The Later Records Relating To North Westmorland Or the Barony of Appleby. Originally published by Titus Wilson and Son, Kendal, 1932.
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Apart from the great monastic bridges erected by skilled labour sent out from the abbeys, there can be little doubt but that all our early bridges were at first "Stock-bridges" that is to say formed of wooden planks resting on cross pieces and supported on stocks or logs. To replace the stocks with "jewels" or rough stone piers was the first step to a more permanent structure, but the further step to stone arches was not taken generally, at least in this district, till about the time of the Restoration of 1660. It would appear either that there was no need for such or that the art of the ordinary country mason was not equal to the task. Afterward, however, narrow stone bridges fit for pack-horse traffic multiplied rapidly and they answered their purpose for some hundred years. When heavy vehicular traffic and turn-pike roads came into being it will be noticed, in the following pages, how that other arches were added on the upstream side so as to widen the roadway and stiffen up the original structures.
At the Appleby Sessions held on 12 April, 1602, 44 Elizabeth, the Justices ordered that the several divisions within the Bottom of Westmorland, viz.:—the East, Middle and West Wards, should be assessed 5d. in every 20s. rent toward repairing Warcop, Appleby, Smardale and Colby bridges. This adds two more to our list.
Whereas the severall Bridges hereafter menc[io]oned are presented to be in decay, and that they ought to be repaired by the whole County, It is ordered by the Hoble John Puleston, one of the Justices of the Common Pleas, Francis Thorpe, one of the Barons of the Exchequer, Edward Briggs, John Thwaites, and Gervase Benson, Esquires, fyve of the Justices of Peace within this County, That iiijs. p[ro] pound be assessed on the whole County towards repaire of the same Bridges, and forthwith levied, and that the same Bridges be repaired before the next Assizes upon paine of every Bridge not repaired in the same time, And the severall corporac[io]ons of Apulby and Kendal repaire the Bridges in their corporac[io]ons wthin that tyme upon the like paine at their own charges.
It would appear that after the disastrous Civil War it became necessary for the Justices sitting in Quarter Sessions to ascertain and tabulate what public bridges existed in the county for which they were liable. And to this end they ordered the High Constables of the East and West wards to make careful enquiry and submit their finding to the Court to be holden on 28 April, 1679. The result is to be found in the Appleby Indictment Book for 1661 to 1685, as follows:—
The immediate result of this information was that the Court, sitting on 22 May following, ordered that 5d. in the pound should be assessed and levied upon the Barony of Appleby for the next seven years for the reparation of these bridges. It was further ordered that the money was to be paid every midsummer to Thomas Birkbeck, Chief Constable of the East Ward; to John Smith, Chief Constable of the West Ward; and to John Morland (? the Middle Ward) who were ordered to see to and diligently repair the bridges in their respective areas and leave them in a substantial condition.
At the close of those seven years, that is to say on 12 April, 1686, the Court ordered Thomas Birkbeck and John Smith to again survey the county bridges together with the causeys at the ends thereof, and to bring an estimate of what was still needed to the Sessions to be held on 27 May next. Their report was:—
After these reparations were made, that is to say on 3 October, 1687, the High Constables seem to have entered into a contract with the Court for the maintenance of the bridges. "For as much as Thomas Birkbeck of Coatflatt and John Smith of Shap, High Constables of the East, Middle and West Wards have entered into one obligation of £500 for the repair of all County Bridges within the Bottom of Westmorland, for the space of seven years now coming, it is therefore ordered that 5d. in the pound be levied as well upon the lands as dwellings in the said Bottom and that the same be paid to the said Thomas Birkbeck and John Smith yearly."
On 3 April, 1749, Quarter Sessions found it necessary to offer an award of one guinea to any person whose evidence should lead to the conviction of any person or persons found guilty of demolishing or doing damage to the parapet walls of the County Bridges.
Perhaps the chief event that happened in the history of our County Bridges and which led up to a complete change in the administration of them, was the great flood that occurred and lasted from Friday to Sunday, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of February, 1822. After continuous heavy rains the waters rushed down from the fells in torrents, every rill was filled and the river Eden was swollen to a greater height than was recorded ever before. About six o'clock on Saturday evening the river inundated the main street of Appleby as far as the Low Cross where it mixed with the water that flowed up the Low Weind from the Holme. The school house and Church were flooded to a depth of three feet so that the Sunday services had to be abandoned. The Westmorland Advertiser says:—"Kirkby Stephen bridge, built only about three years ago, fell before the torrent; a bridge between Kirk Brough and Market Brough is washed down; another at Blandswath, nearly new, is quite gone; one at Hoff is wholly destroyed; Asby Bridge is also demolished; another at Temple Sowerby is washed down and one side of one at Bowderdale in Ravenstonedale. At Appleby the wood bridge behind the King's Head was carried away and the stone bridge is much damaged." Another account says that " the bridges of Cliburn, Cliburn Mill, Eastfield and Beck Foot were all broken down; and those at Coupland Beck, K. Thore, Longmarton and Bolton were very much damaged." The estimated cost for rebuilding and repairing of these bridges was upwards of £7000.
Up to this time it had been customary for the Bottom and the Barony of Kendale to be assessed separately for the repair of their respective bridges, and so in the following week the magistrates resolved that the Clerk of the Peace do consider the propriety of an application to Government for pecuniary assistance, either by grant or otherwise, to meet this great cost and to enable the inhabitants of the East and West Wards to rebuild and repair the damages sustained.
Presumably the application, if made, was unsuccessful for on 22 March the Clerk was instructed to draw up a case for the opinion of Counsel as to the liability of the County at large to contribute to the rebuilding and repairing. Further the Rev. Harrison Shaw, the Rev. Robert Milner, the Rev. Joseph Milner, Edward W. Hasell and Matthew Atkinson, esquires, were appointed a committee to meet a similar committee appointed by the magistrates of the Barony of Kendale in order to examine all documents relative to the custom of separate rating and to take legal opinions on this and upon all such other points of law relating to county matters as to them shall seem good.
For the case made out, for the questions put to Counsel and for their opinions, reference must be made to the Records of Kendale, vol. iii, pages 21 to 28. But each of the three opinions given at the close of 1822 agreed in that the custom could not be legally supported. Therefore on 21 December the Clerk was ordered to write to Christopher Wilson, esq., stating that " the long prevailed mode of rating the two divisions separately was illegal" and requesting to know whether the magistrates of the Barony of Kendale will abide by the opinions of the Counsel and signify the same previous to the next Sessions. It is to the credit of the Barony that the magistrates at once agreed and at the Sessions held on 17 February, 1823, it was unanimously ordered that a rate of one half-penny in the pound be levied on the whole county to meet these and all other charges to which County rates are liable by law.
As a natural corollary the magistrates decided that the duty of supervising the bridges should be separated henceforth from the duties of the High Constables; and that the care of all County Bridges should be placed in the charge of one person experienced in planning, building and repairing, and who would be able to devote his time to constant inspection and timely repair. Vested interests did not allow of this great change being accomplished all at once, but on 15 July, 1825, Isaac Sanderson was appointed Bridge Master for the whole of the Bottom. On 23 October, 1829, he was succeeded by George Robinson at a salary of £37 without any allowance for travelling expenses. Finally on 7 January, 1837, Robinson was appointed Bridge Master for the whole of the County at a salary of £120 per annum. He retired in 1866 when Joseph Bintley of Kendal was appointed at a salary of £150 to include travelling expenses. From this time his work and salary gradually increased until after more than 50 years' service he retired. On 5 September, 1919, he was appointed as a Consultant Surveyor with a salary of £600 a year.