A slightly skew segmental arch road overbridge, spanning a cutting, erected c. 1845-47.
Reason for Listing
Rockingham Road Bridge is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Selectivity: the only example to this design of a Brunel single-span segmental arched bridge with raking abutments;
* Design, engineering and material interest: well-preserved, elegant, Brunel period bridge of unique design, that was possible determined by aesthetics as much as on engineering grounds, built of handmade brick;
* Historic interest: built by the Hampshire and Berkshire Railway for the Reading-Newbury line, by an assistant engineer to Brunel’s specification; opened 1847, became part of GWR line to Exeter in 1906.
Rockingham Road Bridge was built c. 1845-47 as part of the Berkshire and Hampshire Railway. This railway line from Reading to Newbury, opened in 1847, was the outcome of a dispute between the Great Western Railway (GWR) and the London and South Western Railway about the provision of a railway to Newbury. The GWR originally proposed to reach the town by a branch from the main line at Pangbourne, but eventually settled on the present route. This was built by a subsidiary company to the GWR, the Berkshire and Hampshire Railway. The engineer was Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) who, as with the main line, designed the line on the broad gauge. Having previously dismissed the idea of a route to Bristol via Newbury and the Vale of Pewsey he did not regard this as a major project: it only became part of the direct GWR route to Exeter in 1906. It is not known who was the Resident Engineer for the project.
Since construction there have been no major alterations, apart from some patching, and the parapets raised in the C20.
Although common nationally, single-arch bridges were less common on GWR lines where the wider triple-arch bridge was favoured. Only two intact single-arch bridges remain on this line, and there is no other bridge to this design by Brunel, who preferred the elliptical arch. Since the bridge is sufficiently high and wide that the unusual form of the arch was not necessary on engineering grounds, it is possible that is was designed in this way for aesthetic reasons. The arch and raking abutments are visible from the station platform beyond the vertical abutments of the now much-altered intervening bridge and it is possible that it was intended to be seen, while travelling at slow speed on arrival and departure.
MATERIALS: original handmade red brick, with some red engineering brick patching and GWR red and purple engineering brick to the tops of the parapets. English bond.
DESCRIPTION: single segmental arch with c. 36ft span springing from abutments which incline inwards. Each abutment pierced by three segmental arched recesses. The carriageway is unusually wide at 24ft between parapets. The bridge faces, with stepped string course, continue in an elegantly gentle curve to form slightly raked wing walls, where the humped-back parapets terminate in piers expressed on the external face only. The parapets raised in the C20 with five courses of engineering brick and a steeply pitched rendered coping.
This is an unusual design for Brunel.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.