Bennerley Viaduct Official Opening Ceremony Takes Place

Lord-Lieutenants of both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire cut the ribbon to mark the restoration and opening year of “the Iron Giant”, at event attended by hundreds of local people.


At 12pm on Sunday 7 August, Sir John Peace, the Lord-Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, and Mrs Elizabeth Fothergill CBE, the Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire, were joined by Scouts and Cubs from Greasley and Ilkeston, volunteers and trustees of the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct, and crowds of local people, as they cut a ribbon in each county and met for a symbolic handshake in the centre of the bridge, which crosses the county boundary.

Mrs Elizabeth Fothergill, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire and Sir John Peace, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, shake hands in the middle of Bennerley Viaduct.

First opened in 1878, as part of the Great Northern Railway between Nottingham and Derby, the wrought iron Bennerley Viaduct has long been an iconic sight, stretching over the Erewash Valley, near Ilkeston. Closed to trains in the 1960s, it has been restored and opened as a walking and cycling route by a coalition of funders and community initiatives, including Railway Paths Ltd. and the Railway Heritage Trust, alongside the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct, the charity which now manages the viaduct as a visitor attraction and heritage site.

Bennerley Viaduct from above

Not only did 2022 see the opening of the ramp, steps and deck, allowing visitors to access the viaduct and cross from one side to the other, but it also saw the start of a major project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to raise the profile of the viaduct and work extensively with the local community, plus ongoing work funded by Severn Trent to develop a nature reserve and footpath underneath the viaduct. It is also the year that the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct took on a 99 year lease, committing to care for the viaduct for the foreseeable future. The official ‘launch’ on Sunday 7 August was a celebration of this momentous year in the history of the viaduct, and signals the beginning of even more exciting times ahead.

The ribbon is cut at the Derbyshire end of the viaduct, by Mrs Elizabeth Fothergill, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire

Alongside the opening ceremony, the day also included free guided tours, a children’s trail under the viaduct, and a street art themed art activity delivered by Parkside High CIC, a local partner. There was food and drink, with music from Shirland Welfare Brass Band. Estimates suggest that nearly 1000 people visited, walking across the viaduct, and enjoying ice creams and fish n chips in the sunshine, while the band played.

Alongside the Lord-Lieutenants of both counties, guests in attendance included Darren Henry MP (Broxtowe); Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry; Jo Smith and Ruth Bellamy from the National Lottery Heritage Fund; Cllr Trevor Rood, Chairman of Kimberley Town Council; and more local councillors from both sides of the valley. It was an event that brought people together, at a site beloved by many. An unexpected guest was David Abbott, great-grandson of the Great Northern Railway Engineer who is likely to have designed the viaduct in the 1870s.

It was the first of many community events that will be held at the viaduct in coming years, with one of the main aims of the National Lottery Heritage Fund financed project being to grow the viaduct into a sustainable visitor attraction. The day was also a chance for the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct to fundraise, and recruit new volunteers.

Distinguished guests, including HM Lord-Lieutenants of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire; Darren Henry MP (Broxtowe); Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Caroline Henry; Cllr James Dawson, Vice Chair of FoBV; Adam Thompson; Cllr Robert Flatley; David Abbott, great-grandson of the Great Northern Railway engineer who was responsible for the railway line across the viaduct; Cllr Trevor Rood, Chairman of Kimberley Town Council; and Jeff Wynch, of FoBV. They are joined by Scouts from 1st Greasley and 4th Ilkeston Scout Groups.

Mrs. Elizabeth Fothergill CBE, Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire, said: “As HM Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire it is my pleasure and privilege to be part of the official opening of the Bennerley Viaduct, what a unique and amazing addition to the numerous attractions of the area and I know it will be enjoyed by residents and visitors for years to come. I would like to pay tribute to the passion, hard work and commitment of all those who had the vision to bring this incredible piece of transport history back into use and to those who funded and supported the project, you should all be justifiably proud.”

