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Bull Bridge (Spc8 47), Amber Valley

Description: Bull Bridge (Spc8 47)

Grade: II
Date Listed: 10 February 2014
Building ID: 1417626

OS Grid Reference: SK3582252144
OS Grid Coordinates: 435822, 352144
Latitude/Longitude: 53.0653, -1.4669

Locality: Amber Valley
Local Authority: Amber Valley Borough Council
County: Derbyshire
Postcode: DE56 2JB

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Listing Text


Bridge and retaining walls built in 1837 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick, with a renewed deck dating to the first half of the C20.

Reason for Listing

Bull Bridge 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 Company between 1837 and 1840, designed by George Stephenson, one of the most important and influential railway engineers, 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;

* Architectural interest: the impressive aesthetic quality of Bull Bridge far exceeds its functional and structural requirements, and it demonstrates the consistently high quality design and careful stone detailing of the railway structures completed for the North Midland Railway;

* Alterations: whilst the repair of the bridge has resulted in some loss of original fabric, the replaced span is a comparatively small element in what is an otherwise extensive structure. The C20 steel span is excluded from the listing.


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.

Bull Bridge was built in 1837 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.

The bridge spans Bull Bridge Lane at the junction with the A610, north of Ambergate. The line here was supported by stone retaining walls, as opposed to the more usual earth embankment, because of the limited land available. The contract drawings show that the bridge was designed with a cast-iron deck and ashlar abutments in the form of piers, flanked by wing walls. The piers and retaining walls differ slightly from the contract drawing and it is not clear if they were executed to a different design or have been altered since. On 26 September 1860, whilst a heavy freight train was crossing, one of the ribs failed causing the train to derail. The deck was replaced, and was again renewed with a riveted steel plate girder span probably in the first half of the C20.


Bridge and retaining walls built in 1837 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick, with a renewed deck dating to the first half of the C20. The C20 span of steel-plate girders is not of special interest.

MATERIALS: coursed quarry-faced Derbyshire gritstone with ashlar dressings. The span of riveted steel-plate girders does not have special interest and is excluded from the listing.

EXTERIOR: the bridge consists of riveted steel-plate girders, supported by gritstone abutments and long retaining walls either side of the line in both directions. The soffit of the span has narrow, concrete arches between the girders. Both faces of the bridge are similar. The abutments project as broad piers that have v-jointed picked quoins with dressed margins. From the springing point upward these piers are treated as tall ashlar pedestals with a plinth, dado and simple stepped cornice. The massive retaining walls extend either side of the tracks for c.100m to the north on both sides and for c.150m to the south on the east side only, alongside the A610. The walls are battered and have a prominent string course of quarry-faced stone with dressed margins at impost level. Above this is a course of punched stone, corresponding to the plinth of the pier, followed by a parapet of decreasing courses of quarry-faced stone with a bull-nosed and quarry-faced coping. The parapet of the west retaining walls has been reduced by a number of courses and replaced with narrow ashlar coping and metal railings.

Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the C20 span of steel-plate girders is not of special architectural or historic interest.

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