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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by 19th August 2022.