The Friends are celebrating the addition of the bridge to the National Heritage List for England at Grade II, for reasons of architectural and historic interest, and group value. Historic England have now named it Artlegarth Beck Bridge, after the beck over which it stands, and its List Entry Number is 1455814. The County Council who own the bridge 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. Martin Hardman, the Council’s Bridges and Structures Manager has told the Friends that work will start as soon as the contractors have all the relevant permissions and safeguards in place. He has also 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 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.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 board giving the history of the bridge if their Lottery bid is successful, and both YDNP and CCC Highways have agreed to discuss the best site near the bridge for this board.