Transatlantic Boost for “Iron Giant”.

American Express Awards $1million to World Monument Watch sites.

Generous support from American Express will enable World Monuments Fund to preserve and protect critical cultural heritage sites around the world while exploring new solutions for sustainable tourism

American Express and World Monuments Fund (WMF) have announced $1 million in funding to support preservation efforts at seven diverse cultural sites included in the 2020 World Monuments Watch. For more than two decades, American Express has provided essential support for WMF’s work to preserve cultural heritage sites around the world against the increasing threats of climate change, natural disasters, conflicts, and neglect.

Bennerley Viaduct has been selected to receive financial support.  The $1 million in grants from American Express will fund a variety of projects across all seven sites in 8 countries:

  • Rapa Nui National Park, Easter Island, Chile;
  • Inari-Yu Bathhouse, Tokyo, Japan;
  • Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire,United Kingdom;
  • Central Aguirre Historic District, Puerto Rico, United States;
  • Canal Nacional, Mexico City, Mexico;
  • Courtyard Houses of Axerquía, Córdoba, Spain;
  • Koutammakou, Benin and Togo.

Among this year’s key selection criteria was an emphasis on sustainable tourism. American Express and WMF are committed to addressing the current and future impacts of tourism on local economies, communities, and the environment by supporting projects that reinforce local and regional tourism and raise awareness of underrepresented heritage.

President of the American Express Foundation, Timothy J. McClimon said:

As a long-time supporter of historic preservation efforts, American Express is proud to play a role in ensuring the sustainability of treasured landmarks around the world for generations to come. The sites included in the 2020 World Monuments Watch are each critical to the social and economic identities of the communities around them.”  

The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct are working in partnership with the viaduct’s owners, Railway Paths Ltd to bring the iconic structure back into public use. Friends of Bennerley Viaduct chairman, Jeff Wynch said: “We are really grateful to American Express and World Monuments Fund for their outstanding support for our project.  They share our vision that a restored and repurposed viaduct can act as a catalyst for the regeneration of this part of the Erewash Valley. Our selection for funding is further recognition of the cultural significance of the viaduct and its potential to improve people’s lives.

Railway Paths Director David Pemberton said:

Old railway structures are not redundant liabilities, they are just dormant, waiting for a community with the vision to reuse them. The generous grant from the WMF and American Express, supports our vision for the restoration and reopening of Bennerley Viaduct as a thrilling new path and opportunity for local regeneration.”

Due to its outstanding cultural heritage value, Bennerley Viaduct was placed on the 2020 World Monument Watch and was the only site in the British Isles to be included. The World Monuments Watch is a biennial selection of prominent cultural heritage sites that combine great historical significance with contemporary social impact. Since 1996, the program has issued a call to action for 861 sites and worked with their communities to safeguard them and raise awareness of their intrinsic value.

“This generous support from American Express could not come at a more critical time,” said Bénédicte de Montlaur, President and CEO, World Monuments Fund. “As the current global pandemic slows travel around the world it has brought significant economic hardship to many local communities who rely on tourism, while revealing ecological and social benefits. As we begin to reopen and rebuild, it is crucial that we explore new solutions that make sustainable tourism a central priority in the future of these sites.”

Major Funding Boost for Bennerley Viaduct

The plan to convert the deck of the Bennerley Viaduct into a pedestrian and cycle route has received a massive boost from a local council.

On Friday 10 July Broxtowe Borough Council’s Finance and Resources Committee voted to make a contribution of £100,000 to the project. The money comes from unallocated s.106 funds which are received by councils from developers through the planning process.

Specialist firm Ackroyds is at present working on the restoration of brickwork and the wrought iron structure.  Next will be the construction of an access ramp to the viaduct’s deck from the Erewash Canal towpath. The new money from Broxtowe will go towards phase three, the installation of a new deck allowing people with all levels of mobility to cross the county boundary sixty feet above the Erewash Valley.

Broxtowe Borough Council was an early supporter of the campaign to save the viaduct from demolition when it was under threat after the closure of the line by British Rail more than fifty years ago. Recently it was among the first public bodies to fund the current project with a donation of £20,000.  Councillor Greg Marshall, chair of the Finance and Resources Committee, says that the council is keen to see the completion of the link across the valley. “The cycle and pedestrian deck will be a big attraction for locals and visitors alike.  It will help to establish the Erewash valley as a new tourist destination in this area of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.” 