Rebecca Morris-Buck, Project Manager for the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct’s NLHF funded project said, “We are so thrilled that our first big event since we received National Lottery funding was such as success.
On behalf of all staff, trustees and volunteers involved in our charity, we’d like to thank everyone who attended: Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenants, our distinguished guests and their supporters, Parkside High CIC, 1st Greasley and 4th Ilkeston Scout groups, and all the members of our community who celebrated with us. Our celebration wasn’t just about the viaduct being open, it’s about the power of a community coming together, and a sense of local pride.
As the charity who manages the viaduct, we are now moving into our next phase, focusing on fundraising to provide better access to the viaduct – including a ramp at the eastern end and a well-managed footpath and new bridge underneath – and holding a programme of events and activities at the viaduct, for the public and schools. Our long term vision is ambitious, including a visitor centre, café and car parking, but events like this make us believe that we can achieve it and create a hub for heritage, walking and cycling in the wider area, and be a catalyst for investment. We’d urge anyone who loves our project and wants to help shape our future to get involved; we’re currently recruiting new trustees, and new volunteers and members of the Friends group are always welcome.”

For more information about volunteering, or others offers of support, please email info@bennerleyviaduct.org.uk

Image credit: Kerry Wheatley. With thanks from FoBV.

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Official Opening Celebration at Bennerley Viaduct: Sunday 7 August

At 12pm, Lord Lieutenants of both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire will cut the ribbon to mark the first year of “the Iron Giant” being open to the public since its restoration

The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct are also offering free guided tours at 11am and 2pm – visitors should sign up on the day

In addition, there will be music from Shirland Welfare Brass Band, refreshments to purchase, and a family trail beneath the viaduct, as well as a fun family activity provided by partners Parkside High.

First opened in 1878, as part of the Great Northern Railway between Nottingham and Derby, the wrought iron Bennerley Viaduct has long been an iconic site, stretching over the Erewash Valley near Ilkeston. Closed to trains in the 1960s, it has been restored and opened as a walking and cycling route by a coalition of funders and community initiatives, including Railway Paths Ltd. and the Railway Heritage Trust, alongside the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct, the charity which now manages the viaduct as a visitor attraction and heritage site.


Not only did 2022 see the opening of the ramp, steps and deck, allowing people to cross from one side to the other, but it also saw the start of a £250,000 project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to raise the profile of the viaduct and work extensively with the local community, and ongoing work funded by Severn Trent to develop a nature reserve and footpath underneath the viaduct. It is also the year that the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct took on a 99 year lease, committing to care for the viaduct for the foreseeable future. The official ‘launch’ on Sunday 7 August is a celebration of this momentous year in the history of the viaduct, and signals the beginning of even more exciting times ahead.

On the day itself, Sir John Peace, the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, and Mrs Elizabeth Fothergill CBE, the Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire, will be joined by Scouts from both counties, trustees and volunteers from the charity, and local people, as they cut a ribbon and meet – symbolically – at the place where the viaduct crosses the boundary between the two counties.

It is the first of many community events that will be held at the viaduct in coming years, with one of the main aims of the National Lottery Heritage Fund financed project being to grow the viaduct into a sustainable visitor attraction. The day is also a chance for the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct to fundraise, and recruit new volunteers. The charity is currently seeking new trustees, as well as volunteers to help with events, countryside management and more.

To find out more about the event, or our volunteering opportunities, please email info@bennerleyviaduct.org.uk and mark your email FAO Kate Crossley.

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New Trustees Sought for Bennerley Viaduct

Trustees sought for Bennerley Viaduct, an iconic heritage structure, recognised internationally
We are seeking applicants to serve on the established Board of Trustees of Friends of Bennerley Viaduct (FoBV) at a very exciting time in the life of this iconic structure. We aim to expand the diversity of the board and particularly are seeking those with background and experience in heritage, HR, finance, fundraising, marketing, and charities and the law.

