Bridge Over Midland Railway, Derby Road, Belper, built c1840.
'Road bridge on a section of the Derby Road that was built at the same time as the railway, taking a different line from the earlier turnpike road, veering to the east to allow the road bridge to cross the railway line at an acute angle. The elevation of the bridge and its offset alignment allowed the road to clear the railway station building, which were sited more or less on the line of the turnpike road. The ashlar bridge of 1839 is a fine example of a Stephenson single arch skewback bridge.' (1)
From the National Heritage List for England:
'A single-span skew overbridge built 1836-40 for the North Midland Railway to the designs of George and Robert Stephenson, with Frederick Swanwick.
Reasons for Designation
Derby Road 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, and is considered to be amongst the best-preserved examples of the pioneering phase of railway development in England. It 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: cutting-edge 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.
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.
Derby Road 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.
Derby Road Bridge is the first in a series of eleven which run through Belper, north of the River Derwent. This sequence of bridges 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. All eleven of these bridges are listed at Grade II, as is the associated cutting between Long Row and Field Lane, and King Street and New Road.
MATERIALS: the faces of the bridge and the underside walls are of coursed and squared Coal Measure sandstone with tooled Derbyshire gritstone dressings. The soffit of the arch is of skew-set red brick.
EXTERIOR: the single segmental arch conforms to the standard dimensions of the Stephensons’ overbridges, with a 30 feet span and, originally, a 16 feet rise. The north face is identical to the south face. The arch has ashlar voussoirs springing from impost bands. These continue into the underside of the bridge which has lower courses of coursed quarry-faced stone. Flanking the arch are raked, concave piers with quoins. The abutment is angled out to meet the piers with a pitched coping stone over. The wing walls are splayed and raked and terminate in half-hexagonal piers on bases. Above the arch, there is a bold roll moulding with a tooled finish running the length of the bridge. Above, the parapet has a broad ashlar course with a chamfered top edge, and then two courses of stone with picked surfaces and tooled margins. The square-moulded coping stones are tooled and have a slight fall to the outside edge. The inside faces of the parapets have two to three courses, increasing because of the gradient of the roadway. On the outer face of the high mileage parapet there are patches of much cleaner stone. As this is not evident on the inner (road) side of the parapet, it is likely to be a re-facing. There is no other evidence of alteration.'