The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct are partners in the project with viaduct’s owners, Railway Paths Ltd.  Chairman Jeff Wynch expressed their delight at the announcement. “We are really grateful to Broxtowe for this contribution to the project.  They share our vision that a restored and repurposed viaduct can act as a catalyst for the regeneration of this part of the Erewash Valley.”

Railway Paths have been in discussion with Broxtowe since October 2019 and the decision over allocation of the funds should have been made in December. The process was further interrupted by the lockdown. David Pemberton, RPL’s Director of Operations, welcomed Broxtowe’s decision. “RPL works with local authorities on many of its schemes to bring former railway infrastructure back into use with the shared aim of benefitting local communities.  We are delighted that Broxtowe have decided to make such a substantial contribution to a project which will benefit residents of the Borough and visitors from further afield.”

Viaduct to be Closed for Essential Repairs

The plans to reopen Bennerley Viaduct as a walking and cycling trail will take a giant leap forward over the next few months as  critical repairs are carried out. These repairs will give extend the future life of the viaduct and enable it to be reopened after fifty years of closure. The structure is on the Historic England At Risk register and it is also on the 2020 World Monument Watch List. 

Members of the public are being asked not to climb the earth embankments at each end of the Bennerley viaduct while essential repairs are carried out.  The deck of the viaduct which has become a popular but unofficial walkway will be fenced off by Ackroyds the contractors until late September when it will be defined as a construction site subject to the requirements of the Health and Safety Executive. The works involve moving machinery and a cradle mechanism spanning the width of the deck to allow specialists to access the high level parts of the structure needing repair. The ballast in the deck troughs will be removed. All of this work is hazardous enough for trained workers and the public must on no account enter the site which will be patrolled by a security firm

Kieran Lee, Community Engagement Officer for the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct says he is confident that local people will appreciate the need for these precautions.  “Hundreds of local people and visitors have become used to walking over the viaduct since it was decommissioned in the 1970s. They have always known that the ‘Iron Giant ‘and its location are something special.  They can help to make sure that they and thousands of others can continue to enjoy its full glory when the project is completed by staying away for the time being. “

No rights of way are affected by the current works so people can still enjoy the footpaths and bridleways in this area of the Erewash Valley.  If the public wish to keep up with the progress of the restoration and access works, they can do so on Facebook or they can sign up for a free monthly newsletter on this website.

Back to Work at Bennerley

With the easing of the COVID-19 lockdown work on the Bennerley Viaduct resumed on May 18th.   Ackroyds, the contractor for the repairs to the ironwork, brick piers and abutments, withdrew from the site after only a couple of weeks in March because of disruptions to their supply chain. The contractors are now back at work. They have installed an access road to the eastern abutment, started repairs to some of the pier bases and salvaged a lot of the capping stones for the parapet walls. Our thanks go to all the funders who are making this restoration possible.

A temporary access road has been constructed to enable repairs of the abutments to take place.
The original capping stones have been salvaged for the rebuilding of the parapet walls
The parapet walls are being reconstructed to the original dimensions using this image taken in 1969. (from the Jim Freebury Collection)

A reminder to locals and visitors: the viaduct itself and other parts of the site may be fenced off in the interests of the health and safety of workers and the members of the public. Rights of way such as the footpath from the Erewash Canal over the railway line  passing under the viaduct to Newton’s Lane and the bridleway at the eastern end are unaffected.

Viaduct to feature in TV Documentary Series

We have just had  confirmation that a new TV series, “The Architecture the Railways Built”, will be broadcast on Tuesday 28th of April at 8pm on the Yesterday Channel. The viaduct will feature prominently in the first episode of the 10 part series.

The film crew from Brown Bob Productions spent a lot of time with us last summer. Paul Miller did a magnificent job taking the film crew around the viaduct and sharing our railway heritage with them. We look forward to watching the series which will attract both a national and international TV audience. 

To see a short video trailer of the programme click here It promises to be a feast of viewing for all those who love our railways. Enjoy!

Covid 19 halts work on “Iron Giant”

When the contractors arrived on site in early March to carry out critical repairs, another major milestone had been achieved. The site compound was installed; safety fencing, signage and scaffolding were erected; and the temporary access road to the eastern abutment was started. The long awaited work by contractors had commenced following years of planning, fundraising and community input.

But no sooner had the work started, it had to be temporarily halted due to the current pandemic. The scheduled work has been temporarily suspended whilst the Covid 19 lockdown is in place. The work will recommence when it is safe to do so..

