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Portal to Stephenson's Tunnel, Crich

A Grade II Listed Building in Crich, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 53.0822 / 53°4'55"N

Longitude: -1.4796 / 1°28'46"W

OS Eastings: 434956

OS Northings: 354009

OS Grid: SK349540

Mapcode National: GBR 6BX.QR0

Mapcode Global: WHDG1.7SPH

Entry Name: Portal to Stephenson's Tunnel, Crich

Listing Date: 4 January 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1406815

Location: Crich, Amber Valley, Derbyshire, DE4

County: Derbyshire

District: Amber Valley

Civil Parish: Crich

Built-Up Area: Crich

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Crich St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Derby

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Tramway tunnel portal built by George Stephenson in 1841.


Tramway tunnel portal built in 1841 by George Stephenson, set directly against a vertical rock outcrop. The portal is constructed of gritstone blocks layed to courses on a projecting plinth.The tunnel entrance is formed of a stilted, semi-circular archway with voussoirs formed of a single course of gritstone blocks. The opening itself is infilled. From the Ordnance Survey historic map evidence it appears that the tunnel itself is short; passing beneath Sandy Lane and originally reappearing in what is now a private garden adjacent to the Fire Station.


In 1837 George Stephenson started on the Clay Cross Tunnel, six miles north of Crich for the North Midland Railway. During this work a coking coal, ideal for use in locomotives, was encountered. Stephenson saw the potential and set up the collieries, coking plant and ironworks of the Clay Cross Company.

By 1840, as the mines developed, coal was sold on the open market but the smaller sized waste coal or 'slack' was difficult to sell. Around the northern edge of Crich are inliers of limestone and The Butterley Company had already recognised the importance of Crich lime for its ironworks and in 1793 opened a plateway between the quarries east of Crich and kilns on the Cromford canal at Bullbridge. Stephenson followed suit and began to use slack to produce lime at Ambergate, with limestone from Church Quarry and, later, the much larger Cliffe Quarry.

Stephenson's railway linking quarries and kilns was a major feat of engineering. Over the 116 years of operation until its closure in 1957, it carried six million tons of limestone. Cliffe Quarry continues to operate but little remains of the mineral railway today. The railway was rope hauled on the steeper gradients but used locomotives elsewhere. Stephenson's kilns were later demolished to make way for the British Gas plant.

Coal mine and quarry railways were narrower in width (gauge) than that of passenger railways: they were built to fit the small spaces in which they had to work; narrowness cut down the cost and ensured that fully loaded wagons were not too heavy to pull. The quarry railway at Crich, instead of being an imperial measurement, was a metric measurement of one metre and was the worlds first metre gauge railway.

The tunnel portal between Sandy Lane and Sun Lane was constructed c1841 and formed part of the Crich tramroad built by George Stephenson to link the Crich Quarry with lime kilns at Ambergate.

Reasons for Listing

The Crich tramway tunnel portal is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historical association: for its direct association with 'The father of the railways', George Stephenson.

* Architectural Interest: as a vestige of the world's first metre-gauge railway.

* Group Value: it forms part a significant group with the Grade II listed Tramway Bridge at Coasthill, Crich (1335327). Together they contribute to our understanding of the important industrial past of Crich and specifically the process flows of the limestone quarry industry.

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