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Listed Building record MDR16468 - King Street Bridge, King Street, Belper

Type and Period (1)

  • (Hanoverian to 21st Century - 1836 AD? to 2050 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

King Street Bridge, King Street, Belper, built between 1836-1840. From the National Heritage List for England: 'A single-span skew overbridge built in 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick, and widened in the 1970s. This list entry refers to the bridge only and not to the extended concrete deck which carries a parade of shops or the car park to the rear built in c.1973. Reasons for Designation King Street Bridge, built in 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Historic interest: the bridge forms 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 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 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; * 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; * Group value: the bridge forms part of an integrated design for the Belper cutting, in which the overbridges and the cutting walls share a common architectural vocabulary, and are seen in combination as elements of a railway transport landscape of great interest and quality. The other ten bridges and the cutting wall are listed at Grade II; * Alterations: the bridge has unfortunately not survived with the same level of intactness as the other Belper bridges as it was extended on its north side with a flat concrete deck in the 1970s. Whilst this has resulted in some loss of original fabric, the modifications do not unduly detract from its special interest as an integral element in the group. History 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. King Street Bridge was 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 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 who was therefore also influential in setting his stamp on the character of the line. King Street Bridge forms part of a series of eleven bridges which run through Belper, north of the River Derwent. This sequence is the result of complex negotiations which took place between the Strutts, a powerful mill-owning family, and the North Midland Railway. The Strutts were opposed to the proposed route of the railway, which was to be taken around Belper to the west, and would have been visible from their residence, Bridge Hill House. An agreement with the Company was finally signed on 20 November 1838 compelling the line to be taken through the centre of Belper in a costly stone-lined cutting. This required the construction of a series of eleven bridges, maintaining the plan and gradient of the existing streets. Seven of these bridges are listed at Grade II. Around 1973 the bridge was extended with a concrete raft on the north side to accommodate a parade of shops. Details A single-span skew overbridge built in 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson with Frederick Swanwick, and widened in the 1970s. MATERIALS: the south side is faced in coursed and squared Coal Measure sandstone with ashlar Derbyshire gritstone dressings. The north side has abutments of Coal Measure sandstone and a deck and parapet of reinforced concrete and red brick. EXTERIOR: the bridge carries King Street over the railway tracks. The south side has a single segmental arch that conforms to the standard dimensions of the Stephensons’ North Midland overbridges, with a span of 30 feet and, originally, a height of 16 feet. The ashlar voussoirs radiate into the spandrels and spring from impost bands which rest on quoins. On the inner side of the arch are courses of quarry-faced stone with an impost band from which springs the brick soffit. The abutment has slightly projecting quoins flanking the arch before returning at right angles to form coursed and quarry-faced wing walls which terminate in quoins where they meet the listed cutting walls. The cornice consists of a narrow ashlar course, a bold roll moulding and then a broad ashlar course with a chamfered top edge. The roll moulding continues along the cutting walls to unify the different elements. The parapet has two courses of stone with punched surfaces and square-moulded coping stones which are tooled and have a slight fall to the outside edge. The inside face of the parapet has three courses with a picked surface. The parapet wall is rounded where it turns from the High Street to Midland View and it ramps downwards to meet the cutting walls. This side of the bridge abuts and is architecturally integrated with the Grade II-listed cutting walls between it and New Road Bridge (SPC8 27). The bridge was extended on its north side c.1973 with a flat concrete deck 48m long, formed of 30 beams. This rests on raked abutment walls which are faced with coursed quarry-faced stone and have quoins. The abutments and underside walls date from either the 1830s when the line was driven through Belper or the 1870s when the station was rebuilt in its current location (albeit subsequently rebuilt again). Narrow concrete blocks rest on the abutments and underside walls to support the concrete lintel of the bridge. This has a single indented groove on its lower half and a parapet of red brick laid in stretcher bond with a concrete coping. The parapets terminate in curved and stepped stone wing walls which probably incorporate re-used stone from the c.1840 cutting walls, as they have the same distinctive tooling. Pursuant to s. 1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that the extended concrete section of King Street Bridge carrying a parade of shops built c.1973 and a car park to the rear is not of special architectural or historic interest. Sources Books and journals The North Midland Railway Guide, (1842) Bailey, M, Robert Stephenson - the Eminent Engineer, (2003) Biddle, G, Britain’s Historic Railway Buildings, (2003) Williams, F S, The Midland Railway: its rise and progress, (1886) Carter, O F, 'Back Track vol 9' in Francis Thompson 1908-95 - an architectural mystery solved, (April 1995) Other Alan Baxter & Associates, Midland Main Line Statement of History and Significance, 2013, Russell, S, North Midland Railway Lithographs, Strutt Family Fonds, Derbyshire Record Office, 1838-9.' (1)

Sources/Archives (1)

  • <1> Listed Building File: Historic England. 2011. The National Heritage List for England.



Grid reference SK 34812 47472 (point)

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Record last edited

Sep 30 2023 9:04PM

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