public relations opportunities "will draw attention to the highly significant confluence of these two major engineering feats and contribute to the town’s heritage strategy and local awareness of their place in history".