Health, Heritage and Wellbeing at Bennerley Viaduct

An international discussion hosted by the World Monuments Fund – Come and join us.

Come and join us on Thursday, April 22 at 6:00 pm UK time (BST) for a World Monuments Fund,  On My Watch virtual discussion on the plan to restore Bennerley Viaduct and create an exciting new public space. From abandonment and dereliction, the “Iron Giant” of the Erewash Valley is being transformed into a recreational venue encouraging outdoor exercise and community gathering, putting heritage at the heart of health and well-being. 

The conversation will feature Kieran Lee, Community Engagement Officer from the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct; Tim Dunn, railway architecture historian, author, and broadcaster/TV presenter; and Rebecca Chan, Executive Director of Friends of the Rail Park in Philadelphia. The event will be hosted by WMF Britain Executive Director, John Darlington.

The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct have been inspired by developments across the world where redundant railway infrastructure has been transformed into inspirational new public spaces. We are delighted to take part in a discussion with one of Britain’s leading broadcasters and with directors from the Rail Park in Philadelphia. The Rail Park is a project that is revitalizing three miles of unused rail lines into a usable, beautiful, public space for all.

Phase One of the Bennerley Viaduct project is almost complete with a planned re-opening later this year. The Rail Park has also completed its first phase: it is filled with pathways, greenery, and bench swings with amazing city views. It is connecting communities and regenerating this area of Philadelphia. It is amazing what can be achieved when everyone pulls together in the same direction.

Come and join this free World Monuments fund international webinar discussion. April 22nd at 6:00pm UK time. (BST)

REGISTER HERE

Iron Giant Stars in TV Broadcast

The Award Winning series, “The Architecture the Railways Built” (Yesterday Channel), has returned to our screens with Bennerley Viaduct achieving a second star billing. Last year, the “Iron Giant” featured in a programme concerned with its history, architecture and engineering. The recent programme broadcast on March 2nd showcased the amazing efforts of the community and owners to bring the structure back to life.

Tim Dunn, the enthusiastic host of the series got soaked to the skin as the entire day’s filming took place in the pouring rain. Nothing however could dampen his enthusiasm and love of our ‘inland pier”. He even tried his hand bricklaying on the eastern abutment parapet wall.

The outcome of the broadcast was phenomenal. The website received an avalanche of interest, out twitter feed was bombarded and there has been a huge surge in membership applications to the Friends Group since the broadcast.

Our thanks go to Tim Dunn and the production company at Brown Bob who put together a wonderful show celebrating the progress which has taken place. The community have played a huge role in this success story but we are where we are thanks to the commitment of the owners, Railway Paths Limited, the skills of the contractors, the generosity of our funders and the support of local councils. The project is truly a team effort and we thank everyone for their contribution.

All Hands on Deck

An additional £130,000 awarded by Railway Heritage Trust.

The project to open Bennerley Viaduct for people to walk and cycle across has just received a massive boost from the Railway Heritage Trust. Already a major funder of the project, the Railway Heritage Trust has offered an additional £130,000 towards the all-important installation of a new deck on the Grade II* listed structure.

The repair and restoration works to the Viaduct have recently been completed, and works are currently ongoing to construct the new ramped path at the western end of the viaduct, which will enable access for all abilities from the Erewash Canal towpath up onto the viaduct deck.

Whilst much money has been raised for the project, there remained a large funding shortfall to enable the new deck walkway to be installed. More funding is still needed but the boost from the Railway Heritage Trust means that this essential phase of the project is within reach. Completion of this would finally allow the re-opening of the viaduct for the public to use and enjoy.

The Railway Heritage Trust have already generously provided £280,000 towards the project. This additional grant takes their total funding to £410,000. Their Executive Director Andy Savage said “We have been involved in trying to restore Bennerley Viaduct ever since we started giving grants, back in 1985.  We are delighted to see the project finally approaching completion, nearly four decades later.  Our thanks to Railway Paths and The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct for sticking with this iconic structure through thick and thin.”

The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct’s Chairman Jeff Wynch expressed the group’s delight at the announcement. “We are really grateful to the Railway Heritage Trust for their additional contribution to the project. The Railway Heritage Trust’s support has made a real difference to the project already, and the latest grant brings it so much closer to completion.”

Railway Paths, the owners of the viaduct, were equally delighted at the funding boost. David Pemberton, Railway Paths’ Director of Operations, said “We thank the Railway Heritage Trust for its unparalleled commitment to reopening Bennerley Viaduct. Their donation means the deck is now three-quarters funded, and the project as a whole is tantalisingly close to completion.”

Membership application surge following on line talk.

Thirty new supporters join Friends of Bennerley Viaduct.

Two Hundred people recently attended an online presentation about Bennerley Viaduct in an event hosted by the the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust. Kieran Lee told the fascinating story of Bennerley Viaduct a wrought iron wonder which straddles the Erewash Valley. The story included the reasons for building the viaduct, the ingenuity of its engineering, the working life of the viaduct and the Zeppelin bombings. Future plans were also explained. Many of those who listened to the presentation were motivated to join the Friends group so they could actively support the project to re-open the Bennerley Viaduct. Becoming a member of the Friends group is a really effective way that people can support the project.

Bennerley Viaduct is being transformed from an neglected abandoned structure into an inspirational community asset. The story is a tribute to the makers of the viaduct and a tribute to the community who love it and are driving forwards an inspirational project which has received international acclaim. If you want to support us with our work, for less than the price of a cup of coffee and a piece of cake, you could become a member of the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct and support us with our work.

