Cultural Significance

The viaduct is a source of local pride uniting many sections of the community. It is an iconic symbol of the area’s rich industrial heritage and culture. Coal mining and ironworks once played a major role in the local economy. Bennerley Viaduct was used to transport coal and iron ore. Many older local people fondly recall crossing the viaduct on day trips to the seaside. 

Many local groups have a specific interest in the viaduct including: railway enthusiasts; engineers; historical and archaeological societies; transport groups and many more. The viaduct provides inspiration for artists. The area beneath the viaduct is rich in wildlife and the community values its diverse natural heritage. The large numbers attending talks and guided walks bear witness to the huge community interest in the project and its cultural significance to them.

The writings of D. H. Lawrence have important local, national and international significance. Lawrence was born in Eastwood and the countryside of the Erewash Valley is the setting for many of his novels. He frequently refers to the viaduct in his writings.

The Friends Group has a growing membership. The members take part in regular work parties to increase the biodiversity of the immediate landscape and to make it accessible. The development of a walking and cycling trail will make a significant contribution to the creation of a sustainable transport infrastructure, important on a national and international level. 

D. H. Lawrence

David Herbert Lawrence was the son of a former school teacher and a Nottinghamshire coal miner, brought up in the small mining community of Eastwood at a time when modern industry began transforming the East Midlands countryside. He was one of the twentieth century’s most influential writers and arguably the most famous writer coming from working class origins.

D. H. Lawrence fondly referred to the Erewash Valley as the country of his heart. He walked through the countryside extensively and often contrasted the beauty of the landscape with the ugliness of the mines which he described as “accidents in the landscape”. He also wrote about the dehumanising effects of industrialisation. Even when he had left the Erewash Valley, he vividly remembered the beauty of the local countryside and the ugliness of industrialisation.

The landscape around Bennerley Viaduct in the 1920s. The viaduct is in the top right hand corner of the image. Bennerley Ironworks dominates the industrial scene. Lawrence wrote about the dehumanising effects of industrialisation.

“To me it seemed and still seems an extremely beautiful countryside, just between the red sandstone and oak trees of Nottingham and the cold limestone, the ash trees, the stone fences of Derbyshire.” Nottingham and the Mining Country 1919

D. H. Lawrence knew the area by the viaduct very well and refers to the viaduct directly in his writings. Lawrence’s fiancée lived in nearby Cossall Village so he would have walked past the viaduct regularly. He refers to the evocative sound of the rattle of trains going over the viaduct in Sons and Lovers. The rattle of the viaduct was a familiar sound to anyone who lived within earshot .

Trains travelling over the viaduct caused an evocative rattling sound which could be heard for miles.
Image by T. G. Hepburn

‘There was a faint rattling noise. Away to the right, the train, like a luminous caterpillar, was threading across the night. The rattling ceased. “She’s over the viaduct. You’ll just do it.”’ D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers, 1913

The setting of one of his most famous novels, “The Rainbow” is based in this part of the Erewash Valley. The view from the top of the viaduct affords excellent views of the countryside which inspired Lawrence.

“The Brangwens had lived for generations on the Marsh Farm, in the meadows where the Erewash twisted sluggishly through the alder trees separating Derbyshire from Nottinghamshire.” D.H.Lawrence, The Rainbow, 1915

The River Erewash twists sluggishly through the trees which separate Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. The beauty of this countryside inspire Lawrence’s writings. This part of the valley is the setting for the Rainbow.
Image by Paul Atherley