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On Top of Friar Gate Bridge
Have you ever wondered what's on top of the old railway bridge across Friar Gate? Wonder no more...
The Friar Gate Bridge and the adjoining arches are now almost the only reminders of the former Friar Gate railway station, in service from 1878 to 1964.
The double, cast iron bridge was made for the Great Northern Railway by Andrew Handyside around 1876.
On top of Friar Gate Bridge
Heading east, the line ran through Darley Park, Breadsall, West Hallam and on to Nottingham via the Bennerley Viaduct. This was considered to be the line's main route.
To the west, the line connected with the Derby to Stoke line at Eggington Junction.
The line closed - a victim of the Beeching report - in 1968. In fact it was Harold Wilson's Minister of Transport, Barbara Castle, who finally signed the death knell for the line.
The station itself was an 'island platform' with two lines either side, one each side for passengers and the outer lines for freight trains.
The ticket office was at street level and access to the platform entailed a climb up some steps, with passengers coming up through the floor of the platform.
Close by was, and still stands, the huge brick-built warehouse. This was also built for GNR in 1878.
Friar Gate today
More than 40 years after its closure, some of the former Friar Gate station and platforms are still evident. Underneath the site of the station are the Arches - now occupied by a variety of business, mostly motor trade.
in fact, the song Underneath The Arches, written by Reg Connelly and Bud Flanagan in the 1930s, was written by Flanagan whilst visiting the Friar Gate area in Derby.
The site of the platforms is now a haven
But it is the top of the station area, immediately adjacent to the bridge, that is perhaps the most interesting.
Although there have been various plans and ideas to develop Friar Gate station, the site has largely been left to run wild. As a result, the area has now become a haven for wildlife and supports a good number of mammals, insects, flowers and butterflies.
Wildlife expert Bill Grange, the former Keeper of Natural History at Derby Museum, is keen to see it retained for that use.
He told BBC Radio Derby: "It's developed into a wonderful natural oasis. It's one of the most extraordinary sites for wildlife in the whole of Derbyshire. It is arguably the best site for butterflies - 24 species have been recorded here, quite a few of which are resident rather than just passing through.
"It's a wonderful, vibrant place for life - butterflies flitting around, birds grasshoppers... it's just superb!"
According to Bill, it's the soil conditions which have led to a wild variety of habitats. His only concern is that Sycamore is beginning to take over. But, he says, there is huge potential if the area is developed and managed properly and with wildlife in mind: "I'm not against development (particularly if it leads to the restoration of the wonderful brick-built warehouse).
"As part of a building development you could include areas of wildlife and retain the best of the site. I think the benefits of an educational reserve would be incredible for the city."
Sadly, some of the life found on the site is less welcome as drug users have clearly used the area and the ground is littered with beer cans and plastic bottles.
Please be aware, the former station site and the bridge are private property and not open to the public. Please do not attempt to visit the site as it is not safe for visitors without appropriate guidance and supervision.
last updated: 24/10/2008 at 16:47