For more information about the joining the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct, click here

If your group would like an online or face to face presentation click here

Eastern Abutment nears Completion

The restoration and critical repair works are nearly complete. The image shows the newly restored parapet wall on the eastern abutment (Awsworth end). The rickety wooden fence has gone and beautiful new walls have been erected using reclaimed materials where possible. The abutment was in a chronic state of disrepair. Teams of workers from Ackroyds worked in some appalling conditions to rebuild these walls to their original specification.  Our thanks go to the contractors; to Historic England, the principal funders of the restoration works and to all other donors who have supported the remarkable transformation of the structure. As you can see from the image above, it looks absolutely amazing.

Viaduct receives help from Government’s Culture Recovery Fund

Bennerley Viaduct is among 162 organisations receiving lifeline grant from the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund

● More help for heritage in need with £14 million investment in England’s historic sites

● Culture across the country benefits as 70 per cent of latest Culture Recovery funding awarded outside London

Lifeline grants from the latest round of the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund will protect a further 162 heritage sites to ensure that jobs and access to arts, culture and heritage in local communities are protected in the months ahead, the Culture Secretary announced today.

Historic sites including Bennerley Viaduct will receive help to meet ongoing costs and support to restart activity when it is possible to do so safely.

More than £9 million has been allocated by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which builds on £103 million awarded to more significant historic places last month. Grants between £10,000 and £1 million have been awarded to stabilise 77 organisations.

In addition, £5 million will go to construction and maintenance projects that have been paused due to the pandemic.

Historic England has allocated £3,971,513 in awards from the Heritage Stimulus Fund, part of a £120 million capital investment from the Culture Recovery Fund, to restart construction and maintenance projects facing delays or increased costs as a result of the pandemic and save specialist livelihoods in the sector.

The project to restore Bennerley Viaduct will receive £165,000 for essential repairs to the viaduct’s parapet walls and eastern abutment.

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “These grants will help the places that have shaped our skylines for hundreds of years and that continue to define culture in our towns and cities. From St Paul’s and Ronnie Scott’s to The Lowry and Durham Cathedral, we’re protecting heritage and culture in every corner of the country to save jobs and ensure it can bounce back strongly.”

David Pemberton, Director of Railway Paths, said: “As owners and custodians of the Grade II* listed Bennerley Viaduct, Railway Paths is enormously grateful to Historic England for the additional funding. This funding is crucial in allowing the continuation of essential repairs during the pandemic and enabling their completion. COVID-19 has affected the responsiveness of many organizations, but not Historic England, who acted with speed and efficiency, allowing the works to proceed smoothly during this difficult time.”

Jeff Wynch, Chair of the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct said:

We are extremely grateful to Historic England and the Culture Recovery Fund for the additional funding to cover the costs of restoring Bennerley Viaduct. After over fifty years of closure, Bennerley Viaduct is now destined to be re-opened as a major heritage asset which will be enjoyed by local people and visitors alike. Completing this work during a pandemic will be a towering achievement enabling current and future generations to enjoy our rich cultural heritage.”

 Bennerley Viaduct is a 430 metre long wrought iron viaduct on the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border built in 1877 to carry the Great Northern Railway line over the Erewash Valley. It is an outstanding example of the railway architecture of its time, survives in an almost unaltered state and is one of only two wrought iron viaducts left in the country. The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct are working in partnership with Railway Paths and other bodies to bring this magnificent structure back into public use as an outstanding heritage attraction.

Recent years have seen increased activity towards repairing, restoring and reopening Bennerley viaduct. As of November 2020 the future of the viaduct looks positive. A significant amount of funding has been raised towards the cost of repairs and access works to enable the viaduct to be opened for public access in 2021.

Engineers carry out repairs using a cherry picker

74 organisations are also receiving grants of up to £25,000 from the Covid-19 Emergency Heritage at Risk Response Fund, launched by Historic England and almost quadrupled thanks to the Culture Recovery Fund, to cover maintenance and repairs urgently needed on historic buildings and sites up and down the country.

Duncan Wilson, Historic England Chief Executive said: “Historic places across the country, from Durham Cathedral embodying more than a thousand years of history to the Crystal Palace dinosaurs, much loved by children and grownups alike, are being supported by the Government’s latest round of grants awarded under the Culture Recovery Fund. This funding is a lifeline which is kickstarting essential repairs and maintenance at many of our most precious historic sites, so they can begin to recover from the damaging effects of Covid-19. It is also providing employment for skilled craft workers who help to keep historic places alive and the wheels of the heritage sector turning. Our shared heritage is an anchor for us all in these challenging times and this funding will help to ensure it remains part of our collective future.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “The Government’s £1.57bn package for culture is unprecedented and it’s important to acknowledge how valuable this has been for our heritage organisations and visitor attractions. Although we are not able to support everyone facing difficulties, today’s funding package helps a diverse range of heritage organisations from across the country survive, adapt and plan for a brighter future through the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage.

“By the end of this financial year we will have distributed almost £600m of Government and National Lottery Funding to heritage organisations. Investing in heritage remains vitally important, creating jobs and economic prosperity, driving tourism, supporting our wellbeing and making our towns, cities, and rural areas better places to live. There is a lot more work to do to address the ongoing challenges, but this funding has provided a future for much of our heritage and the organisations that care for it, when it might otherwise have been permanently lost.”

All four nations are benefiting from the UK Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, with £188 million barnetted to the Devolved Administrations to run their own process – £97 million for Scotland, £59 million for Wales and £33 million for Northern Ireland. This funding will enable them to increase the support already available to the arts and cultural sectors in each nation. Over £18 million in funding will go to 8 arts and cultural organisations around the country in the second round of grants between £1 million and £3 million awarded by Arts Council England on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, it has also been announced today. This funding builds on £75 million in grants over £1 million for iconic venues like Shakespeare’s Globe and the Sheffield Crucible last month.

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.

The 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 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 involves 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 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.