Tarn Gill Bridge (known locally as Chantry Bridge – but is it really Artlegarth Beck Bridge – see below), Townhead, Ravenstonedale, has been saved from demolition, as the County Council have now decided not only to allow investigations of the perceived problem with the north-east abutment, but also to do the work themselves and, more importantly from the Friends’ point-of-view, to pay for this investigation and any subsequent repairs, subject to them being within budget. All being well, work will start as soon as the contractors have all the relevant permissions and safeguards in place, and Martin Hardman, the Council’s Bridges and Structures Manager, hopes that the contractors will be able to take advantage of the continuing good weather. The Council are aware of the historic importance of the bridge, and have agreed to reinstate the parapet stone with the original OS benchmark on it after the work is complete. This stone came from a nearby wall when the parapet was raised – probably in the 1920’s. Meanwhile the Friends await the decision of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as to whether the bridge will be added to the National Heritage List for England. The Historic England Listings Team (North), based in York, have advised that this should be within the next couple of months or so. The Friends have been intrigued to learn that HE refer to the bridge as Artlegarth Beck Bridge – at least the fourth name the bridge has been given! The Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership, whose bid for Heritage Lottery Funding for projects in the area will be finalised in August 2018, could be a possible source of funding for an interpretation panel giving the history of the bridge if their Lottery bid is successful.
Meanwhile, the History Group are still trying to find out how old the bridge is. The earliest map showing a bridge on the site is Cary’s map of 1789 which later accompanied the edition of Camden’s Britannia (Richard Gough translation) published by John Nichols in 1798. It seems that the bridge would have been built to allow carts and heavily laden horses to cross Artlegarth Beck without having to go through the adjacent ford, which would have been impassable after heavy winter rain or snowmelt. The bridge is certainly on a packhorse route. Even the new “Irish Ford” was impassable to traffic on one morning during the December 2015 floods – but the bridge stood firm, although suffering some damage. Our latest research has uncovered a former name for the bridge in use locally – Ford Bridge – which would have been used before the nearby house named The Chantry was built. The beck itself has also uncovered some cobbles under the bridge and just upstream which were laid by hand at some point in the past, which we understand were probably placed there in an effort to streamline the flow of water when the beck is in spate.