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Alfreton Road Bridge (SPC8 10)

A Grade II Listed Building in Derwent, City of Derby

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.9466 / 52°56'47"N

Longitude: -1.4634 / 1°27'48"W

OS Eastings: 436155

OS Northings: 338941

OS Grid: SK361389

Mapcode National: GBR PN5.92

Mapcode Global: WHDGT.H6CC

Entry Name: Alfreton Road Bridge (SPC8 10)

Listing Date: 10 February 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1417678

Location: Derby, DE21

County: City of Derby

Electoral Ward/Division: Derwent

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Derby

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Breadsall All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Derby

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Summary

A three-span skew overbridge carrying the Alfreton Road, built 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick.

Description

A three-span skew overbridge carrying the Alfreton Road, built 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick.

MATERIALS: walling of coursed and squared Coal Measure sandstone with tooled, ashlar Derbyshire Gritstone dressings. The soffits of the arches are of red brick.

DESCRIPTION: the high-mileage (north) face is a mirror image of the low-mileage (south) face. Three segmental arches with rusticated ashlar Gritstone voussoirs springing from impost bands which continue onto the underside of the bridge. The central arch conforms to the standard dimensions of the Stephensons’ North Midland overbridges, with a span of 30ft and, originally, a height of 16ft. However the outer arches are slightly narrower. They spring from impost bands that project to cap the piers and abutments. These are all of coursed and squared quarry-faced sandstone with plinths and ashlar Gritstone quoins (chamfered to the piers). The bridge is framed by applied piers with a concave rake and rusticated Gritstone quoins; the piers continue upwards as part of the parapet. Running across the face and piers is a Gritstone cornice composed of a narrow, ashlar course, a bold, tooled roll moulding, and then a course of ashlar with a chamfered upper edge. Above it the parapet is of two sandstone courses, which are picked with tooled margins on the outer face but punched on the inner face. This is surmounted by Gritstone coping stones, which are broad, tooled and square-moulded, with a slight fall to the outside edge. The wing walls are of coursed and squared, quarry-faced sandstone, and they are raked and curved; because of the skew, the low-mileage (south) wing wall projects much further on the down (west) side than that on the up (east) side; the opposite is true of the high-mileage (north) wing wall. Marking the termination of the long wing walls are half hexagonal stone piers whilst the short wing walls terminate in raked piers.

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

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 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 (listed at 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.

Alfreton 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.

Alfreton Road Bridge is one of an extended sequence of surviving bridges built for the North Midland Railway between Derby and Chesterfield. It is typical of those designed for the Railway by George and Robert Stephenson, with their assistant engineer, Frederick Swanwick. Alfreton Road Bridge was constructed under the contract for Derby, which was won by Messrs. Nowell with a tender of £19,000. It survives in an essentially unaltered state, exhibiting many characteristics that are shared with other bridges along the route. In particular, it belongs to a small group of overbridges in the Derwent valley with multiple spans; C19 maps show that the outer arches were designed to span large drainage channels, which were later infilled to allow additional tracks to be laid. Mansfield Road (SPC8 6) is another example. An engraving shows a similar example on the Stephensons’ contemporary Grand Junction Railway. Furthermore Alfreton Road Bridge was built according to the ‘English’ or ‘helicoidal’ system of skew-arch construction. This involved the voussoir bed joints being laid parallel to one another and perpendicular to the direction of the bridge, simplifying construction. The method was published by the mathematician Peter Nicholson in 1828, and elaborated upon by the engineer Charles Fox in 1836, before being published in a definitive form by George Buck in 1839. Thus pre-1840 skew-arched bridges built on pioneering phase English railways were the first of their kind anywhere in the world.

Reasons for Listing

Alfreton Road Bridge, constructed in 1838-40, 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 remarkably unaltered bridge.
* 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;
* Engineering interest: as one of the earliest type of railway skew-arched bridges in the world built according to the ‘helicoidal’ system of construction. The bridge has also been engineered to accommodate the local drainage conditions and more widely as a response to the picturesque river valley in which it was constructed.

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