Fritchley Tunnel, Butterley Gangroad


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Situated under road junction between Chapel Street, Front Street and Bobbinmill Hill, Fritchley, Crich, Derbyshire


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

Location Description:
Situated under road junction between Chapel Street, Front Street and Bobbinmill Hill, Fritchley, Crich, Derbyshire
Amber Valley (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Railway tunnel, built 1793 by Benjamin Outram as part of the Butterley Gangroad.

Reasons for Designation

Fritchley tunnel, built in 1793 by Benjamin Outram, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Date: it is recognised as the earliest surviving railway tunnel in the world and an important representation of tunnel engineering at this time;

* Rarity: as a rare survival of a late C18 railway tunnel;

* Historical importance: for the association with Benjamin Outram who played an important part in the development of early railways and where he developed his ideas that were subsequently adopted throughout Britain;

* Archaeological potential: in the phases of structural development which are clearly preserved in the buried structural remains and in any buried archaeological deposits which may provide evidence of the track alignment and structure;

* Group value: for the strong group value the tunnel holds with the associated Grade II listed Tramway Embankment (NHLE 1109195) which lies just 50m to the north of the tunnel.


The tunnel was built in 1793 by Benjamin Outram as part of the Butterley Gangroad to allow horse drawn wagons carrying limestone from quarries close to Crich and the Cromford Canal to pass under a road junction between Bobbinmill Hill, Chapel Street and Front Street, Fritchley. The Gangroad would originally have been constructed as a plateway, possibly 3ft 6” gauge with cast-iron L section rails, one yard long, secured to stone sleeper blocks with wrought-iron spikes. Initially wagons moved by gravity and horse but in 1813 a walking steam locomotive was experimented with, this having been built by William Brunton at Butterley Works. In the 1840s the line was upgraded and realigned and this change is evident within the tunnel walls. The railway ceased operation in 1933. Later a wall was built inside the tunnel and both ends were buried by 1989 making it inaccessible. Historic photographic and other evidence shows that the earlier southern tunnel portal was a few metres to the east of the later one.

In February 2013 the north portal was exposed by the Derbyshire Archaeological Society and an archaeological evaluation and building survey of the tunnel and line was undertaken by Wessex Archaeology. The southern portal wall was not exposed and made available during the building survey so this was not recorded as part of the 2013 project. The following description is taken from the desk based survey by Derbyshire Archaeology Society and from the report produced by Wessex Archaeology (April 2013) following the laser scan and building survey.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS The site includes the buried remains of the tunnel portals and the full length of the tunnel.

DESCRIPTION Fritchley Railway Tunnel is located near to Riverside Cottage, Chapel Street, Fritchley. The Tunnel itself runs north to south below Chapel Street with an underlying geology of rough rock sandstone. The tunnel is built of coursed, sandstone blocks with vertical sides and a round-arched roof. The portals are formed of a stilted, semi-circular archway with voussoirs formed of a single course of sandstone blocks. A stone block wall above the northern portal forms a parapet adjacent to the road. The tunnel is 22.58m in length and 3.05m in height. The southern end had been blocked in two phases with a lower stone blocking and an upper modern red brick blocking. The north end had been blocked with soil debris. The tunnel is constructed of coursed sandstone, with two distinct phases of development. The northern 15m of the tunnel appears to represent the first phase (1793), beyond this to the south is the second phase delineated by a vertical joint within the stonework and a kink in the tunnels alignment. The second phase is understood to date to the 1840s. At this point in the tunnel there appears to be brick repair or strengthening in the north-east wall of the tunnel. Holes within the walls of the tunnel, representing sockets for timber formers during the construction of the arch of the tunnel, were also noted. All internal surfaces of the tunnel were covered with black soot. Survey of the tunnel and adjacent landscape features has shown that the tunnel was altered to run in alignment with the new line but it is believed that the early fabric of the tunnel remains embedded in the structure particularly in the southern half of the tunnel although this was not revealed during the survey.

The evaluation trench revealed a single in-situ sleeper, adjacent to which was a worn path of weathered natural soil believed to be a towpath walked and worn by horses. The construction of the new line in 1840 resulted in the removal of the stonework from the old line presumably for re-use elsewhere.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING The area of scheduling follows the line of the tunnel with an additional 1m margin on either side. At the northern end the scheduled area is c5m wide and at the southern end it is c7m wide. The southern end is splayed slightly to take account of the earlier line of the tunnel which is thought to survive behind the existing structure. Historic photographic evidence suggests the line of the earlier tunnel portal can be seen as an infilled opening, to the east of the existing southern portal. The southern portal wall was not exposed and made available during the building survey so this was not recorded as part of the 2013 project.

EXCLUSIONS All modern road and path surfaces, fences, gates and structures at ground level (with the exception of the north portal parapet, adjacent to the road) are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these is included.


Books and journals
'The Butterley Gangroad' in Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, , Vol. Volume 134, (2014), 223-254
Fritchley Railway Tunnel. Archaeological Evaluation and Buildings Survey. April 2013 by Wessex Archaeology


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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