On the 24th October 1972, a section of the temporary structure supporting the construction of the A329(M) viaduct over the river Loddon collapsed, killing 3 men and injuring 10 others. This tragic incident resulted in the Bragg report on construction site safety and the implementation of BS 5975 – Temporary Works Procedures, which has resulted in the near disappearance of major failures of UK temporary works. Despite the significance of this tragedy, there was no memorial to this disaster.
The location of the tragedy, where the A329(M) crosses the river Loddon, is where the parishes of Earley, Woodley and Winnersh meet. Earley Town Councillor Al Neal headed the call for a memorial to this tragic event to be erected and this will become a reality very soon, when a memorial tree will be planted alongside a commemorative plaque.
The tree chosen, a hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), is known for its strength and was traditionally used as a tonic to relieve tiredness and heal wounds. These qualities make it a fitting memorial to the lives lost in this tragedy. As the hornbeam keeps its leaves all year round, it is hoped that this commemorative tree will serve as a winter haven for wildlife, providing shelter and support to a wide variety of animals.
For the location of the memorial, it was felt that Dinton Pastures, which borders Black Swan Lake, would be a suitable site as it is located close to the river Loddon, and is an area that would allow for quiet reflection and remembrance. Wokingham Borough Council have kindly granted permission for the tree to be planted on land which belongs to them.
So at 2pm on Wednesday 16th of November 2022, the Mayors of Earley and Woodley Town Councils, along with councillors and officers from both town councils, will be in attendance at Dinton Pastures Country Park for a commemorative tree planting in memory of the 50th Anniversary of the Loddon Viaduct Collapse.
On the 50th anniversary of this tragedy, Earley Town Council stands in remembrance of all those who were impacted by this disaster. We hope that this memorial will provide a peaceful focus for reflection and remembrance of the lives lost and all those affected by the Loddon Viaduct Collapse, may they always be remembered.