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Morpeth Old Bridge

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Chantry footbridge

In the civil parish of Morpeth.
In the historic county of Northumberland.
Modern Authority of Northumberland.
1974 county of Northumberland.
Medieval County of Northumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ20038585
Latitude 55.16641° Longitude -1.68702°

Morpeth Old Bridge has been described as a probable Fortified Bridge.

There are masonry footings remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law*.


The Old Bridge (HER 11535, SM 35421, LB Grade II;) One of the primary reasons for Morpeth s development was its location at a crossing point of the Wansbeck along a main north - south routeway . The burgesses of the town were responsible for the erection of a stone bridge at this crossing (Rowland 1995, 55) some time, probably in the first half, of the 13th century (it is first mentioned in a marginal entry in the Chartulary of Newminster around the middle of the century). It was located to wards the east end of Bridge Street and maintained by the collection of tolls and at some point over the century was accompanied by All Saints' Chapel . The bridge was of two low arches with a central pier of hexagonal plan (it had cutwaters both upstream and downstream) . Only this pier and the flanking abutments now survive, the arches having been demolished in the 1830s and replaced by the Chantry Footbridge, an iron walkway built in 1869 (Pevsner 1992, 398). The medieval bridge is shown on Woods' plan of 1826 and in a view (print from a painting by Girtin of 1802) from the east with All Saints' Chapel alongside (Hodgson 1832a, 62). Archaeological recording accompanied repairs to the bridge in 1972 which revealed the original 13th century timber sub-structure and piles beneath the pier. Some of this timber is preserved in the Chantry Museum (Tyson 1976, 198 ; Rowland 1986, 17 ). Further sub-structural timbers were seen below a paved area of the river channel to the north of the pier by Ryder (1993) who also noted that there were structural remnants, possibly of a tower or gatehouse, adjoining the southern abutment of the bridge. (Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey)

Although the two segmental arches were removed in 1835, the central pier and the two abutments of the 13th century Morpeth Old Bridge remain in situ. The surviving remains will provide evidence of bridge construction and the way in which rivers were crossed in the medieval period. The crossing of the River Wansbeck was of great strategic importance and was defended by Morpeth Castle to the south. The Morpeth Old Bridge's importance is enhanced by its association with a chantry chapel at the north end of the bridge, and in particular by the survival of a timber substructure revealed during a survey in 1972.
The monument includes the above and below ground remains of Morpeth Old Bridge, a medieval multi-span bridge of 13th century date, which spanned the River Wansbeck in Morpeth. The bridge was in use until 1835 when it was partially demolished and replaced by a new bridge downstream. The abutments and central pier remain standing to about 4m high and are surmounted by a 19th century footbridge. The bridge is Listed Grade II. The bridge, built of squared sandstone, had two segmental arches supported on a central stone pier; the timber foundations of the latter were revealed during low water levels in 1972. The northern arch had a span of 15.6m while the southern arch had a span of 17.4m. The north and south abutments each retain the springing of an arch, and the central pier shows the springing of the southern arch; on the north face the pier has been cut back and partly reconstructed. To counteract the abrasive action around the bridge foundations, the river bed beneath the northern arch is paved with stone blocks which overlie a timber grid. Some of these timbers were visible during a survey in 1993. The addition of upstream and downstream cutwaters, or triangular projections, to the central pier aids the flow of water and helps counteract the abrasive action of the river. The cutwaters were carried up to parapet level and would have formed niches into which pedestrians could retreat. The total length of the bridge, inclusive of its abutments, is 38m and it was about 4m wide. The bridge is first documented in the Chartulary of Newminster in the 13th century, and the bridge and its chapel are recorded in 1294. The bridge was managed by a chaplain who was also called the keeper. (Scheduling Report)

13th century. Originally two arches, each of two chamfered orders, central pie and two abutments whereof the southern one had some sort of tower or toll house. The arches were destroyed early last century and replaced by an iron footbridge on the old pier. (PastScape ref. Listed Building Report - DOE(HHR) Borough of Morpeth, Dec 1970, 1)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:09

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