Bridge End, Egremont

Bridge End, Egremont

The River Ehen flows through the historic market town of Egremont in West Cumbria. The river supports the largest freshwater pearl mussel population in England. The river is also a breeding ground for Atlantic salmon.

At Bridge End, in Egremont, the river flows past terraced houses overlooking a sometimes raging torrent, and then onwards to the sea. The River Ehen is overlooked by Egremont Castle – a historic castle dating from around the first millennium AD.

In 1565, a stone bridge was built over the River Ehen to access the town. In bygone days, dyeing and weaving were traditional industries based around the River Ehen.

I have come a long way to-day:
On a strange bridge alone,
Remembering friends, old friends,
I rest, without smile or moan,
As they remember me without smile or moan.

All are behind, the kind
And the unkind too, no more
Tonight than a dream. The stream
Runs softly yet drowns the Past,
The dark-lit stream has drowned the Future and the Past.

No traveller has rest more blest
Than this moment brief between
Two lives, when the Night’s first lights
And shades hide what has never been,
Things goodlier, lovelier, dearer, than will be or have been.

Edward Thomas
Bridge End, Egremont
Bridge End, Egremont
Cockermouth

Week In Focus #38

This is #38 of a weekly Photo Challenge that I set myself – there is no particular theme. The idea behind the challenge is to get myself outside into the Cumbrian countryside, at least once a week.

  • This week, I have three photographs for you to take a look at, of the lovely, historic town of Cockermouth.

Just outside the Lake District National Park, Cockermouth is located at the mouth of the River Cocker – hence its name. The town is prone to flooding and has experienced severe floods in 2005, 2009, and 2015.

Threatening Clouds Over The River Cocker
Threatening Clouds Over The River Cocker

The town is the birth-place of William and Dorothy Wordsworth and Fletcher Christian, who led the renowned mutiny on the Bounty. John Dalton, the noted scientist and father of the atomic theory, and Fearon Fallows, HM Astronomer Royal, were born in or near the town. It even nurtured the talents of New Zealand-born England all-round cricketer, and World Cup winner, Ben Stokes.

Cockermouth also lays claim to be the first town in Britain to have piloted electric lighting. In 1881 six powerful electric lamps were set up to light the town, together with gas oil lamps in the back streets. Service proved intermittent, and there was afterwards a return to gas lighting.

  • The town is often included in compilations of ‘rude’ place names. A fact which is probably more to do with the minds of those carrying out the research, rather than the actual meaning of the name.

Much of the architectural core of the town remains unchanged since the basic medieval layout was filled in the 18th and 19th centuries. The regenerated market place is now a central historical focus within the town and reflects events during its 800-year history.

Hidden Lane At Cockermouth
A Hidden Lane At Cockermouth

The main town developed under the Normans who, after occupying the former Roman fort, built Cockermouth Castle closer to the river crossing: little remains today of the castle thanks to the efforts of Robert the Bruce. The market town developed its distinctive medieval layout, of a broad main street of burgesses’ houses, each with a burgage plot stretching to a “back lane”: the Derwent bank on the north and Back Lane (now South Street), on the south. The layout is largely preserved, leading the British Council for Archaeology to say in 1965 that it was worthy of special care in preservation and development.

Although Carlisle was considered the county town of Cumberland, Cockermouth shared the county assizes with Carlisle, and prior to the Reform Act 1832 was the usual venue for electing knights of the shire as MPs for Cumberland. Cockermouth borough was also a parliamentary borough from 1641 to 1918, returning two MPs until 1868 and one thereafter.

The town market pre-dates 1221, when the market day was changed from Saturday to Monday. Market charters were granted in 1221 and 1227 by King Henry III, although this does not preclude the much earlier existence of a market in the town. In recent times, the trading farmers market now only occurs seasonally, replaced by weekend continental and craft markets.

Cockermouth Is Full Of Historic Character
Cockermouth Is Full Of Historic Character
Monks Bridge

Monks Bridge

Monks Bridge, in West Cumbria, is the oldest packhorse bridge in the county. The bridge crosses Friar Gill – a narrow chasm etched into the landscape by the flowing waters of the River Calder. The water is also very cold, as my feet can testify. Brr!

  • The river, old as time itself, flows through a timeline from prehistoric settlements on the high fell through the old abbey and then on to a modern day nuclear plant and into the sea.

The bridge is said to be medieval and associated with Calder Abbey, but probably rebuilt C17 or C18. The bridge is constructed from sandstone blocks, with thick sandstone slabs forming a pathway. The pointed arch spans 18 ft, and is 3 ft. wide. Monk’s Bridge is a Grade II Listed Building.

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.

Monks Bridge is a narrow and beautifully formed stone arch bridge. It has no parapet, handrail or side stones so there would be no obstructions for a horse or pony crossing the bridge with wool, farm produce, or even mead.

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.

Monks Bridge & Wet Feet For This Shot
Monks Bridge
Monks Bridge
River Calder

Calderbridge Riverside Walk

‘ve been for a walk alongside the River Calder, at Calderbridge in West Cumbria. It has been a really pleasant spring day, which helped make the visit most enjoyable. The walk culminated in a visit to the historic Calder Abbey.

This was a short walk, beginning and ending at St Bridget’s Church, in Calderbridge. The church was built between 1840 and 1842 to a design by the Lancaster architect Edmund Sharpe. It was paid for by a Thomas Irwin of Calder Abbey.

To access the riverside, pass through an iron gate, located to the left of the church, and follow the well established path.

  • The River Calder rises at Lankrigg Moss and flows southwards for 10 miles (16 km) through an ancient landscape, flowing under Monks Bridge (a packhorse bridge) and by the site of Calder Abbey. It also runs past and (indirectly) gives its name to Calder Hall, site of the world’s first commercial nuclear reactor.
Riverside Walk
Riverside Walk
Fungus
Fungus
River Calder
River Calder
Crocus
Crocus
Poppy Sitting Among Snowdrops
Poppy Sitting Among Snowdrops