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Authority Historic England
Date assigned Thursday, February 26, 2015
Date last amended Monday, March 29, 2021


'Summary The extensive remains of a late-C18 plateway or gangroad, an early form of railway on which horse-drawn wheeled wagons running on L-shaped cast-iron rails secured to stone sleeper blocks transported limestone quarried near Crich village to lime kilns near the Amber Wharf of the Cromford canal at Bull Bridge. Reasons for Designation Fritchley Tunnel and the Butterley Gangroad, developed in 1793 by the notable engineer and surveyor Benjamin Outram to transport limestone from the Warner Quarry in Crich to the Cromford Canal at Bull Bridge, are scheduled for the following principal reasons: * Rarity: as a rare surviving example of a late C18 and early C19 gangroad, an early railway on which wheeled wagons were used to transport limestone from quarries in Crich, Derbyshire to the Cromford canal; * Survival: the gangroad survives in legible form throughout almost its entire length and includes boundary walling, an incline, embankments, cuttings, overbridges, buried trackbed features and a railway tunnel; * Period: for its early date in the context of the development of the railway transport network in England, and the inclusion within its length of what is believed to be the earliest railway tunnel in the world; * Documentation: for its documented association with the pioneering railway engineer and surveyor Benjamin Outram, a key figure in the early development of rail transportation in England; * Diversity of Features: for the exceptional survival of a variety of standing and buried features which collectively help us to understand the construction, use and function of the gangroad in the wider industrial landscape. History The Butterley Gangroad, was developed to the designs of the pioneering plateway and railway surveyor and engineer Benjamin Outram and opened in 1793. In its first manifestation, the gangroad linked the Warner limestone quarry, near Crich in Derbyshire with the Amber Wharf of the Cromford Canal at Bull Bridge, about a mile to the south, where kilns processed the limestone prior to its dispatch by canal. The early gangroad was a horse-drawn plateway on which teams of horses hauled wheeled wagons to and from the quarry. Outram and his partner Francis Beresford had formed Benjamin Outram and Company in 1790, and purchased the Butterley Estate near Ripley. Land was purchased for a quarry in Crich, and leased for limestone processing at what was to become Amber Wharf at Bull Bridge. The gangroad linked these two enterprises and in 1840 was extended with a new branch to Hilts Quarry closer to Crich village, as the original Warner Quarry was becoming more difficult to work. The new section of the gangway was made up principally of a double track rope incline, which joined the original line serving Warner Quarry close to where it crossed Dimple Lane. In the early 1840s, the upper section of the original gangroad between Fairfield Farm and the Dimple Lane crossing was re-aligned to eliminate curved stretches of the route, with further works in the 1850’s, straightening the line up to and beyond the Fritchley Tunnel almost as far as Bowmer Lane, where the new alignment merged with the original route leading to Amber Wharf. In 1813, there had been a remarkable experiment in mechanised haulage on the gangroad, which anticipated the later transformation of the gangroad into a steam railway. William Brunton, an engineer at the Butterley Works,designed and tested a steam locomotive, called a ‘Mechanical Horse’ or ‘Traveller’ which was used to push empty wagons back up the steep gradient to the quarry, and operated successfully on the line for several months, without breaking the cast-iron plates on which the wagons ran. In 1852, the Midland Railway added sidings to the branch line from the main Midland Railway line to Amber Wharf, and there followed the full-scale conversion of the gangroad to a steam railway, completed by the mid-1850s. The first permanent steam locomotive commenced operation on the line in 1869, by which time Amber Wharf had developed into a major industrial processing and transhipment complex. Further expansion saw the conversion of the gangroad incline to locomotive operation. Amber Wharf had by this time become a complex limestone processing site which by 1900 housed a bank of six lime kilns, two sets of multi-track sidings linking the production areas to the main Midland Railway line, and a twin track section of the gangroad serving different areas of the site. In 1904 the site was modernised, with the installation of conveyors to deliver quarry stone to the kilns from the former gangroad. However, by 1933, the business had declined, and the lime works, together with the quarry and the steam railway linking it to the wharf was closed. Subsequently both of the quarries originally served by the gangroad were used as landfill sites. In 1985 the embanked section of the gangroad to the north of the Fritchley Tunnel was listed at Grade II and in 2015, following excavation and investigation, the Fritchley Tunnel was designated a scheduled monument, having been recognised as the earliest railway tunnel in the world. Details PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS The scheduled monument comprises the