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Holmes Water Bridge (Spc8 64), North East Derbyshire

Description: Holmes Water Bridge (Spc8 64)

Grade: II
Date Listed: 10 February 2014
Building ID: 1417641

OS Grid Reference: SK3845958743
OS Grid Coordinates: 438459, 358743
Latitude/Longitude: 53.1245, -1.4267

Locality: North East Derbyshire
Local Authority: North East Derbyshire District Council
County: Derbyshire
Postcode: DE55 6AH

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Listing Text


A single-span masonry bridge carrying the railway over the River Amber, built in 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick.

Reason for Listing

Holmes Water 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 1836 and 1840, 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.

* 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 1836 and 1840. Its aesthetic quality far exceeds the functional and structural requirements of bridge design;

* Group value: the bridge is one of a series of bridges developed between 1836 and 1840 which share a common architectural vocabulary, and which help define an early railway transport landscape of great interest and quality.


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.

The Holmes Water 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.

The Holmes Water Bridge is one of a series of railway bridges built c.1836-40 for the North Midland Railway between Derby and Chesterfield. The bridge was designed by George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick. A number of contract drawings for bridges along this line show their common design and constructional characteristics. The bridge appears to have undergone little alteration since construction.


A single-span, railway bridge carrying the line over the River Amber, built c.1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson and their Assistant Engineer Frederick Swanwick.

MATERIALS: coursed and squared quarry-faced Derbyshire gritstone with ashlar dressings, square metal tie plates, and red brick soffit linings.

DESCRIPTION: the east face of the bridge comprises a single, wide, segmental arch of rusticated, V-channelled voussoirs and a projecting keystone. The arch voussoirs rise from a quarry-faced impost band and radiate out to meet the wing walls, into which square metal tie plates have been inserted. Above the arch is a boldly-projecting roll moulding, which is carried through as the coping to the flanking abutment walling. The bridge has a low ashlar parapet to which have been attached C20, steel railings. Below the soffit and impost bands are masonry underside walls. The impost band curves out from the underside of the bridge and extends into the abutment walling where its upper face becomes a pitched surface to shed rainwater. The raking masonry abutment walls are widely splayed. The west face of the bridge is understood to be similarly detailed.

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