Tarn Gill Bridge (known locally as Chantry Bridge – but is it really Artlegarth Beck Bridge – see below), Townhead, Ravenstonedale, has been saved from demolition – for the moment. Friends of Tarn Gill Bridge commissioned a survey, design and specification for repairs from a firm in Kendal, but this was not acceptable to Cumbria County Council (who own the bridge) as they do not agree with the surveyor’s findings that the problems are all in the superstructure of the bridge. The Friends have now submitted an application to Historic England for the bridge to be added to the National Heritage List for England by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and have now commented on the Consultation Report produced by Historic England. The Friends are intrigued to learn that HE refer to the bridge as Artlegarth Beck Bridge – at least the fourth name the bridge has been given! Meanwhile a site meeting is being arranged so that discussions can continue between the Friends and the County Council about the best way to investigate the perceived problems with the bridge and the best way forward with repairs. The Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership, whose bid for Heritage Lottery Funding for projects in the area will be finalised in July 2018, could be a possible source of funding for part of the repairs.
Yorkshire Dales National Park also have limited funds to repair structures in conservation areas, provided suitable traditional materials are used, and they recommended a contractor and surveyor to work with the Friends who are experienced in repairs to traditional bridges.
Meanwhile, the History Group are trying to find out how old the bridge is. They are also trying to establish whether the bridge was known as Chantry Bridge before the nearby house called The Chantry was built. 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 Tarn Gill without having to go through the adjacent ford, which would have been impassable after heavy winter rain or snowmelt. Even the new “Irish Ford” was impassable to traffic on one morning during the December 2015 floods – but the bridge stood firm and pedestrians could use it! Our latest research has uncovered a former name for the bridge in use locally – Ford Bridge – which would have been used before The Chantry was built. The beck itself has also uncovered some cobbles under the bridge and just upstream, 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.