Crossing the River Eden at Musgrave
The River Eden has been an obstacle to travel since time immemorial.
The river was crossed by a ford, known as Musgrave Wath,
which remained in use long after Musgrave Bridge was built.
The wooden bridge was frequently damaged by floods - and was very narrow:
1649: bridge in decay after the Civil war
1680: great decay
1688: support needed
1733: bridge is down
1734: highway by bridge 'dirty and founderous'
1739: the road south of the bridge is 'by the Rapidity of the water Entirely washed away'
1753: bridge and road in decay.
1753: 'bridge is so narrow that when horses or black cattle chance to meet they can neither pass one another nor turn whereby several have been forced over the rails'.
A Petition to widen Musgrave Bridge in 1753 is 'rejected'.
1754, 1757: in decay
1763: repair work agreed for £11
1775: in decay
1804: bridge 'in great decay, broken and ruinous.'
1815: Blandswath Bridge was built. The inhabitants hoped that 'Musgrave Wath Bridge' would now be rebuilt in stone.
In 70 years, 14 people drowned on the three waths across the Eden, where Musgrave, Blandswath and Eastfield Bridges are now.
1822: the Great Flood on 2 February 1822 washed away all the bridges on the Eden, including the new Blandswath Bridge, except for Warcop Bridge. "The water came in torrents down the sides of the mountains - every rill was filled, and swelled the river to such an extent that in its overwhelming course it carried away all before it" (The Westmorland Advertiser, 9 February 1822).
See the Flood Levels on panelling in St. Lawrence's Church, Appleby.
1825: the present stone Musgrave Bridge was built, along with Blandswath and Eastfield Bridges.
You can certainly see why the old ford was kept in use up to 1825!
1830: the Iron Railings, a culvert and a tunnel were built to relieve flooding of the Rectory.
1858: Musgrave Viaduct was built for the railway.
2006: Musgrave, Blandswath and Eastfield Bridges were repaired and strengthened in 2006.
Very glad the bridges were strengthened in 2006.
2015: Storm Desmond struck on 5/6 December. See Floods in 2015.
The ford, Musgrave Wath, a causeway of stone slabs about 6' wide, is still visible downstream of the Bridge.
The 1825 Musgrave Bridge is shown in this postcard (JV-21721) of
Musgrave Bridge and Church, Kirkby Stephen taken by J Valentine in 1894.
Note the newly built Rectory on the Hill - the old Rectory on the Field was demolished in 1883, due to flood damage.
This photograph was taken from Musgrave Railway Viaduct (see below).
The Eden Valley Railway from Kirkby Stephen to Penrith crossed Musgrave Viaduct to Musgrave Station which opened to passenger traffic on 9 June 1862, and closed on 3 November 1952. These photographs on 16 November 1959 are from the John Mallon Collection in the Ken Hoole Study Centre at the Darlington Railway Museum, Head of Steam). The Viaduct was demolished in 1985, though railway enthusiasts would love to reopen the line.
Musgrave Viaduct and Station © Darlington Railway Museum - thanks!
See a photo of Musgrave Viaduct in 1978.