Whilst the virus has interrupted the momentum which the Bennerley project has gathered, it will not derail the initiative. Clearly, all face to face community engagement activity, meetings and workdays have been temporarily put on hold, but virtual meetings and planning are still taking place to ensure that we hit the ground running when we come out of the lockdown.

In the meantime, Spring is arriving at the viaduct. The primroses are out, the cherries and the blackthorn are starting to blossom and the newly laid hedges are starting to green up. The eerie calm down at the viaduct may even give those ground nesting birds like the lapwing and the little ringed plover a better chance to thrive.

Restoration Work to Commence in March

 We approach another project milestone with the imminent commencement of the restoration works by Ackroyds, a Nottingham firm from Basford. The company are delighted to be involved with the renaissance of the viaduct. The restoration works will include repairs to the pier bases, the brick parapets and some of the ironwork. The works will be overseen by specialist Conservation Engineers, Blackett Ord.

Over £300,000 has been generously granted by Historic England to help fund the restoration. Ben Robinson, Historic England’s Principal Advisor for Heritage at Risk, said: “The importance of this viaduct cannot be underplayed, it’s one of only two surviving wrought iron railway structures of this type and is a stunning example of the genius of British engineering. We’re so pleased that it has a fantastic future ahead of it, as a prominent landmark and as a thoroughfare. Historic England is proud to play a part in this, not just through funding essential repairs but also through advice and guidance. It is a pleasure to work with all the organisations and individuals involved in its rescue.” 

The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct are most grateful to all the generous funders of the project. There is still some way to go with fundraising but with close to £1million already being pledged, we are confident the structure will be reopened in the near future after fifty years of closure.

Erewash Partnership Support FoBV with New Office Base

The FoBV have set up their new headquarters in an office at the Erewash Partnership’s Castledine House Business Centre on Heanor Road, Ilkeston. Jeff Wynch, Chair of FoBV, referred to the move as another milestone in the progress of the project. “The use of an office and the enthusiastic support of the Partnership will help us to be more business like and professional as we take on a bigger role in ensuring the future of the viaduct.”

As well as helping new businesses, the Partnership also gives vital backing to projects which benefit the wider community. Chief Executive, Ian Viles, said, “We are delighted to be able to help the Friends in their mission to bring the viaduct back to life as a community asset. Our new address is:

Friends of Bennerley Viaduct, Castledine House, 5 – 9 Heanor Road, Ilkeston, Derbyshire, DE7 8DY

The featured image shows Erewash Partnership Chief Executive, Ian Viles, along with FoBV chair, Jeff Wynch, and Kieran Lee.

Sir Neil Cossons OBE accepts invitation to be FoBV Patron

We are delighted to announce that Sir Neil Cossons OBE has agreed to be the patron of the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct. Sir Neil was born in Beeston and has a long held affection for, and interest in, Bennerley Viaduct. He was involved with the fight to save the viaduct when it was threatened with demolition forty years ago.  Sir Neil spoke against the proposals to demolish the viaduct at the public inquiry at Beeston Town Hall in 1980. He stated that he “received something of a pummelling for advocating preservation in the face of the demolition proposals.

Sir Neil has been the leading champion of Britain’s heritage over the last fifty years.  He was appointed as the first director of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust in 1971. From 1984 to 1986 he was in charge at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich before spending fourteen years as director of the Science Museum.  Sir Neil was the chairman of English Heritage from 2000 to 2007 and from 2016 to 2019 he served as a trustee at the Heritage Lottery Fund.  He received an OBE in 1982 and was knighted in 1994.

The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct feel privileged to have Sir Neil as our patron and are most grateful for his interventions at a time when the viaduct was at imminent risk of demolition.

AGM: Friends of Bennerley Viaduct

The Gate Inn Awsworth, Monday Feb 10th Start 7:00pm

The Bennerley Viaduct AGM will take place at the Gate Inn, Awsworth on Monday February 10th. All welcome but only members will be able to vote. The first half of the meeting will be concerned with the AGM and an update of developments within the project.

The second half of the meeting will be an illustrated presentation by Dr Dave Gent, a Civil Engineer with an expertise in wrought iron structures. Dave Gent led the team which conducted a recent condition survey on the viaduct. Dave has also conducted some original research in developing techniques designed to extend the life of wrought iron structures. If you have any questions about wrought iron or the condition of the viaduct, Dave is your man. All welcome.

Wrought Iron Expert, Dr David Gent leads a guided tour on Bennerley Viaduct.