route of the Butterley Gangroad, as defined for the most part by sections of surviving stone boundary walling. It extends from the entrances to the former Hilts and Warner quarries at its northern end (both now infilled), to the approach to the Amber Wharf of the Cromford Canal at Bull Bridge at its southern end. The area includes the buried remains of the gangroad trackbed, boundary walling, embankments, cuttings, bridges, crossings, gateposts, an incline and a walled enclosure and also includes the subterranean Fritchley Tunnel, a short tunnel, believed to be the earliest known railway tunnel, already a scheduled monument, and a stone-walled embankment which is listed at Grade II. DESCRIPTION The site is Y-shaped on plan and incorporates the already scheduled Fritchley Tunnel and an embanked section of the gangroad (to the north of the tunnel site) which is listed at Grade II. For ease of description, the gangroad has been divided into three sections. Section 1 forms the eastern arm of the Y, section 2 forms its western arm, and section 3 is the linear stretch extending southwards from the junction of sections 1 and 2. Section 1 is the route of the original gangroad leading to the former Warner Quarry. This section begins at the north-east end of the site and comprises a cutting and, beginning at grid reference SK 35802 54149, an area of parallel stone walling which represents the surviving elements of the entrance tunnel to the quarry. Sections of stone boundary and retaining walling of varying height flank the trackbed, which then curves south-eastwards following the line of the stream on the eastern side of the gangroad. At approximately SK 35856 53910 the line straightens to a more orderly south-western alignment leading towards the point where it originally passed beneath Dimple Lane. The upper part of this section runs alongside a large waste tip on the west side, originally accessed by short lengths of track from the gangroad main line. The boundary walling to the west side of the route alongside the tip has been largely lost, but that to the east widens further eastwards and forms a more irregular boundary alongside the stream, widening considerably at approximately SK 35802 53723 to form a raised rectangular enclosure. The east side walling returns to its former alignment and, together with the western walling extends to the junction with Dimple Lane. Within this latter section of the gangroad are stone posts marking the point of a former gateway on the gangroad, and, at the road junction, a gateway again delineated by stone gateposts. Section 2 begins just south of the now disused Hilts Quarry and extends from SK 35352 54131, the beginning of the cutting at the top of a former cable incline some 560m in length, constructed in the 1840s, to the junction with the original line to Warner Quarry at SK 35769 53683. The incline sits in cuttings at its upper and lower ends, the boundaries mainly formed by fencing, apart from a section of walling on the north-eastern side at the lower end which retains areas of the adjacent agricultural land. At the approach to the upper cutting is the site of a footpath crossing at SK 35421 54050. At the bottom of the incline, just above its junction with Dimple Lane is a section of infilled cutting which now forms a private drive to a dwelling. Immediately to the south-east at the former crossing point, at SK 35723 53698 is the site of a former iron overbridge erected in the 1840s which carried Dimple Lane over the original gangroad route to Warner Quarry, and which was demolished and infilled in 2009. Immediately to the west is a triangular walled enclosure around the junction of sections 1 and 2. South of this enclosure, the now single gangroad continues southwards in an almost straight line to the now subterranean Fritchley Tunnel at SK 35852 53016. Much of this section of the gangroad resulted from a major realignment in the 1840s. The northern part of this section below the triangular enclosure is carried on a substantial 100m stone embankment, followed by a 70m cutting, spanned at SK 35876 52951 by a stone overbridge. To the east of the bridge, in a pasture field, is a stretch of the original C18 track bed which survives as an earthwork terrace curving towards the later gangroad. South-east of the over bridge the eastern boundary wall of the original alignment survives as standing remains. Beyond the overbridge, running south, the line of the C19 gangroad continues for 40m as a stone-lined cutting with boundary walling, followed by a 210m length of trackbed with some surviving boundary walling, extending to SK 35792 53402. It then passes through the site of Fairfield Farm, to the rear of the house and buildings, having lost sections of boundary walling. Further disturbance here from the laying of two gas main pipe lines is likely to have disturbed below ground remains. The parallel walling resumes in well-preserved form at SK 35803 53325 and continues along the currently-listed 130m embankment (National Heritage List for England entry 1109195) which forms the northern approach to the Fritchley Tunnel. The tunnel, which is now subterranean and inaccessible, runs north to south, passing beneath the junction of Front Street, Chapel Street and Bobbinmill Hill. The tunnel is built of coursed sandstone blocks, and has vertical sides and a semi-circular arched