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Bleasdale 'packhorse' bridge
River Brock, west of Bleasdale, Lancashire, UK
Bleasdale 'packhorse' bridge
associated engineer
date  probably after 1846
UK era  Victorian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  SD565458
photo  donation
Despite looking like a typical 17th or 18th century packhorse bridge, it seems this small masonry arch crossing of the River Brock was built later than that and was intended for pedestrians.
The small segmental arch bridge is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It leads from Brooks Farm on the north bank to an embankment and a wood on the south bank, and sits just upstream of another small masonry arch bridge that carries an estate road over the same river.
The 'packhorse' bridge's masonry arch spans 4m, carrying a narrow deck only 800mm wide that has low kerbs either side rather than parapets. The width between kerb centrelines is 1m. Typically at this time, footbridges and bridges for carts had parapets, while ‘horse bridges’ had low kerbs which would not to interfere with the panniers of laden animals.
However, the bridge does not appear on the 1846 Ordnance Survey but does appear on a map of 1893, so it is neither 17th nor 18th century in date. As most packhorse bridges were built before 1800, this one is unlikely to have been built for horses. Plus it doesn't lie on a known packhorse trail.
Examination of the structure and its immediate surroundings reveals a steep embankment on the south side — too steep for laden animals — and a flight of four stone steps at the southern end of the bridge, indicating it was built for pedestrians.
At the northern end, there is a curious arrangement of stone walls that might have been temporary holding pens for sheep. It has been suggested that the bridge was built to provide easy access for the gentry in Bleasdale Tower to Bleasdale Church. Whatever its actual use, it was almost certainly not a packhorse bridge, despite being generally known as one.
The gate-like structure you can see under the bridge is a trash screen.
Research: PD
"A guide to the Packhorse bridges of England" by E. Hinchcliffe, Cicerone Press, Milnthorpe, Cumbria, 1994

Bleasdale 'packhorse' bridge