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Hills Bridge (SPC8 63)

A Grade II Listed Building in Brackenfield, Derbyshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.1211 / 53°7'15"N

Longitude: -1.4255 / 1°25'31"W

OS Eastings: 438545

OS Northings: 358363

OS Grid: SK385583

Mapcode National: GBR 6BM.6FY

Mapcode Global: WHDFW.2TG6

Entry Name: Hills Bridge (SPC8 63)

Listing Date: 11 February 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1417619

Location: Brackenfield, North East Derbyshire, Derbyshire, DE55

County: Derbyshire

District: North East Derbyshire

Civil Parish: Brackenfield

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Brackenfield Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Derby

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Summary

A single-span accommodation underbridge, built 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick.

Description

A single-span accommodation underbridge, built 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick.

MATERIALS: Derbyshire Gritstone, both rusticated ashlar and coursed and squared quarry-faced, and a red brick soffit.

DESCRIPTION: the two faces are essentially identical. The single, semi-circular arch has rusticated, V-channelled voussoirs which spring from an impost band, and a projecting keystone. Both the spandrels and abutments are of rusticated v-channelled ashlar with tooled detailing. The arch soffit is of red brick. Below the soffit and impost bands the underside walls are slightly raked. Framing the arch are projecting, gently curved wing walls. They are of coursed and squared quarry-faced stone with tooled ashlar quoins. Above the arch, and cutting short the uppermost voussoirs, is a parapet consisting of one projecting course of tooled ashlar and one deep course of the same above. The parapet is topped by C20 metal railings.

History

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, was pre-eminently the work of George (1781-1848) and Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) who, along with Brunel, are the most renowned engineers of this pioneering phase of railway development. The less demanding route for the Midland Counties Railway, which ran between Derby and Nottingham to Leicester, was surveyed by Charles 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 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 south of the Trent from the early 1870s to the 1890s.

Hills 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 (1810-1885) 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. A notable sequence of picturesque stations along the line was designed by Francis Thompson (1808-95) who was thus also influential in setting his stamp on the character of the line.

Hills Bridge is one of a series of similar bridges built for the North Midland Railway between Derby and Chesterfield. The bridge was designed by George and Robert Stephenson, with their Assistant Engineer Frederick Swanwick. The bridge has been little altered since construction apart from repairs to the soffit of the arch, metal tie plates on the spandrels and the addition of C20 metal railings.

Reasons for Listing

Hills Bridge, constructed in 1836-40, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Date: as an early example of a railway structure dating from the pioneering phase in national railway development;
* Intactness: as a largely unaltered bridge that is well preserved;
* Historic interest: as a bridge that forms part of the North Midland Railway, which was designed by George and Robert Stephenson, among the greatest and most influential of all railway engineers, with their assistant Frederick Swanwick;
* Architectural interest: as an example of the consistently high quality design and careful detailing of railway structures completed for the North Midland Railway. The aesthetic quality of the bridge far exceeds the functional and structural requirements of bridge design.

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