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New Road Bridge (Spc8 27), Amber Valley

Description: New Road Bridge (Spc8 27)

Grade: II
Date Listed: 11 February 2014
Building ID: 1417620

OS Grid Reference: SK3481147277
OS Grid Coordinates: 434811, 347281
Latitude/Longitude: 53.0217, -1.4825

Locality: Amber Valley
Local Authority: Amber Valley Borough Council
County: Derbyshire
Postcode: DE56 1US

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Listing Text


A single-span skew overbridge built in 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick.

Reason for Listing

New Road Bridge, built in 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: the bridge forms part of a series of railway structures built for the North Midland Railway between 1837 and 1840. The line was designed by George and Robert Stephenson, two of the most important and influential engineers of the railway era, aided by Frederick Swanwick, the company's resident engineer. The line is considered to be amongst the best- preserved examples of the pioneering phase of railway development in England, and retains many of its original engineering structures, of which this is an example;
* Engineering interest: Cutting-edge developments in skew arches were designed specifically to meet the requirements of the railway, enabling them to be built in large numbers for the first time. Skew bridges represent a truly innovative engineering solution of the pioneering phase of railway development, and are therefore the first of their kind anywhere in the world;
* Architectural interest: the bridge is an example of the consistently high quality design and careful detailing of railway structures completed for the North Midland Railway between 1837 and 1840. Its aesthetic quality far exceeds the functional and structural requirements of bridge design;
* Group value: the bridge forms part of an integrated design for the Belper cutting, in which the overbridges and the cutting walls share a common architectural vocabulary, and are seen in combination as elements of a railway transport landscape of great interest and quality. The other ten bridges and the cutting wall are listed at Grade II.


The Midland Main Line is the outcome of a number of historic construction phases undertaken by different railway companies. The first two phases were carried out simultaneously between 1836 and 1840 by the North Midland Railway and the Midland Counties Railway. The North Midland Railway, which operated between Derby and Chesterfield and onwards to Rotherham and Leeds, was pre-eminently the work of George (1781-1848) and Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) who, along with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, are the most renowned engineers of this pioneering phase of railway development. They worked closely with the Assistant Engineer, Frederick Swanwick (1810-1885). The railway’s architect Francis Thompson (1808-1895) designed stations and other railway buildings along the line. The less demanding route for the Midland Counties Railway, which ran between Derby and Nottingham to Leicester and on to Rugby, was surveyed by Charles Blacker Vignoles (1793-1875) who was engineer to a large number of railway projects. These two companies (along with the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway) did not yield the expected profits, partly because of the fierce competition between them. This led to the three companies merging into the Midland Railway in 1844 which constituted the first large scale railway amalgamation. The next part of the line from Leicester to Bedford and on to Hitchin was constructed between 1853 and 1857 by the engineer Charles Liddell (c.1813-1894) and specialist railway architect Charles Henry Driver (1832-1900). In 1862 the decision was made to extend the line from Bedford to London which was again the responsibility of Liddell, except for the final fourteen miles into London and the design of the terminus at St Pancras (listed at Grade I) which was undertaken by William Barlow (1812-1902). Additional routes were then added from Chesterfield to Sheffield in 1870, and from Kettering to Corby in 1879. The most important changes to the infrastructure of the Midland Railway were the rebuilding of its principal stations and the increasing of the line’s capacity, involving the quadrupling of some stretches of the route south of the Trent from the early 1870s to the 1890s.

New Road Bridge was built between 1836 and 1840 as part of the North Midland Railway. The route from Derby to Chesterfield and onwards to Rotherham and Leeds was surveyed by George Stephenson in 1835, and the Act of Parliament for the construction of the 72 mile line was obtained in 1836. Linked at Derby to the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway and the Midland Counties Railway, it was to form part of a route from London to Yorkshire and the North East. George Stephenson was joined by his son Robert as joint Chief Engineer on the project in 1837. In order to concentrate on his mineral and mining interests, George relinquished his railway projects in 1839 so it was his son who saw the North Midland through to its completion in 1840. Part of Robert Stephenson’s skill in handling railway projects was his ability to select and manage an able team, and he entrusted much of the engineering design of the North Midland to Frederick Swanwick whose name appears on the surviving contract drawings. The Stephensons, supported by Swanwick, designed the line north from Derby to have gradients no greater than 1 in 250 to suit the low power of contemporary steam locomotives, which meant relegating Sheffield to a link line. To achieve such gradients the line followed the River Derwent as far as Ambergate and then ran through more difficult territory up the valley of the River Amber via Wingfield and Clay Cross to Chesterfield, then over to Rotherham and via Wakefield to Leeds. The notable sequence of picturesque stations along the line was designed by Francis Thompson who was therefore also influential in setting his stamp on the character of the line.

New Road Bridge is one of a series of eleven bridges and associated stone-lined cuttings which run through Belper, north of the River Derwent. The construction of this section of the line was covered by two contracts, the north was awarded to Mr T. Jackson who tendered at £60,500 and the south to Mr McIntosh who tendered at £20,650. This sequence of bridges is the result of complex negotiations which took place between the Strutts, a powerful mill-owning family, and the North Midland Railway. The Strutts were opposed to the proposed route of the railway, which was to be taken around Belper to the west, and would have been visible from their residence, Bridge Hill House. An agreement with the Company was finally signed on 20 November 1838 compelling the line to be taken through the centre of Belper in a costly stone-lined cutting. This required the construction of eleven bridges that maintained the plan and gradient of existing streets. All eleven of these bridges are listed at Grade II, as is the associated cutting between Long Row and Field Lane, and King Street and New Road. New Road Bridge is located at the southern end of the Grade II-listed, stone-lined cutting walls. The bridge has not been subject to any alterations.


A single-span skew overbridge built in 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick.

MATERIALS: coursed and squared Coal Measure sandstone with tooled ashlared Derbyshire gritstone dressings. The soffit of the arch is of skew-set red brick laid in English bond.

EXTERIOR: the single segmental arch conforms to the standard dimensions of the Stephensons’ North Midland overbridges, with a span of 30 feet and, originally, a height of 16 feet. It has v-channelled, rusticated voussoirs that spring from impost bands and radiate into the spandrels. The inner side of the bridge has coursed quarry-faced sandstone, a chamfered plinth, and gritstone impost bands with a course of diagonal set springers from which rises the skew-set red brick of the soffit. On the face of the bridge, beneath the impost bands, the abutments are faced with coursed quarry-faced sandstone, with ashlar quoins, resting on a chamfered plinth. They are angled out to meet the flanking piers under a pitched coping. The projecting piers have a concave rake and quoins. Above the arch is a gritstone cornice consisting of a narrow ashlar course, a bold roll moulding and a broad ashlar course with a chamfered top edge. This forms the first course of the parapet which then has a deep course of picked stone with tooled margins. On the inner (road) side the parapets consist of a half course and one giant course of sandstone, rusticated and v-jointed with a picked surface. The square-moulded gritstone coping stones are tooled and have a slight fall to the outside edge.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.