Railway overbridge at Mortimer Station, constructed as part of the Basingstoke-Reading Great Western Railway branch line between 1846-8.
Reason for Listing
Mortimer Station Overbridge, a road bridge over the Didcot Junction to Oxford Great Western Railway Branch line (1846-8) at Mortimer Station, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Intactness: a form of Brunel-designed elliptical-arched overbridge which is largely intact other than minor parapet repairs;
* Date: a bridge which although not part of the earliest and pioneering phase of railway building in the world, is nonetheless of relatively early date and from the second ‘heroic age’ of railway buildings nationally;
* Group value: a bridge which has strong group value claims with the adjacent and contemporary Grade II* Mortimer station buildings, which are also by Brunel.
In March 1832 the Bristol Railway company (later renamed the Great Western Railway) was set up to construct a 118-mile long railway line from London to Bristol. Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) was appointed the company engineer and for the next fifteen years devoted much of his energy to creating what he intended to be 'the Finest Work in England' (Rolt 1957, 171): an unprecedented service of high-speed passenger transport linking London with south-west England. The main line from London to Bristol was constructed in 1835-41 in eight separate sections using a variety of contractors
and some direct labour. The first section to be opened, in the summer of 1838, connected Bishop's Road, London to Maidenhead Riverside. Construction then moved westwards in stages with the section from Maidenhead to Twyford opening in July 1839, Twyford to Reading in March 1840 and the remainder of the line through to Bristol opening in June 1841. Thereafter extensions followed to Exeter, Plymouth, and Penzance; as the South Wales Railway to Cardiff, Swansea, and Milford Haven; and northward to Gloucester, Oxford, and the Mersey.
Brunel oversaw all aspects of the GWR concept and design: the choice of route, which by careful survey and grading was relatively level and with gentle curves; the adoption of a 'broad gauge' of 7' 0¼ " rather than the usual 'standard gauge' of 4' 8½" to give stability at speed; and the carriage of the line via both showpiece engineering structures including viaducts at Hanwell and Chippenham, the Box Tunnel, as well as iron, masonry or brick bridges such as those under consideration here. He employed junior engineers to deliver the build.
The Mortimer Station Overbridge (hereafter ‘Mortimer Bridge’) carries Station Road, Stratfield Mortimer over the Basingstoke branch line. This was one of the early branch lines to the Great Western Railway, built from 1846 and opening on 1 November 1848, joining the main line at Southcote Junction on the outskirts of Reading. The twin track lines were laid to Brunel’s broad gauge. The Reading to Basingstoke section was converted to mixed gauge in 1856.
The bridge is located to the north-east of Mortimer Station. Here the main railway station building and a waiting room on the opposite platform, both 1848 by Brunel, are listed at Grade II*. Mortimer Station served the 1st Duke of Wellington’s country seat at Stratfield Saye, approximately two miles distant, with the suggestion being that he dictated the location of the station, not wanting it to be too close to his house.
Mortimer Bridge is a single span over bridge carrying Station Road over the GWR branch line. It is red brick English bond and has a semi-elliptical arch, a string course to both external elevations and copings of dressed stone. The original sloping retaining walls to the abutments survive trackside at all four corners. The bridge is of a relatively simple form with no evidence of distinct terminal piers. Three parapet ends – both ends of the south-west parapet and the south-east end of the north-west parapet – have been rebuilt in Flemish bond brickwork. Apart from these small areas of rebuilding the brickwork is homogenous and original.
Metal oval plaques, indicating that the bridge is 31 miles from Paddington, are affixed to the north-west and south-east ends of the parapets. Such numbers are more usually, on GWR bridges, painted directly on the wall so this may be a Basingstoke branch line distinct form.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.