History of the Viaduct, and its Restoration
Bennerley Viaduct, between Ilkeston and Awsworth, known locally as the ‘Iron Giant’, is one of only two wrought iron railway viaducts remaining in the UK. Bennerley is the longer of the two and unlike the Meldon in Devon, is almost unaltered. It was built in 1877 by the Great Northern Railway Company as a key element allowing the Friargate Line from Burton-on-Trent to Nottingham to cross the Erewash Valley, and was closed to rail traffic in 1968. It is now a Grade II* monument, beloved in the area. The viaduct crosses the Nottinghamshire – Derbyshire county boundary.
Saved from demolition following a public enquiry in 1980 the Bennerley Viaduct stood dormant for 40 years until 2020.


However, in the last few years much has been happening. The FoBV was formed in 2015 to support an ambitious Heritage Lottery Fund grant application being made by Sustrans. In 2017, despite the key heritage and community benefits of the viaduct being acknowledged, the bid was not successful and Sustrans decided not to re-apply.
Overcoming this disappointment, the FoBV have since worked in partnership with the owners of the viaduct, Railway Paths Limited (RPL), to devise a more modest plan to restore the viaduct for public access and support their fund-raising activities.


This activity received a substantial boost in 2019 with both the FoBV charity being established and an application by the FoBV to the World Monument Watch in New York being successful. They chose Bennerley Viaduct as being the only heritage site to support in the UK for the next two year period, along with such sites as Notre Dame in Paris. This has opened the doors to more support in terms of grants and public interest.

The restoration of the viaduct is now completed by the owners of the viaduct, Railway Paths Limited, having picked up the mantle to restore the structure and enable public access to the deck of the historic structure under the guidance of David Pemberton, their director. He was ably assisted by Bill Thomson who was seconded from Sustrans to drive the fund-raising activity and project management, resulting in the viaduct opening to public access in January 2022.

Now, and For the Future

This more modest project has resulted in a full accessible ramp at the western (Derbyshire) end of the viaduct, but only a steep flight of steps at the eastern (Nottinghamshire) end of the viaduct. The county border runs under the viaduct.


This was followed by FoBV signing a lease to manage the viaduct in June 2022, although RPL remain as the owners and have responsibility to maintain the main structure of the viaduct. The next challenge is to maintain the newly restored and accessible viaduct, establish it as a major local, national and international tourist attraction, and to safeguard its future.

In the meantime, FoBV had successfully applied for a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for our two year ‘Bridging the Gap’ project starting in March 2022, allowing the employment of three part-time staff to deliver the funded project, strengthen the resilience of FoBV and explore effective ways of ensuring it becomes a sustainable, well run, and often visited educational heritage attraction, with growing profile. The focus is on local railway and industrial heritage, but also on science and technology, wellbeing, and nature. We also want to ensure Bennerley Viaduct can fulfil its potential role as part of the National Cycling Network and provide an effective cycling route between Nottingham and Derby.

New Trustees
We now need to strengthen the existing Board of Trustees to fulfil the requirements of the Charity Commission and oversee this next stage of the life of the ‘Iron Giant’ as we complete the ‘Bridging the Gap’ project and look towards funding a fully accessible eastern ramp and developing a programme of events and activities, as well as a strategic overhaul of membership, fundraising, audience engagement, marketing, and more.

Trustees will be required to attend six board meetings a year and offer support to the charity as and where required. Trustees are expected to contribute to other aspects of running the charity where their skills, experience and time commitments allow it. Board meetings are usually held in person, in Ilkeston, though attending via Zoom or Teams can be facilitated if necessary. Although Board meetings are usually held in the evening, Trustees will occasionally be asked to take part in activities and training that could take place during working hours, on weekdays.


We hope you will be inspired to apply to become a Trustee and support us in these crucial next steps in the life of this great heritage monument and local icon.


We will be using a simple application form in order to undertake a skills audit of those applying to ensure we achieve a balanced Board of Trustees able to provide the skills and experience that FoBV, and our staff, will need now and in the future. You do not need to have experience as a Trustee, as we will be providing training on the role and responsibilities of charity Trustees.

Please express your interest and request an application form by contacting John Scruton, Chair of the Trustees at chair.trustees@bennerleyviaduct.org.uk by 19th August 2022.

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