SUMMARY OF BUILDING
A masonry bridge carrying Gibfield Lane, Belper over the Midland Main Line, and an attached section of masonry walling lining the Belper railway cutting.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
The Gibfield Lane Bridge, designed by A.M Ross as part of the North Midland Railway and constructed c.1838, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: the bridge and associated section of masonry cutting wall form part of a series of railway structures built for the North Midland Railway between 1837 and 1840. The line was designed by George and Robert Stephenson, two of the most important and influential engineers of the railway era, aided by Frederick Swanwick, the company's resident engineer. The masonry structures for the southern section of the North Midland Railway were designed by A.M. Ross, the company's resident engineer for that section of the line. The line is considered to be amongst the best- preserved examples of the pioneering phase of railway development in England, and retains many of its original engineering structures, of which this is an example;
* Architectural interest: the bridge and attached section of cutting wall is an example of the consistently high quality design and careful detailing of railway structures completed for the North Midland Railway between 1837 and 1840. Its aesthetic quality far exceeds the functional and structural requirements of bridge design;
* Group value: with other bridges and sections of associated cutting walls in Belper that are already listed at Grade II; this section of cutting wall extending from the Gibfield Lane Bridge is an integral part of this group in which the overbridges and the cutting walls share a common architectural vocabulary of great interest and quality.
The Midland Mainline 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. They worked closely with the railway architect Francis Thompson (1808-95) who designed stations as well as bridges and tunnel portals along the line. 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 (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 south of the Trent from the early 1870s to the 1890s.
The Gibfield Lane Bridge, and the attached section of masonry walling lining the cutting to the south-east of the bridge, were 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. The notable sequence of picturesque stations along the line was designed by Francis Thompson, thus setting his stamp on the character of the line as much as the Stephensons and Swanwick. The new line cut through the town of Belper, where the industrialist Jedediah Strutt had developed one of the pioneering late-C18 textile manufacturing communities of the Derwent valley, at the northern end of the original settlement. The engineering of the line required the excavation of a deep, mile-long cutting through Belper, necessitating the construction of masonry walls to the cutting, and the provision of eleven new bridges, including those where the line passed through pre-existing streets of terraced housing built by the Strutt family for mill workers.
The Gibfield Lane Bridge and the attached section of cutting wall formed components of the new line between Derby and Chesterfield, and were designed by A.M. Ross, the Midland Railway Company's resident engineer for the southern section of the North Midland Railway. The bridge was constructed in accordance with contract drawing N.12 prepared in March 1838 (National Archives Rail 530/25 (19), marked in pencil '(No 26). NB/side arches not built'. The bridge and associated walling appear to have undergone little alteration since construction.
A single-span skew overbridge carrying Gibfield Lane over the railway, and an attached section of masonry walling lining the east side of the cutting over which the bridge passes, designed by A.M Ross for the North Midland Railway. The railway was surveyed by George Stephenson in 1835 and it was constructed c.1836-40 to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick.
MATERIALS: the bridge and cutting walls are constructed of coursed, squared, quarry-faced Derbyshire gritstone with ashlar dressings. The bridge arch soffit is lined with red brick laid in English bond.
DESCRIPTION: the bridge comprises a single segmental arch formed of rusticated, V-jointed, tooled voussoirs, which serve as quoins to the soffit and which extend to the quoined raking abutments at which the bridge arch terminates. The arch soffit is of skew-set red brick springing from a serrated sandstone course laid along the top of each impost band. Below, the walling is of coursed, squared, quarry-faced stone. Above the arch, a deep, tooled roll moulding supports the bridge parapets, formed from a single course of giant ashlar panels, capped with wide, gently sloping copings. The roll moulding is carried round onto the section of masonry walling lining the eastern side of the cutting. The walling is of concave section and linear in form, and extends southwards from the south-east corner of the bridge to the Derby Road Bridge and is approximately 215m in length. The cutting wall is of uniform curvature throughout its length, and rise from two deep projecting stone plinth courses. There are 5 broad projecting pilasters, delineating the 5 bays of walling which comprise two-thirds of its total length. The first one and a half bays extend to bridge parapet level and then are ramped downwards in two steps in the next half bay. On the top of the roll moulding on each section of the first two bays are further lengths of coursed masonry walling forming the garden wall of the house located above the cutting adjacent to the south-east end of the bridge. Bays 3, 4 and 5 extend southwards at half full-height level, continuing at that height for a further 20m and then ending at the Derby Road Bridge at low level.
Midland Main Line Statement of History and Significance, 2013, Alan Baxters and Associates