It goes un-noticed….. well its only a bridge


Handyside Bridge, Darley, Derby, Derbyshire

Its is walked and cycled over everyday by hundreds of people…. those out for recreation, as it now forms part of a Walking Trail and Long Distance Cycle Route….. and by many on the daily commute to work. Not particularly glamorous with a solid utilitarian look.  But a clue is in its width….once a twin track railway line ran across this bridge.

The design style may well be familiar, being featured on a great many railway, road and canal bridges…. but this was the very first.

Designed by Richard Johnson the Chief Engineer of the Great Norther Railway it was built by Andrew Handyside and his Engineering Company in 1878.  Hence the name Handyside Bridge and it spans the River Derwent on the norther outskirts of Derby.


So what makes Handyside Bridge special.  Well it was the first underslung Bow Shaped Rivetted Girder Bridge.  It spans 145ft, supported on either side of the river on stone plinths.  There is no central plinth and that together with its height above the river was designed to allow river navigation.

As the construction was unproven Handyside had to establish that the bridge could carry heavy railway traffic.  So once the bridge was in place, and with a high degree of flair and showmanship, Handyside arranged for 6 heavy steam locomotives, a weight of over 432 tons, to sit on the bridge at the same time….now that must have been something worth seeing.


The bridge was in use till 1968 but like much of our rail network it fell under the Beeching Axe…..cuts, of which many have been much regretted.

So Handyside Bridge really lives up to its name and proves very ‘handy’ for walkers and cyclist everyday of the week.

13th February

(C) David Oakes 2020