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Clough Heads Bridge
Clough Heads Brook, near Bleasdale, Lancashire, UK
Clough Heads Bridge
associated engineer
Christopher Foster
date  17th August 1858 - 1859
era  Victorian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  SD562465
photo  Paul Dunkerley
Remarkably, this masonry arch bridge in a remote part of the Forest of Bowland was constructed by schoolboys from the local reformatory. They were supervised by masonry instructor, Christopher Foster.
The reformatory was established in 1857 in what are now Clough Heads Cottages by William James Garnet, MP for Lancashire 1857 - 1864. Garnett had inherited nearby Bleasdale Tower, which he enlarged and decided to use a permanent home. He was a well-known agricultural reformer and philanthropist.
He also owned a large portion of Bleasdale, a scattered community of farms. He improved the poor wet soils by drainage using the newly-invented round clay pipes, even setting up his own factory locally for their manufacture.
In 1857, Garnett found funds for the reformatory through a government grant, subscribers and supplying some capital himself. It catered for up to 125 boys, who worked the land, or in trades such as shoemaking. They received schooling on wet days. The population of Bleasdale in 1901 was 403, of whom 124 were in the reformatory.
The bridge is about 250m east of the cottages. It was built by the boys soon after the reformatory opened. The stone blocks of its elevations are heavily rusticated but the semi-ciircular arch is smooth. The span is 2.9m. It has 610mm wide parapets set 3.5m apart. These run for some 14m. The south elevation has a carved motif of mason's tools and the north side has a, now worn, inscription.
Christopher Foster was Labour Master at the reformatory from the end of June 1858 at a salary of 14 shillings a week. The institution eventually closed in 1905.
Clough Heads Brook is a tributory of the River Brock. There is a small segmental arch bridge (SD566458) over this river that local hearsay also attributes to the reformatory boys. However, it was most likely built by Garnett using local labour, some time after 1846.
The Bleasdale Estate is private and Clough Heads Bridge can only be approached on foot.
Research: PD
"Walking in the Forest of Bowland" by G. Sellers
Cicerone Press, Milnthorpe, 1994
"The History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster"
edited by J. Croston
John Heywood, Manchester, 1893, Vol 5, p435
"The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Lancashire, Vol 7"
edited by W. Page
Dawsons, London, 1966 (reprint of 1912 original)

Clough Heads Bridge