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Long Eaton Canal Bridge (SPC6 20)

A Grade II Listed Building in Long Eaton, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 52.884 / 52°53'2"N

Longitude: -1.2792 / 1°16'44"W

OS Eastings: 448603

OS Northings: 332086

OS Grid: SK486320

Mapcode National: GBR 7H1.1G6

Mapcode Global: WHDH3.BR3W

Entry Name: Long Eaton Canal Bridge (SPC6 20)

Listing Date: 11 February 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1417992

Location: Sawley, Erewash, Derbyshire, NG10

County: Derbyshire

District: Erewash

Electoral Ward/Division: Sawley

Parish: Sawley

Built-Up Area: Long Eaton

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Long Eaton St Laurence

Church of England Diocese: Derby

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Long Eaton


A two-span skew underbridge, built c.1837-40 to the designs of Charles Vignoles for the Midland Counties Railway, partly reconstructed by the Midland Railway in 1848 and 1905.


A two-span skew underbridge, built c.1837-40 to the designs of Charles Vignoles for the Midland Counties Railway, partly reconstructed by the Midland Railway in 1848 and 1905.

MATERIALS: coursed quarry-faced sandstone walling with tooled gritstone dressings. The west span has steel plate and trussed lattice girders, and the east span has a red-brick soffit, patched with blue engineering brick.

EXTERIOR: the two-span bridge carries the railway over the Erewash Canal and tow path, and the farm track to the east. The west side of the bridge has a single span, replaced in 1905, consisting of three riveted steel girders, between which are straight steel braces and gusset plates. The abutments, which survive from the original structure, are of coursed quarry-faced sandstone. The inside abutment walls have a gritstone string course with chamfered upper edges, and a sloping sandstone course above. The ends of the girders rest on a large, slightly projecting gritstone block with a chamfered upper edge. On the north face, the abutments have parapets of three sandstone courses with a flat coping of gritstone. These parapets have been truncated slightly by the renewal of the span. The north-west abutment has a splayed and raked wing wall falling from the height of the string course, which carries through as its coping.

The east span has a single segmental arch of v-channelled, quarry-faced sandstone voussoirs with tooled margins. The voussoirs finish as quoins on the arch soffit that springs from gritstone impost bands and is of skew set red brick, patched in blue engineering brick. Four cast-iron girders are set into the soffit between blocks of picked gritstone with tooled margins. The arch is flanked by raked abutments. The north face of the bridge has a gritstone string course above the voussoirs. This supports the parapet which comprises three sandstone courses with flat gritstone coping. On the east side, the structure ends at a perpendicular junction between the abutment and a masonry wall, the lower section of which may be contemporary as it is of coursed quarry-faced sandstone. The missing end section of the string course shows where a stepway was removed before 1965: the parapet and coping above have been rebuilt. The south face of the east span differs slightly due to the alterations made when the line-side footpath was added. The original string course, parapet and coping were replaced with a wide coping course of tooled gritstone with a chamfered upper edge, supported at each end by a pair of curved and tooled gritstone brackets. The arch is flanked by projecting, raked abutments. On the east side, the abutment ends in a projecting pier beyond the splayed and sloping wing wall, which has flat gritstone coping. Both faces of the bridge have late-C19 or C20 metal railings, with a further railing for the line-side footpath on the south side.


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.

Long Eaton Canal Bridge was built between 1837 and 1840 as part of the Midland Counties Railway. The line connecting Derby and Nottingham to Leicester and Rugby originated in a proposal to supply Leicester with coal from the Nottinghamshire coalfield but it was extended to Rugby in order to become a major component in the strategy to link London to the North. The routes were surveyed by Charles Vignoles in 1835 and an Act of Parliament for the construction of the line was obtained in 1836. The sixty mile line was opened in three stages between 1839 and 1840. Built largely across the Trent, Derwent and Soar valleys, the engineering of this line was in most respects less demanding than the North Midland. At Derby the company shared a station provided by the North Midland but built its own principal stations at Nottingham and Leicester together with an increasing number of intermediate stations.

Long Eaton Canal Bridge is a two-span structure: the west span (SPC6/20) crosses the Erewash Canal, and the east span (SPC6/20a) crosses over a farm track. It was built under Contract No.1, dated 29 June 1837 and was completed in time for the opening of the line from Leicester to the Trent on 5 May 1840. There are some inconsistencies in the contract for this section of the line, but the drawing for Long Eaton Canal Bridge can be identified with reasonable confidence. It is signed by the engineer Charles Vignoles and the contractor William Mackenzie of Leyland, Lancashire. The east span is depicted in the contract drawing as having a semi-elliptical brick arch, like most Midland Counties Railway bridges, but it was eventually built in stone in order to satisfy negotiations with the Erewash Canal Company. The west span is shown with arched ribs with pierced spandrel rings, and decorative balustrades, perhaps again to satisfy the aesthetic concerns of the Canal Company. It is not known if this exact design was executed as correspondence shows that the span was renewed by the Midland Railway under resident engineer William Henry Barlow, in 1848. No drawings for this work survive but it probably also involved alterations to the abutments, including the addition of six gritstone blocks to carry each end of the three replacement cast-iron girders.

Both spans of Long Eaton Canal Bridge were widened slightly by the Midland Railway in the late-C19 to accommodate a line-side footpath on the south side. Surviving drawings show that this was achieved by attaching a steel plate girder with a trussed lattice parapet to the west span; and by replacing the parapet of the east span with a large gritstone coping course. This was supported by extending the abutments and embedding a pair of curved gritstone brackets in each spandrel. Further alterations to the east span include the addition of four, curved iron girders set into the soffit between gritstone blocks, probably in the C19, and some patching of the soffit in engineering brick. The north-east wing wall has been altered by the removal of a stepway (which may itself have been a later addition to the original bridge) and by the infilling of the opening. This took place before 1965 when a reinforced concrete slab was poured above the red-brick arch ring. The main cast-iron span on the west side of the bridge was reconstructed with three steel plate girders in 1905, although the lattice girder extension on the south side was retained. Metal railings were added to both spans in the late-C19 or C20.

Reasons for Listing

Long Eaton Canal Bridge is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: the bridge forms part of a series of railway structures designed by Charles Blacker Vignoles for the Midland Counties Railway between 1837 and 1840. The line is an important example of the pioneering phase of railway development in England;

* Engineering interest: developments in skew arches were designed specifically to meet the requirements of the railway, enabling them to be built in large numbers for the first time. Skew bridges represent a truly innovative engineering solution of the pioneering phase of railway development, and are therefore the first of their kind anywhere in the world;

* Architectural interest: it is a rare surviving example of a stone bridge built by the Midland Counties Railway, demonstrating a high standard of design and masonry detailing resulting in an aesthetic quality that exceeds its functional and structural requirements;

* Context: it was given special masonry treatment due to its location on the Erewash Canal, a notable epicentre of C19 transport activity.

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