Tilehurst Road Bridge (BKE3709)


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Tilehurst Road Bridge, Tilehurst Road, Reading


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Statutory Address:
Tilehurst Road Bridge, Tilehurst Road, Reading

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Reading (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Tall triple-arch skew road overbridge with semi-elliptical spans, set in a cutting, erected c.1845-7.

Reasons for Designation

Tilehurst Road Bridge is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Selectivity: a triple-arch skew overbridge with semi-elliptical arches; in this case it is unusually and strikingly high, built to span a deep cutting; * Design, engineering & material interest: built to the high standard employed for brick-built bridges of this date; constructed with internal voids and spine walls that reduce the weight of the superstructure and carry the carriageway; intact outer faces and arches, with slightly, heightened, patched and repaired parapets; * Historic interest: built 1845-7, shortly after the main line by the Hampshire and Berkshire Railway for the Reading-Newbury line, probably by an assistant engineer to Brunel’s earlier specification; the drawings survive; * Group Value: forms an impressive pair with the similar and contemporary Bath Road Bridge.


Tilehurst Bridge was built c.1845-47 as part of the railway line from Reading to Newbury, opened in 1847, which was the outcome of a dispute between the Great Western Railway (GWR) and the London and South Western Railway about the provision of a railway to Newbury. The GWR originally proposed to reach the town by a branch from the main line at Pangbourne, but eventually settled on the present route. This was built by a subsidiary company to the GWR, the Berkshire and Hampshire Railway. The engineer was Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) who, as with the main line, designed the line on the broad gauge. Having previously dismissed the idea of a route to Bristol via Newbury and the Vale of Pewsey he did not regard this as a major project: it only became part of the direct GWR route to Exeter in 1906. It is not known who was the Resident Engineer for the project.

Original contract drawing survive. In c.1896 the north-west abutment was buttressed in brick. Since c.1900, the parapets have been raised and partially rebuilt in engineering brick.


MATERIALS: original handmade red brick with some red engineering brick patching and replacement. English bond. Limestone coping.

DESCRIPTION: the central arch is slightly taller and wider than the side arches. The contract drawings give a span of 38ft 4in and the side arches a span of 31ft 2in. The carriageway is 24ft [7.3m.] wide between parapets, favoured by Brunel for larger road bridges.

Tall tapering piers. Each originally pierced by two tapered transverse arches, now infilled so that they read as blind arches. Abutments/wing walls vertical and gently curved, the north-west abutment with shallow engineering brick buttress of c. 1896. Stepped string course to each face. Parapets stepped on the outer face only and raised in the C20 by four courses of engineering brick above the original stone coping (left in situ), with pitched tile coping topped by small iron anti-climbing spikes. The western (Up) ends of both parapet recently rebuilt in engineering brick, but apparently reusing the original coping in situ, with the north (low mileage) parapet stepping up towards a rectangular brick pier which forms part of the approach to the neighbouring modern steel footbridge. Neither the pier nor the footbridge are part of the historic structure. They abut but are not attached.

The bridge was built in open countryside but is now in the suburbs of Reading. It is not visible in the wider landscape because it is in a cutting and because of topography and existing structures. However, it is mutually visible with the similar Brunel-designed Bath Road Overbridge (BKE3729).


Books and journals
Bourne, J C, The History and Description of the Great Western Railway , (1846)
Brindle, S, Cruickshank, D, Brunel: The Man Who Built the World, (2005)
Cross-Rudkin, P, Chrimes, M, EDS, Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers Volume 2: 1830–1890 , (2008)
MacDermot, E T, A History of the Great Western Railway, (1927, revised ed. 1964)
Pugsley, A, The Works of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, (1976)
Vaughan, A, A Pictorial Record of Great Western Architecture, (1977)
Alan Baxter & Associates, The History and Significance of the Great Western Main Line , 2012,
Kinchin-Smith, R, Crossrail Technical Assessment of Historic Railway Bridges , 2005,
Network Rail, Network Rail National Records Centre Roll Number 56653P, 34664,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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