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Bridge near Dauntsey (MLN18830)

A Grade II Listed Building in Christian Malford, Wiltshire

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Latitude: 51.5179 / 51°31'4"N

Longitude: -2.0227 / 2°1'21"W

OS Eastings: 398519

OS Northings: 179890

OS Grid: ST985798

Mapcode National: GBR 2RV.Z91

Mapcode Global: VHB3N.W3JP

Entry Name: Bridge near Dauntsey (MLN18830)

Listing Date: 18 July 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1409182

Location: Christian Malford, Wiltshire, SN15

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Christian Malford

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Christian Malford

Church of England Diocese: Bristol

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Christian Malford


A triple span humpbacked accommodation bridge with semi-elliptical arches, erected over a cutting c. 1839-40.


MATERIALS: original handmade red brick appears to survive in some areas, for example, in the piers and soffits, but otherwise elevations and parapets appear to be entirely refaced in red engineering brick with purple engineering brick detailing. English bond.

DESCRIPTION: sweeping humpback profile and elegantly concave elevations. Central arch with standard 30ft (9m) span; side arches the same height but with a c. 15ft (4.5m) span, and more rounded profile. Piers with a single transverse arch each, now infilled. Chamfered purple engineering brick string course (originally moulded). Parapets terminate in piers projecting on the outer face only, at the ends of the curved wing walls. The inner face of the parapets have low chamfered plinths. Coping is bull-nosed purple engineering brick except for the terminating piers, which have quarry-faced stone blocks.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 19/07/2012


The Great Western Railway was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1835 to construct a line from London to Bristol. At 118 miles this was slightly longer than the other major trunk railway of its time, the London and Birmingham (112 miles) and considerably longer than other pioneering lines. Construction of the line began in 1836, using a variety of contractors and some direct labour. The first section to be completed, from London to Maidenhead Riverside (Taplow), opened in 1838, and thereafter openings followed in eight phases culminating in the completion of the whole route in 1841.

The engineering of the railway was entrusted in 1833 to Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59), who was already known for his engineering projects in Bristol. More than any other railway engineer of his time he took sole responsibility for every aspect of the engineering design, from surveying the line to the detailing of buildings and structures. He sought to achieve as level a route as possible and, working from first principles, he persuaded the Directors of the GWR to adopt a broad gauge of 7ft 0¼ in rather then the standard (4ft 8½in) gauge in use on other lines. A two track broad gauge line was 30ft wide, and this determined the span of the overbridges and other structures. Except for larger bridges such as Maidenhead Bridge, the majority of Brunel’s masonry bridges did not need to be as innovative as his works in timber and iron, and his structures followed the typical architectural idioms of his time, but they were all beautifully detailed and built and together they formed integral parts of a consistently-designed pioneering railway.

Although he left no written statement concerning his design concept for the line, it can be inferred from its design and from the way it was described when opened that part of his vision was a line engineered according to picturesque principles. This influenced his selection of the route and the design of structures along it. For reasons of cost, but also because it helped blend the railway to the landscape, he used local materials for bridges and other structures, ranging from stock brick at the London end of the line, to red brick, Bath stone east of Bath and Pennant stone west of Bath. This intentional variety was remarked on by contemporaries, for instance in J.C. Bourne, 'The History and Description of the Great Western Railway' (1846).

Surviving contract drawings for bridges and other structures on this section of the line carry the signature of I.K. Brunel, reflecting his involvement with every aspect of the project. The Resident Engineer was G.E. Frere (1807-87), assisted by G.T. Clark (1809-98) and Michael Lane (1802-68), but their individual contributions have not been identified.

This bridge was built c. 1839-41 on the Wootton Bassett to Chippenham section of the route, which opened May 1841. This stretch of the line was never quadrupled and so the bridge has not been extended. However, in the later C19 or the C20 the bridge was refaced in engineering brick, possibly in more than one phase.
Located between the villages of Dauntsey Lock and Christian Malford, the bridge is intervisible with the near identical Dauntsey Road Bridge (MLN1 8849), ¼ mile west down the line towards Chippenham.

Reasons for Listing

The Bridge near Dauntsey, constructed c.1839-40, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Date: an early example of a railway structure dating from the pioneering phase in national railway development;
* Design: although to a basic design, the bridge is well detailed with its three semi-elliptical arches and stepped string course, replaced as part of the refacing;
* Group value: it forms a group with other architecturally-similar overbridges on the section of line between Wootton Bassett and Chippenham, in particular Dauntsey Road Bridge, with which it is intervisible;
* Historic association: it is constructed to a design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel who is widely perceived as one of the most important transport engineers and architects of the C19.

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