Bennerley Viaduct is an extremely important local historical monument which the local community hold close to their hearts. In 2016 we hosted an exhibition telling the story about its fascinating history and how it relates closely to the historical development of Ilkeston and the Erewash Valley. This has been very worthwhile and made many more people aware of the great heritage assets they have on their doorstep.
Sustrans’ proposal to restore Bennerley Viaduct and make it publically accessible by building ramps and paths up to it and across is very popular in the local community. By bringing the viaduct into use again many more people will be engaged directly with this important relic of Ilkeston’s industrial past. We at the museum believe it will be a huge hit locally and also with the wider public and that it will attract more visitors to the area.
Bennerley Viaduct is a local and national treasure. It is protected by its grade 2* listed status. There is only one other viaduct of its type left in the country (Meldon Viaduct in Devon) but Bennerley is considerably longer. It has been largely unaltered since its construction in 1877. The viaduct is over quarter of a mile long straddling the Erewash Valley between Ilkeston (Derbyshire) and Awsworth (Nottinghamshire). The wrought iron components for Bennerley were prefabricated in Derby by Eastwood and Swingler. The parts were transported to Bennerley and assembled using cotterpins and over half a million rivets. The viaduct was designed by Richard Johnson and Samuel Abbott as part of the Great Northern Railway’s Derby and Staffordshire Extension (also known as the Friargate Line). It was designed to be light and flexible due to the unstable ground beneath the viaduct. It took eighteen months to build opening in 1878. The viaduct is not physically attached to the ground. It sits on cast iron baseplates which rest on brick piers. It is held in place by gravity. The viaduct was built to carry coal but it also carried other goods and passengers. The last passenger train crossed in 1964. The last goods train crossed in 1968. The line closed following the Beeching Report after 90 years of use. The viaduct survived bombing by Zeppelins in January 1916. Sadly, the nearby signal box was not as fortunate. British Rail attempted to demolish the viaduct but were thwarted by local people, councils and special interest groups who considered the viaduct was an invaluable part of our industrial and railway heritage.
1. The project aims to Restore Bennerley Viaduct and bring it back into use as a walking and cycling trail. This will give the viaduct a new purpose.
2. The project will inform, explain and celebrate the achievements of our Victorian engineers and share our admiration of this magnificent wrought iron structure.
3. It will ensure that the lifespan of Bennerley Viaduct is extended so future generations can enjoy it.
4. It will connect the viaduct to the area’s trail network. The viaduct will become the centrepiece of the developing Great Northern Greenway connecting both arms of the Erewash Valley Trail.
5. It will improve access around, on and underneath the viaduct so this iconic structure can be fully appreciated.
6. It will enhance the natural heritage of the viaduct area and manage the land to increase biodiversity
7. It is hoped to improve the health of the local community by providing opportunities to walk and cycle in the outdoors.
8. It will promote the literary heritage and the connections between the area and D.H. Lawrence.
9. IT will involve local schools, colleges and young people and developing educational and training opportunities using the viaduct as a focus.
10. It will develop people’s skills to improve employment prospects. (Heritage restoration skills and wildlife/ecological skills.)