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Common Lane Bridge, HUL3/4

A Grade II Listed Building in Sherburn in Elmet, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 53.7806 / 53°46'50"N

Longitude: -1.2345 / 1°14'4"W

OS Eastings: 450539

OS Northings: 431856

OS Grid: SE505318

Mapcode National: GBR MSTQ.JH

Mapcode Global: WHDBW.07FK

Entry Name: Common Lane Bridge, HUL3/4

Listing Date: 5 March 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1419073

Location: Sherburn in Elmet, Selby, North Yorkshire, LS25

County: North Yorkshire

District: Selby

Civil Parish: South Milford

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Sherburn-in-Elmet All Saints

Church of England Diocese: York

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South Milford


Single-span intersector bridge, built c1839-40 under the direction of Robert Stephenson.


Single-span intersector bridge, built c1839-40 under the direction of Robert Stephenson.

MATERIALS: red brick with sandstone ashlar impost bands, cordons, and coping stones.

PLAN: rectangular-plan with canted flanking wing walls.

Symmetrical single-span, segmental arched bridge. The brick arch springs from an ashlar impost band in each abutment. The spandrels and abutments are of red brick and extending out from these, are canted red brick wing walls with ashlar coping stones, terminating in low square brick piers with ashlar cap stones. The brick parapet walls rest on ashlar cordons and are capped by ashlar coping stones, terminating in rectangular brick piers with ashlar plinths.


In the early C19 Leeds was a major textile manufacturing centre and needed a good transport connection to the sea for the import of raw wool and export of finished cloth. The pre-existing river and canal system to Hull was slow and expensive and a railway link from Leeds to Selby and then onwards to Hull was considered to have potential to improve the transport infrastructure, and could also benefit local coal mine and quarry owners.

In 1825 George Stephenson was asked to survey a possible route to Selby. However, financial uncertainties led to the project being postponed and Stephenson concentrated on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway instead. In 1829 the engineer James Walker was asked to review the Stephenson proposal. Walker (1781-1862) is best known for designing harbours, docks and lighthouses, having been appointed consulting engineer to Trinity House in 1825. However, he also played an important role in the early development of the railway system. In 1829 he went into partnership with his assistant, Alfred Burges (1797-1886, father of architect William Burges), though Burges does not appear to have been involved in Walker's railway projects. Having resurveyed the route Walker suggested some adjustments to enable the use of horse or locomotive power without the inclusion of inclined planes worked with stationary steam engines. The proposed route ran from Leeds to the River Ouse at Selby via Crossgates, Garforth and Milford, a distance of just over 19 miles. Walker also suggested that the plan put before Parliament allowed sufficient land to be purchased for the construction of a four track line. It was authorised by Parliament in 1830, four months before the pioneering Liverpool & Manchester Railway opened, and was fully opened by December 1834.

Walker acted as consulting engineer, and in common with other early railway builders, had a resident engineer for the day-to-day supervision and some of the detailed design, using Thomas Dyson, and, from 1832, George Smith. Nowell & Sons of Dewsbury and Homer & Pratt of Goole were the two contractors. The scale of the project was unusual because of the decision to provide four tracks. This resulted in a trackbed of 66ft (20.1m) rather than the typical two track line which had a trackbed of 30ft (9.1m). The extra width gave the railway a quite different character from the simple lines and wagon-ways that had preceded it. The most distinctive characteristic of the line was the design for the overbridges, which had to span the four tracks rather than the usual two tracks. Other early and later railways bridges generally had a standard span of 30ft (9.1m); even Brunel designing for his broad-gauge track used that dimension. In contrast Walker did not use a twin-span bridge, but designed a bridge with a single, basket arch (three-centred arch where the height is less than half the span) and an unprecedented span of around 60ft (18.2m). In the event only a twin-track line was laid, and in many cases one side of the arch is obscured by the earth embankment. The bridges were built of stone with the exception of a brick underbridge at Barwick Road, and two iron bridges, one of which survives at Crawshaw Woods.

In 1839-40 George Hudson's York & North Midland Railway built a line south from York to join the North Midland Railway at Normanton near Wakefield, thereby connecting Yorkshire to London. This line passed under the Leeds & Selby Railway, with the earlier line carried over it on Common Lane Bridge, which was probably designed by Robert Stephenson. In 1845 the Leeds & Selby Railway was purchased by the York & North Midland Railway which nine years later became part of the North Eastern Railway.

Reasons for Listing

Common Lane Bridge, HUL 3/4, built c1839-40 by Robert Stephenson for the York and North Midland Railway is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: as an early intersect underbridge built between 1839 and 1840 on the pioneering first phase - York and North Midland Railway, to allow it to pass beneath the Leeds and Selby Railway;
* Engineer: designed by Robert Stephenson, the renowned C19 railway engineer;
* Architectural interest: as a single-span, segmental brick arch intersect underbridge, demonstrating a high level of craftsmanship in its construction, detailing, and dressing;
* Intactness: the bridge is unaltered and retains its original parapets.

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