roof. The portals are formed of stilted semi-circular arched openings, the arches formed of a single band of sandstone voussoirs. A stone block wall above the northern portal forms a parapet adjacent to the road and is the only above-ground vestige of the tunnel structure. The tunnel is 22.58m in length and 3.05m in height. The southern end had been blocked in two phases with a lower stone blocking and an upper modern red brick blocking. The north end had been blocked with soil debris. The tunnel has two distinct phases of development. The northern 15m section of the tunnel appears to represent the first phase (1793). Beyond this, to the south, is the second phase delineated by a vertical joint within the stonework and a kink in the tunnel’s alignment. This second phase is understood to date to the 1840s. At this point there appears to be brick repair or strengthening in the tunnel's north-east wall. Holes within the walls, understood to be sockets for timber formers during the construction of the tunnel arch were also noted. All internal surfaces of the tunnel were covered with black soot. A survey of the tunnel and adjacent landscape features has shown that the tunnel was altered to run in alignment with the new line, but it is believed that the early fabric of the tunnel remains embedded in the structure, particularly in its southern half, although this was not revealed during the survey. An evaluation trench revealed a single in-situ sleeper, adjacent to which was a worn path of weathered natural soil believed to be a towpath walked and worn by horses. The construction of the new line in 1840 resulted in the removal of the stonework from the old line presumably for re-use elsewhere. The line of the gangroad extends south of Fritchley Tunnel on the 1840s alignment through a stone-lined cutting for 115m, spanned at SK 35876 52951 by a narrow stone overbridge. The line of the earlier course is visible as earthworks in the field south of the tunnel and is included in the scheduled area. The gangroad then continues between parallel boundary walling of varying height for a further 65m, then reaches the site of an occupation crossing marked by stone gateposts at SK 35907 52829. Beyond this point is a 135m embankment with stone boundary walling extending to point SK 35939 52696 where the gangroad resumes its original route in a curved alignment, 125m in length, within and bounded by some of the tallest sections of boundary walling on its eastern side. The walling at the north end of this section was adapted to join the ‘new' alignment of the 1840s. The gangroad then crosses Bowmer Lane at SK 35996 52584, the site of a former level crossing, the openings on either side now blocked by sections of boundary walling to the lane. The gangroad then continues on the original alignment, curving south-westwards between low and sometimes fragmentary boundary walling, incorporating the gateposts marking an occupation crossing at SK 36003 52469, towards Amber Wharf. An embanked 155m section then follows, its lower end a realignment made necessary by quarrying on the north-eastern side of the gangroad route. At SK 35946 5244 the gangroad passes over Drovers Way on an iron bridge supported on tall stone abutment walls now stabilised by horizontal timber props. Beyond this point, the gangroad originally entered the northern part of the limestone processing and transhipment area at Amber Wharf. Although some features associated with the gangroad survive in this area the degree of garden landscaping and development makes it unclear how much survives and therefore lies outside the scheduled area. EXTENT OF SCHEDULING The scheduling includes the gangroad trackbed, boundary walling, embankments, cuttings, bridges, crossings, gateposts, Fritchley Tunnel, a walled enclosure and incline and the listed section of embankment (List entry 1109195). The area of protection follows the line of the gangroad as defined by stone boundary walling and the projected alignment of the gangroad where missing sections of walling occur. It runs from the entrances to the former Hilts and Warner Quarries at the northern end to the point where the gangroad enters Amber Wharf at Bull Bridge at the southern end. It incorporates Fritchley Tunnel, which was formerly scheduled separately. The width of the scheduled area varies along the line of the gangroad but this is reflected in the mapped depiction. Most notably the scheduled area is splayed at either end of Fritchley Tunnel, this is to take account of the earlier line of the tunnel which is understood to survive behind the existing tunnel structure. The scheduled area includes a 1m margin on either side of the gangroad which is considered necessary for the support and preservation of the monument. EXCLUSIONS All modern road surfaces, fences, and gates are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.'

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Sources (2)

  • Listed Building File: Historic England. 2011. The National Heritage List for England.
  • Scheduling record: English Heritage. 2015. Scheduling Notification: Fritchley Tunnel, Butterley Gangroad. SM Cat. No. 552.



Grid reference Centred SK 35681 53296 (658m by 1719m)
Map sheet SK35SE

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Record last edited

Feb 3 2022 10:19AM

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