NO LONGER EXTANT
The Bull Bridge Aqueduct was situated on the Cromford Canal in Derbyshire, built in 1794, at Bullbridge east of Ambergate along the Amber Valley where it turned sharply to cross the valley and the Ambergate to Nottingham road.
Known officially as the "Amber Aqueduct" it was actually an earthwork bank surmounted by masonry walls across the valley some thirty feet high in places. It was pierced by three arches. One was for the river. The second was an accommodation arch for the houses behind, which are now the small village known as Bullbridge. The main road passed through the third which was the original Bull Bridge.
In 1839, George Stephenson engineered the North Midland Railway to intersect the canal at this point on its way from Ambergate to Wingfield and Stretton, towards Clay Cross and Chesterfield. The lines were laid in the space between the river and the road, but were carried on an embankment over the side road leading to Bullbridge village, which itself was carried by a bridge over the river. A Victorian commentator wrote "river, road, railway and canal were thus piled up, four stories high".
To avoid paying compensation to the canal owners, it was necessary to take the railway under without closing the canal. An iron tank 150 feet long, 6 feet deep and 9 feet wide was prefabricated in sections at the Butterley Company's ironworks. The sections were assembled on site and floated to the spot and, starting at midnight on Saturday 2 March 1839, the parts were assembled, floated into position and sunk into place within twenty-four hours. Traffic on the canal was not disrupted, as it was normally closed on Sundays. The bridge for the railway was subsequently built beneath the trough.
In the early twentieth century the canal went out of use. Where it crossed the highway, the aqueduct was only wide enough for a single line of traffic and was controlled by traffic lights. In 1968 the road became a feeder route for the newly upgraded A38 towards the M1 and the aqueduct was demolished.
The aqueduct, or extended embankment, crossed the Amber Valley and included openings for a minor road (today, Drovers Way), the River Amber, and the turnpike road (today the A610). Built for stagecoaches and carts, the arch allowing the turnpike road to pass did not suit modern transport requirements but it lasted until 1968 before it was demolished, sadly now leaving a ‘gap’ in the embankment.
1839 'NORTH MIDLAND RAILWAY.- A very interesting process took place late on Saturday night, the 2d instant, on the portion of the line which is to pass under the Cromford canal, at Bullbridge. In consequence of the railway having to be carried under the bed of the canal, an iron tank, 150 feet long, nine feet wide, and six feet deep, was made at the Butterley iron works, for the purpose of preventing the water escaping from the canal. The tank, having previously been conveyed in five different parts near to the place where it was intended to be fixed, was rivetted together about midnight, and floated to the spot and there sunk and embedded. The whole of the proceedings were finished in twenty-four hours, without having interrupted the traffic on the canal. The execution of the work reflects the greatest credit on the engineer, as well as upon the contractor. A large concourse of persons were present to witttess the proceedings, with which they appeared highly interested.'
Note: It was stated in 1969 that the dried-up bed of the canal was here lined with blue engineering bricks, and that 'A magnetic compass showed signs of confusion at points 150 ft apart, over the railway, and it may well be that the trough is still in situ.'
Sources of Information
- Derby Mercury - Wednesday 13 March 1839
- 'Industrial Archaeology of Derbyshire' by Frank Nixon, Daivid & Charles, 1969