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Sawley Road Bridge (Spc6 19), Erewash

Description: Sawley Road Bridge (Spc6 19)

Grade: II
Date Listed: 10 February 2014
Building ID: 1417676

OS Grid Reference: SK4811932179
OS Grid Coordinates: 448119, 332180
Latitude/Longitude: 52.8849, -1.2863

Locality: Erewash
Local Authority: Erewash Borough Council
County: Derbyshire
Postcode: NG10 3GL

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Listing Text


A single-span skew underbridge, built 1837-38 for the Midland Counties Railway to the design of Charles Blacker Vignoles; a subsidiary span in the low mileage (east) wing walls, reconstructed in 2005, is not of special interest.

Reason for Listing

Sawley Road Bridge, constructed in 1837-8, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Date: as a railway structure on the Midland Counties Railway dating from the pioneering phase in national railway development;
* Intactness: as a bridge that is well preserved and largely intact, despite being altered through the construction of a narrow additional span in the low mileage (east) wing wall;
* Historic interest: as a Midland Counties Railway bridge for which original drawings and other documentation survive, showing that its design and later alteration took into account the interests of the Trustees of the Nottingham and Sawley Turnpike Road;
* Architectural interest: as a well designed and carefully detailed railway structure. The aesthetic quality of the bridge far exceeds the functional and structural requirements of bridge design;
* Engineering interest: as one of the earliest type of railway skew arched bridges in the world built according to the ‘helicoidal’ system of construction.


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.

Sawley Road Bridge (SPC6/19) was built as part of the Midland Counties Railway. The line connecting Derby and Nottingham to Leicester and Rugby originated in a proposal to supply Leicester with coal from the Nottinghamshire coalfield but it was extended to Rugby in order to become a major component in the strategy to link London to the North. The routes were surveyed by Charles Vignoles in 1835 and an Act of Parliament for the construction of the line was obtained in 1836. The sixty mile line was opened in three stages between 1839 and 1840. Built largely across the Trent, Derwent and Soar valleys, the engineering of this line was in most respects less demanding than the North Midland. At Derby the company shared a station provided by the North Midland but built its own principal stations at Nottingham and Leicester together with an increasing number of intermediate stations.

Sawley Road Bridge was constructed for the Midland Counties Railway under Contract No.1, dated 29 June 1837, and completed by September 1838. The line from Derby to Nottingham opened on 4 June 1839. A contract drawing for Sawley Road Bridge survives, signed by the engineer Charles Blacker Vignoles and the contractor William Mackenzie of Leyland, Lancashire. In order to satisfy the Trustees of the Nottingham and Sawley Turnpike Road, the bridge was the only one in the contract specified to be entirely built of stone. It was built according to the ‘English’ or ‘helicoidal’ system of skew arch construction. This involved the voussoir bed joints being laid parallel to one another and perpendicular to the direction of the bridge, simplifying construction. The method was published by the mathematician Peter Nicholson in 1828, and elaborated upon by the engineer Charles Fox in 1836, before being published in a definitive form by George Buck in 1839. Thus pre-1840 skew arched bridges built on pioneering phase English railways were the first of their kind anywhere in the world.

In September 1838 the Trustees of the Nottingham and Sawley Turnpike Road complained that the construction of the bridge had involved lowering the road by 3ft, and that this would render it unusable when the River Trent flooded. In an agreement of 27 November 1838, the Midland Counties Railway was compelled to make an additional opening and roadway through the side of the bridge at the original road level, 12ft wide by 14ft high. This was knocked through the low mileage (east) wing walls, which were reconstructed, and had a timber deck. This is now known as Roosevelt Avenue (SPC6/19A). A Midland Railway drawing dated 30 August 1890 shows that it was reconstructed in iron with additional piers either side of the span. It was reconstructed again in 2005 in concrete faced in reclaimed stone. The only alteration to the main span (SPC6/19) is the addition of C20 metal railings.


A single-span skew underbridge, built 1837-38 for the Midland Counties Railway to the design of Charles Blacker Vignoles, with a subsidiary span in the low mileage (east) wing walls, reconstructed in 2005.

MATERIALS: coursed and squared sandstone walling with ashlar dressings.

DESCRIPTION: Sawley Road Bridge carries the east-west railway over the north-south Sawley Road. Due to the skew of the bridge the north-east and south-west wing walls are longer and more pronounced than the one to the north-west (the south-east wing wall does not survive).

The bridge has a single segmental arch of rusticated V-channelled punched voussoirs with tooled margins. The soffit is skew set, with V-channelled banded rustication springing from serrated and tooled impost bands. Beneath the impost bands are four rusticated V-channelled punched courses with tooled margins. The imposts curve around to terminate at the abutments, merging with the voussoirs above.

The spandrels of the arch are formed of coursed and punched stones with tooled margins. Above is a tooled string course with a chamfered upper edge. The parapet comprises two courses of picked ashlar with tooled margins surmounted by tooled coping stones with a chamfered upper edge. On top of the coping are C20 steel railings. Below the string course, the abutments project with a concave rake. The abutment walling is V-channelled banded rustication, punched with tooled margins. These abutments curve to terminate in projecting piers, which have tooled parapet courses. On the high mileage (west) side of the bridge, the string course carries through to become the coping of the splayed, quarry-faced wing walls. These begin at the projecting piers with slight concave rakes, but straighten out to terminate in low end piers.

The low mileage (east) wing walls of the bridge have been replaced by an additional narrow span, known as Roosevelt Avenue (SPC6 19A). It is a concrete structure, with a flat soffit, faced in reclaimed stone. A fragment of the 1838 wing wall, with low terminating pier, survives on the up (north) side. This is of the same material and detail as the wing walls on the high mileage (west) side.

Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the subsidiary span in the low mileage (east) wing wall, known as Roosevelt Avenue (SPC6/19A) (a concrete structure, with a flat soffit, faced in reclaimed stone), and the C20 steel railings of the bridge are not of special architectural or historic interest.

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