SEDBERGH  &  DISTRICT HISTORY  SOCIETY        

 

 

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INFORMATION WANTED

If you would like to post an email on this page requesting or contributing any local historical information on people, buildings, documents, etc., please send it to:   nevilleallen@btinternet.com

_______________________________________

For research queries please contact

Richard Cann
 
 rwvc.cann@btinternet.com
Diane Elphick
 
 DElph2101@aol.com
Joyce Scobie
 
 joyce@scobies.org.uk 
 

PACKHORSE BRIDGES

I am a member of the Society and have an article in the current journal about my Dentdale roots. I should be delighted to receive any information that members can supply.

Margaret Dickinson.  (maggiebdickinson@blueyonder.co.uk)

Prior to the use of wheeled transport there must have been a steady packhorse trade passing through Dentdale, Sedbergh and Garsdale, taking out such items as knitted garments and woollen goods to markets and bringing back all kinds of commodities, for the teams never travelled light.  Packteams would arrive from greater distances with vital commodities like salt. 
 

The bridges used for crossing streams were hump-backed to allow the passage of rivers in spate.  They were traditionally around 6' wide or less and without parapets to accommodate the low-slung bulging panniers carried by the sturdy little Galloways that were the most practical beast used for this trade.  The packhorse trade covered a period of around 500 years until the canals, railways and major arteries took over.
 
The many crossings of the Dee, for example, would originally have been by this type of bridge.  These would eventually have been extended to take carts and so serve a dual purpose and then, in most cases, would have been rebuilt for motorised transport.  If any of the extended bridges have survived there would be a tell-tale seam underneath.  I have managed to look under one or two of those in Dentdale but so far the structures appear to have replaced the original bridge.
 
The grassed-over bridge underneath Dent Head Viaduct is referred to as a packhorse bridge.  Whilst packhorses would have used the bridge it is more likely that this was part of the old road prior to the building of the viaduct and was structured for carts from the beginning as it is too wide in my opinion.
 
However, just prior to arriving at Dent Head, as I drove past Bridge End Cottage, I saw a gem on the opposite side of the road spanning the infant Dee.  Unspoilt and untouched it connects with the pedestrian right of way leading to Dent Head Farm and over the line of Blea Moor Tunnel to Ribblehead.