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Osmondthorpe Subway, Hul4/31, Leeds

Description: Osmondthorpe Subway, Hul4/31

Grade: II
Date Listed: 5 March 2015
Building ID: 1419085

OS Grid Reference: SE3347833471
OS Grid Coordinates: 433478, 433469
Latitude/Longitude: 53.7965, -1.4932

Locality: Leeds
County: Leeds
Postcode: LS9 0JF

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Listing Text


Railway basket-arched accommodation underbridge, constructed for the Leeds & Selby Railway 1830-4 to the designs of Walker & Burges; the contractor was Nowell & Sons.

Reason for Listing

Osmondthorpe Subway HUL 4/31, of c1830-34 by James Walker of Walker & Burges for Leeds & Selby Railway, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Historic interest: as an original underbridge built between 1830 and 1834 on the pioneering, first phase Leeds & Selby Railway; * Engineer: designed by James Walker, a renowned C19 engineer, who constructed the line with a four-track bed and distinctive, single-span bridges with unprecedented spans of 60ft (18.2m); * Architectural interest: as a single-span, basket-arch bridge demonstrating a high level of craftsmanship in its construction, detailing, and dressing; * Intactness: the bridge is largely unaltered and retains its original parapets.


In the early C19 Leeds was a major textile manufacturing centre and needed a good transport connection to the sea for the import of raw wool and export of finished cloth. The pre-existing river and canal system to Hull was slow and expensive and a railway link from Leeds to Selby and then onwards to Hull was considered to have potential to improve the transport infrastructure, and could also benefit local coal mine and quarry owners. In 1825 George Stephenson was asked to survey a possible route to Selby. However, financial uncertainties led to the project being postponed and Stephenson concentrated on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway instead. In 1829 the engineer James Walker was asked to review the Stephenson proposal. Walker (1781-1862) is best known for designing harbours, docks and lighthouses, having been appointed consulting engineer to Trinity House in 1825. However, he also played an important role in the early development of the railway system. In 1829 he went into partnership with his assistant, Alfred Burges (1797-1886, father of architect William Burges), though Burges does not appear to have been involved in Walker's railway projects. Having resurveyed the route Walker suggested some adjustments to enable the use of horse or locomotive power without the inclusion of inclined planes worked with stationary steam engines. The proposed route ran from Leeds to the River Ouse at Selby via Crossgates, Garforth and Milford, a distance of just over 19 miles. Walker also suggested that the plan put before Parliament allowed sufficient land to be purchased for the construction of a four track line. It was authorised by Parliament in 1830, four months before the pioneering Liverpool & Manchester Railway opened, and was fully opened by December 1834. Walker acted as consulting engineer, and in common with other early railway builders, had a resident engineer for the day-to-day supervision and some of the detailed design, using Thomas Dyson, and, from 1832, George Smith. Nowell & Sons of Dewsbury and Homer & Pratt of Goole were the two contractors. The scale of the project was unusual because of the decision to provide four tracks. This resulted in a trackbed of 66ft (20.1m) rather than the typical two track line which had a trackbed of 30ft (9.1m); even Brunel designing for his broad-gauge track used that dimension. The extra width gave the railway a quite different character from the simple lines and waggonways that had preceded it. The most distinctive characteristic of the line was the design for the overbridges, which had to span the four tracks rather than the usual two tracks. Walker did not use a twin-span bridge, but designed a bridge with a single, basket arch (three-centred arch where the height is less than half the span) and an unprecedented span of around 60 ft (18.2m). In the event only a twin-track line was laid, and in many cases one side of the arch is obscured by the earth embankment. The bridges were built of stone with the exception of a brick underbridge at Barwick Road, Garforth, and two iron bridges, one of which survives at Crawshaw Woods. Osmondthorpe Subway was constructed in 1830-4; during the C20 stone-clad embankments were constructed against the wing walls.


Railway basket-arched accommodation underbridge, constructed for the Leeds & Selby Railway 1830-4 to the designs of Walker & Burges; the contractor was Nowell & Sons.MATERIALS: quarry-faced limestone and ashlar sandstone. PLAN: single-span with provision for four tracks.The arch springs from a quarry-faced impost band and comprises rusticated and v-jointed quarry-faced sandstone with a slightly dropped and projecting keystone with an ashlar string course above. The wing walls are straight and raked, and have added stone-clad embankments built against them. The parapet has distinctive, pronounced horizontal tooling with similarly detailed terminating piers.

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