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Bow Bridge medieval multi-span bridge

A Scheduled Monument in Newbarns, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.1332 / 54°7'59"N

Longitude: -3.1896 / 3°11'22"W

OS Eastings: 322369.867793

OS Northings: 471474.528088

OS Grid: SD223714

Mapcode National: GBR 6N5N.83

Mapcode Global: WH72H.ZCBR

Entry Name: Bow Bridge medieval multi-span bridge

Scheduled Date: 22 March 1949

Last Amended: 5 August 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011245

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13571

County: Cumbria

Electoral Ward/Division: Newbarns

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Barrow in Furness St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes Bow medieval multi-span bridge. It lies a quarter of a
mile south of Furness Abbey in a small coppice known as Ennis Wood. The
structure consists of a low bridge of three arches crossing a stream. The
stream at this point has a laid stone floor. The masonry consists of regular
courses of hammer-dressed stones or coarse ashlar. The faces of the semi-
circular arches are quite plain, and the edges square, without any mouldings
or chamfer. The westerly arch has lost its voussoirs, or wedge shaped stones
forming the outer stones of the arch, on the north side. The arches have a
span of 2.1m, and rest upon low piers, which are only two courses high. The
springers, or arch supports, on each pier are single stones cut to suit the
voussoirs of the arches. The height from the bed of the stream to the soffit,
or underside of the arch, is 1.1m, and to the level of the roadway 1.6m. The
parapet has not survived but there are traces of a moulded string course just
below. The piers are 0.7m wide and project 0.1m beyond the springers all
round. Both ends are square with cutwaters to break the current of the water.
On one of the piers is the same mason's mark that appears frequently at
Furness Abbey, notably in the Chapter House. The overall width of the bridge
is 3.2m and its length 13m. The present width of the roadway crossing the
bridge is 2.4m. Bow Bridge is in the guardianship of the Secretary of State.
The bridge was constructed towards the end of the 15th century to carry the
road to the abbey's New Mill, a short distance upstream. Traces of the mill-
race measuring some 1m wide and up to 0.6m deep exist to the west of the
bridge adjacent to a railway embankment, but are not included in this
scheduling. All railings and catchwater chains are excluded from the
scheduling, but the ground beneath the railings however, is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval multi-span bridges were in use for much of the medieval period as a
means of taking a route across a river, frequently replacing fords. Initially
bridges were of timber construction but for these little archaeological
evidence survives; after the Norman Conquest stone was more often used.
Multi-span bridges were common monuments during the medieval period and over
150 examples were still recorded standing in a survey of England and Wales
taken during there 1930's. Medieval multi-span bridges may exhibit a variety
of architectural components including arches or spans, ashlar ribs beneath the
arches, piers, cutwaters, abutments, parapets and roadways. Chapels and
defensive gateways were sometimes added to bridges frequently in the vicinity
of towns and cities. In rare instances extraneous ornamentation such as a
statue or carving was added to a bridge. They were frequently referred to in
medieval documents thus allowing close dating for construction and repair.
Medieval multi-span bridges originally comprised both above and below ground,
as well as submerged, structures, and today survive in various states of
preservation. Many are still in use although frequently they have been
altered during the post-medieval period, especially by road widening. Bow
Bridge is a good example of a late medieval multi-span bridge and is a rare
example in Cumbria of a bridge of this period. It was constructed by the monks
of Furness Abbey to give access to their New Mill. After the Dissolution this
mill fell into disuse and the bridge saw little traffic. As such it was never
altered greatly and consequently survives well, displaying many of its
original features.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Kelly, P V, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in A Bridge of Monastic date and other finds at Furness Abbey, , Vol. XXVI, (1927)
Pagination 6, Overy, C. G. D., MPP Single Mon Class Description - Multi-Span Bridges (Medieval), (1990)

Source: Historic England

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