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Bow Bridge 90m east of Bowbridge Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Low Abbotside, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.3148 / 54°18'53"N

Longitude: -2.1025 / 2°6'9"W

OS Eastings: 393428.307704

OS Northings: 491030.220383

OS Grid: SD934910

Mapcode National: GBR FLRK.M0

Mapcode Global: WHB5G.PT01

Entry Name: Bow Bridge 90m east of Bowbridge Hill

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1925

Last Amended: 6 October 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021085

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35487

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Low Abbotside

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire


The monument includes a single arched medieval pack horse bridge which was
widened in the 18th century. It crosses crossing Grange Gill Beck on an
east to west alignment and it is located on the lower slope of the
northern flank of Wensleydale. Grange Gill Beck is one of many small water
courses which flow down the dale sides into the River Ure in the dale

Bow Bridge is thought to date to the 13th century and was built to service
the Wensleydale estates of Jervaulx Abbey. The Abbey is located
approximately 30km down the dale to the east. The bridge is located north
east of the presumed site of Fors Abbey which was the original foundation
before the monks moved it to Jervaulx in 1156. The site of Fors Abbey was
occupied after by a grange of Jervaulx known to have existed until the
mid-16th century. The bridge provided access from the grange to the
extensive Jervaulx estates in upper Wensleydale and also lay on a
significant medieval route carrying traffic along the northern side of
Wensleydale and over the Dales to the west. It continued to serve as part
of the road network through the post-medieval period and in the late 18th
century was widened on the southern side in order to carry the Richmond to
Lancaster turnpike. The bridge was replaced in 1899 by a new bridge built
30m downstream when the road was widened and straightened. Since then the
deck has become grassed over and the bridge now serves an agricultural
purpose to allow access between fields.

Bow Bridge is constructed of coursed limestone blocks. The earliest
visible part is the surviving medieval arch, which forms the northern
upstream side of the bridge. The arch is semicircular in shape and is
supported on the underside by four ribs. The two inner ribs are square cut
whilst the two outer are chamfered on the outer edge. It has a span of 4m
and is 3.5m wide. The downstream, 18th century widening extended the
bridge by 4m using a plain vaulted arch which continued the same width of
span. Both the medieval and 18th century arches sit directly on the
bedrock thus raising the foundations above the normal water level.

On both sides of the bridge the ends splay outwards by 3m in order to
prevent erosion of the river bank and the undermining of the bridge. On
the south side of the bridge there is a parapet capped by flat coping
stones. There is no parapet on the northern side, which is not unusual for
medieval pack horse bridges. Including the splayed ends, the bridge
measures a maximum of 15m in length and is 16m wide. It is Listed Grade

At the south western end of the bridge the outer face and parapet of the
south side of the bridge meets the gable end of a building. This gable
wall and the side of the building which extends part way across the end of
the bridge is not included in the monument.

The drain pipe attached to the south west face of the bridge is excluded
from the scheduling, although the structure beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval and early post-medieval single span bridges are structures designed
to carry a road or track over a river by means of a single arch, typically 3m-
6m in span. They were constructed throughout the medieval period, most
commonly using timber. Stone began to be used instead of timber in the 12th
century and became increasingly common in the 14th and 15th centuries. Many
medieval bridges were repaired, modified or extensively rebuilt in the post-
medieval period. During the medieval period the construction and maintenance
of bridges was frequently carried out by large estates and the Church,
especially monastic institutions which developed long distance packhorse
routes between their landholdings. Some stone built medieval bridges still
survive. These can be classified into three main types based on the profile of
the arch which is typically pointed, semi-circular or flattened. A common
medieval feature is the presence of stone ashlar ribs underneath the arch. The
bridge abutments and revetting of the river banks also form part of the
bridge. Where medieval bridges have been altered in later centuries, original
features are sometimes concealed behind later stonework, including remains of
earlier timber bridges. Bridges were common and important features of medieval
towns and the countryside and allowed easy access along a well developed road
and trackway system. However, only around 16 largely unaltered medieval single
span bridges have so far been recognised to survive in England. All these are
considered to be of national importance. A larger number retain significant
medieval or post-medieval remains, allowing the original form of the bridge to
be determined. These examples are also nationally important.

Bow Bridge is a good example of a surviving medieval pack horse bridge
which retains a range of constructional features. Its importance is
emphasised by the historic link with the Jervaulx Abbey estates and by its
later widening as part of the 18th century turnpike network. Taken as
whole the bridge makes a significant contribution to the study of
transport and communications in the Yorkshire Dales in the medieval and
post-medieval periods.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Jervoise, E, Ancient Bridges of Northern England, (1931), 75
White, R, Yorkshire Dales, (1997), 57, 62

Source: Historic England

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