The Motorway Archive
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What is the Motorway Archive?
Work on developing the UK Motorway system, which transformed British travel, started in the mid-1950s. The Motorway Archive celebrates the engineering achievement involved in the conception, planning, design and construction of this transport network by thousands of dedicated professionals. The Archive itself is a collection of as many of the documents and artefacts, which were associated with the development, as it has been possible to find. From this wealth of material has come the story of each motorway developed in Britain over the last 50 years. This is the story of the development of parts of the important Trunk Road, A1.

Region: North East

A1 Improvement schemes. Catterick By-pass


Catterick as a military base has its origins in Roman times. Under the Angles it played an important part. King Ethelwald married Etheldreda in 762. It was torched by the Norsemen. In Leylands' time Catterick was a "very poore towne" and had no market. The Angel Inn and George Inn at Catterick Bridge are among the oldest of Yorkshires posting houses. The race-course was one of the first in the country.

Agricola Bridge

This was the first major by-pass scheme to be undertaken by the Direct Labour Organisation in the post-war years. It was some 3½ miles in length with surface level roundabout junctions at each end, (grade separation was to come later), together with some side-road diversions, and included nine bridges. Two of the over-bridges and two underbridges were single span steel beam and composite concrete construction, whilst the bridges carrying the A6136 Road and the Catterick Camp Railway were twin span. The bridge over the River Swale was a three span structure also of steel beam and composite concrete construction.

All bridge abutments were faced in natural sandstone.

The Ministry of Transport had stipulated, amongst other things, economy of land-take, resulting in a 10ft. wide central reservation and side slopes of 1½:1.

Ground conditions were generally very good, varying from gravel south of the River Swale to boulder clay north of the river. No piling of the bridge foundations was necessary.

The carriageway construction was made up of 3 layers of wet-mix overlaid with 4 in. of 2-coat hot rolled asphalt. Initially, the wet-mix was of Dolomite Limestone, but this proved to be totally unsuitable in inclement weather conditions, when it turned to slurry and ½ mile had to be dug up and removed. A gravel-based wet-mix supplied from local quarries was substituted.

In the vicinity of the River Swale crossing, the by-pass passed through the Roman site of Cataractonium. Although earlier excavations had revealed the presence of a "bath house" and Roman artefacts, it became necessary for archaeologists to undertake further detailed investigation of the site before the "go-ahead" signal was given for roadworks to proceed. The main portion of the "bath-house" is in the eastern side slope of the by-pass.

Some firsts or early uses of material or plant in the construction of the by-pass were:-

  • First rolling of Universal Beams from Dorman Long's Lackenby Mill.
  • Amongst the first for bridge design using composite construction, resulting in bridge costs as low as 6.00 per sq. ft.
  • Early use of wet-mix in road construction.
  • Hire of the first 4 Blackwood Hodge TS23 Tractor Scrapers.
Catterick Bypass Completion.jpg

The by-pass cost 1,060,000 and was opened in 1959.

After the opening of the by-pass with its narrow central reservation and before Armco-style central reservation barriers were introduced, a problem of head-light glare affecting night-time drivers became apparent. In an effort to counteract this problem, advice was taken on various species of shrubs which might be salt tolerant, and trial lengths of planting of such shrubs was undertaken. Unfortunately, because of the high degree of winter salting and the consequent spray thrown up by vehicles, none of the shrubs survived.

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