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Ripley Road Bridge (Spc8 45), Amber Valley

Description: Ripley Road Bridge (Spc8 45)

Grade: II
Date Listed: 10 February 2014
Building ID: 1417691

OS Grid Reference: SK3527851789
OS Grid Coordinates: 435278, 351785
Latitude/Longitude: 53.0622, -1.4750

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

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Listing Text


A railway underbridge comprising one skew arch and three square-set arches, built c.1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson, with their Assistant Engineer Frederick Swanwick. The bridge was widened c.1875-6 for the Midland Railway by the addition of an iron girder deck on either side. Further refurbishment of the metal decking took place in 1933. This early C20 metal decking is not of special interest.

Reason for Listing

The Ripley Road Bridge is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: the masonry bridge survives within the widened structure, and 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.

* Historic interest: the bridge is one of a series of railway structures built for the North Midland Railway between 1837 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 line is considered to be amongst the best- preserved examples of the pioneering phase of railway development in England.

* Engineering interest: The bridge was designed with a combination of skew and in-line arches to span both the River Amber and the nearby turnpike road. The skew bridge arches on this section of the line are amongst the earliest to be built in the world. The subsequent widening demonstrates significant changes in bridge design applied to the same span requirements.

* Group value: the bridge forms part of a series of bridges constructed between Ambergate and Clay Cross, seven of which are listed, which share a common architectural language and which form part of a railway landscape of great interest.


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 (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 Ripley 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.

The 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 built to the designs of 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 Ripley Road Bridge reflects these shared design attributes, but its unusual plan responds to the local need to span the turnpike (now the A610) and the River Amber. The bridge was illustrated in an engraving commissioned by the railway company's architect Francis Thompson, although there is no firm evidence of his involvement in its design.

The bridge was the first structure north of Ambergate station, which developed into a major junction following the opening of the line to Matlock in 1849, later extended as the Midland Railway’s main line to Manchester. The subsequent completion of a line to Pye Bridge in the Erewash valley in 1875, and the development of extensive sidings for George Stephenson’s lime kilns near Ambergate, required the expansion of Ambergate Station in 1876. This appears to have led to the widening of the tracks to the north of Ambergate, and the addition of iron spans to the Ripley Road Bridge. These were in turn refurbished with new steelwork in 1933 by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.


MATERIALS: coursed and squared, quarry-faced Derbyshire gritstone, with ashlar dressings, red-brick soffit linings, and wrought-iron and steel girders.

DESCRIPTION: the bridge is formed of four spans. The skew arch spans the former turnpike road, now the A610, with three, square-set arches spanning the south bank of the River Amber, the river itself, and its north bank. The bridge masonry walling comprises quarry-faced, coursed squared gritstone, carrying tooled and chamfered ashlar imposts bands. The arches are formed of v-jointed, rusticated ashlar voussoirs, which return as quoins to the brick soffit linings. These arches are flanked by later girders laid on masonry extensions to the earlier bridge piers and abutments. The masonry extensions were designed to complement the appearance of the original stonework, structure, and abut the earlier masonry with straight joints. The wide, original south pier was detailed to accommodate the angle between the skew arch and the adjacent square-set arch, with two additional slender piers of c.1875-6. On each side of the bridge the extensions support a riveted, wrought-iron and steel girder deck, with steel railings. The bottom edges of the girders are carried across the original arch faces, but the inside faces of the original abutments, piers, arch soffits and sections of spandrels remain visible. The stonework is quarry-faced squared and coursed gritstone, with tooled ashlar imposts bands (with chamfered edges) and V-jointed rusticated ashlar voussoirs, also tooled. These return as quoins on the soffit, which is lined with patched red brick.

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

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