Water Under the Bridge

June 24, 2013 | 0 Comments | Filed under: 2013, July 2013

June 13th saw the History Club being led on a field trip round the Bridges of the Upper Derwent by a very amiable highways and guidestones historian – Howard Smith.

We nowadays drive over bridges without a moments thought as to how vital it is that they are built right – but Howard told us many times how this or that bridge had been swept away by huge floods.

We started off at Mytham Bridge which had started off as a ford crossing more than 700 years ago, being built up as a bridge in the 1400’s and then being swept away by a huge summer flood in 1856. The great expense of bridge building was met by the magistrates in those days and perhaps they were more interested in economy than design. This was also at the time before the Derwent Dams could control the huge torrents coming off the moors around Bleaklow.

There wasn’t a lot of water flowing under Mytham when we visited but a great deal more at Leadmill because by then the Derwent has been joined by the Bradwell, Edale and Castleton rivers. Most intriguingly, the old packhorse route past Leadmill was once known as Halifax Gate because it mostly carried our Derbyshire wool away up to the mills of the West Riding. These packhorse routes were vital because, Howard told us, until 1750 there were only four roads in Derbyshire that were capable of carrying wheeled traffic. He also told us of the importance of some placenames.

Grindleford means a ford used for carrying grindstones across, whilst Bamford means a ford that has beams of wood next to it.

After visiting Grindleford and Froggatt bridges, we arrived at the one at Baslow which still has a little guardhouse on it. Here, the able-bodied men of Baslow took turns at Watch and Ward at night to prevent the unruly elements from Chatsworth getting into town.

At this point in our learned field trip, more elementary desires took over and so we retired to the Eyre Arms at Calver for supper. It really is worth joining the history club if only for the superb chips and butties.

Many thanks to the committee, especially Julia and Elaine for keeping us well – informed. Join us again in the Institute at 8pm on November 14th when John Morten will be telling us about the Midland Railway through the Peak District.

B. Woodall.


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