A skew, triple-span humpbacked bridge with semi-elliptical arches, erected over a cutting c. 1839-41.
Reason for Listing
Dauntsey Road Bridge, between the villages of Dauntsey Lock and Christian Malford, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Date: an early example of a railway structure dating from the pioneering phase in national railway development;
* Design: constructed to a standard Brunel design of three semi-elliptical arches and stringcourse which altogether form a handsome ensemble redolent of the wider significant engineering achievement;
* Group value: it forms a group with other architecturally-similar overbridges on the section of line between Wootton Bassett and Chippenham, in particular the Overbridge near Dauntsey, with which it is intervisible;
* Historic association: it is constructed to a design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel who is widely perceived as one of the most important transport engineers and architects of the C19.
The Great Western Railway was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1835 to construct a line from London to Bristol. At 118 miles this was slightly longer than the other major trunk railway of its time, the London and Birmingham (112 miles) and considerably longer than other pioneering lines. Construction of the line began in 1836, using a variety of contractors and some direct labour. The first section to be completed, from London to Maidenhead Riverside (Taplow), opened in 1838, and thereafter openings followed in eight phases culminating in the completion of the whole route in 1841.
The engineering of the railway was entrusted in 1833 to Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59), who was already known for his engineering projects in Bristol. More than any other railway engineer of his time he took sole responsibility for every aspect of the engineering design, from surveying the line to the detailing of buildings and structures. He sought to achieve as level a route as possible and, working from first principles, he persuaded the Directors of the GWR to adopt a broad gauge of 7ft 0¼ in rather then the standard (4ft 8½in) gauge in use on other lines. A two track broad gauge line was 30ft wide, and this determined the span of the overbridges and other structures. Except for larger bridges such as Maidenhead Bridge, the majority of Brunel’s masonry bridges did not need to be as innovative as his works in timber and iron, and his structures followed the typical architectural idioms of his time, but they were all beautifully detailed and built and together they formed integral parts of a consistently-designed pioneering railway.
Although he left no written statement concerning his design concept for the line, it can be inferred from its design and from the way it was described when opened that part of his vision was a line engineered according to picturesque principles. This influenced his selection of the route and the design of structures along it. For reasons of cost, but also because it helped blend the railway to the landscape, he used local materials for bridges and other structures, ranging from stock brick at the London end of the line, to red brick, Bath stone east of Bath and Pennant stone west of Bath. This intentional variety was remarked on by contemporaries, for instance in J.C. Bourne, The History and Description of the Great Western Railway (1846).
Surviving contract drawings for bridges and other structures on this section of the line carry the signature of I.K. Brunel, reflecting his involvement with every aspect of the project. The Resident Engineer was G.E. Frere (1807-87), assisted by G.T. Clark (1809-98) and Michael Lane (1802-68), but their individual contributions have not been identified.
This bridge was built c. 1839-41 on the Wootton Bassett to Chippenham section of the route, which opened May 1841. This stretch of the line was never quadrupled and so the bridge has not been extended. However, in the later C19 or the C20 the bridge was refaced in engineering brick, possibly in more than one phase.
MATERIALS: original handmade red brick appears to survive in some areas of the piers, arch rings and soffits, but otherwise elevations and parapets have been refaced in red engineering brick with purple engineering brick detailing. English bond.
DESCRIPTION: sweeping humpback profile and elegantly concave elevations. Central arch with standard 30ft (9m) span; side arches the same height but with a c. 15ft (4.5m) span, and more rounded profile. Piers with a single transverse arch each. Chamfered purple engineering brick string course (originally moulded). Parapets terminate in piers projecting on the outer face only, at the ends of the curved wing walls. The west (high mileage) parapet is of red and purple GWR engineering brick. Inner face of parapets have low chamfered plinths. Coping is bull-nosed purple engineering brick except for the terminating piers, which have quarry-faced stone blocks.
Located between the villages of Dauntsey Lock and Christian Malford in a gentle agricultural landscape, the bridge is intervisible with the near identical Dauntsey accommodation bridge (MLN18830), ¼ mile east up the line towards Swindon.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.