SUMMARY OF BUILDING
A single-span skew overbridge built c.1837-39 for the Midland Counties Railway to the design of Charles Vignoles.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
Nooning Lane 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: 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; * Alterations: the bridge has been little altered except for the insertion of two stone courses in the parapet (for safety reasons), a modification that does not unduly detract from its special interest.
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.
Nooning Lane Bridge was built 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.
Nooning Lane Bridge was built under Contract no. 1, dated 29 June 1837, and completed in time for the opening of the line from Derby to Nottingham on 4 June 1839. The contract drawing, signed by Charles Vignoles and the contractor William Mackenzie of Leyland, Lancashire, specifies that it should be built of stone with the soffit ‘to be turned with Brick’. The dimensions are 16ft from the rails to the crown of the arch and a span of 34ft. Few bridges on the Midland Counties Railway were built of stone, and whilst it is not entirely clear why this material was used for Nooning Lane, it may relate to conditions made by the Derby Canal (which was located to the north). One course of the parapet was replaced with two courses of artificial stone in 1995 in order to heighten it for safety reasons.
MATERIALS: coursed and squared quarry-faced sandstone walling with artificial stone, parapet courses, ashlar dressings and a red brick soffit.
EXTERIOR: the bridge carries Nooning Lane over the railway tracks and has identical faces. It consists of a single semi-elliptical arch with rusticated V-channelled picked voussoirs which have tooled margins. The voussoirs terminate as quoins on the soffit of the arch which is of skew-set red brick. This is supported by several courses of stone with a band course which has diagonally set springers of picked stone with tooled margins. The wing walls project slightly to frame the arch, with quoins of picked stone with tooled margins, and have a concave rake from approximately half-way down the arch. Immediately above the arch, and blunting the uppermost voussoirs, there is a tooled string course with a sloping upper edge. The parapet comprises one course of picked ashlar with tooled margins, and two courses of late-C20, artificial stone, surmounted by the original square-moulded, tooled gritstone coping. The string course and coping extend across the wing walls which curve gently to terminate in projecting rectangular piers.
Book Reference - Author: Biddle, G - Title: Britain’s Historic Railway Buildings - Date: 2003
Book Reference - Author: Williams, F S - Title: The Midland Railway: its rise and progress - Date: 1886
Unpublished Title Reference - Author: Alan Baxter & Associates - Title: Midland Main Line Statement of History and Significance - Date: 2013 - Source: ABA
Book Reference - Author: Vignoles, K H - Title: Charles Blackner Vignoles: Romantic Engineer - Date: 1982
Book Reference - Author: Stevenson, P S - Title: The Midland Counties Railway - Date: 1989
Other Reference - Description: The National Archives, RAIL 490/19, Contract No.1 (1837)
Book Reference - Title: The Midland Counties Railway Companion - Date: 1840
National Grid Reference: SK4319033700