Bow Bridge medieval multi-span bridge


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Bow Bridge medieval multi-span bridge
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Barrow-in-Furness (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SD 22370 71475

Reasons for Designation

Medieval multi-span bridges were in use for much of the medieval period as a means of taking a route across a river, frequently replacing fords. Initially bridges were of timber construction but for these little archaeological evidence survives; after the Norman Conquest stone was more often used. Multi-span bridges were common monuments during the medieval period and over 150 examples were still recorded standing in a survey of England and Wales taken during there 1930's. Medieval multi-span bridges may exhibit a variety of architectural components including arches or spans, ashlar ribs beneath the arches, piers, cutwaters, abutments, parapets and roadways. Chapels and defensive gateways were sometimes added to bridges frequently in the vicinity of towns and cities. In rare instances extraneous ornamentation such as a statue or carving was added to a bridge. They were frequently referred to in medieval documents thus allowing close dating for construction and repair. Medieval multi-span bridges originally comprised both above and below ground, as well as submerged, structures, and today survive in various states of preservation. Many are still in use although frequently they have been altered during the post-medieval period, especially by road widening. Bow Bridge is a good example of a late medieval multi-span bridge and is a rare example in Cumbria of a bridge of this period. It was constructed by the monks of Furness Abbey to give access to their New Mill. After the Dissolution this mill fell into disuse and the bridge saw little traffic. As such it was never altered greatly and consequently survives well, displaying many of its original features.


The monument includes Bow medieval multi-span bridge. It lies a quarter of a mile south of Furness Abbey in a small coppice known as Ennis Wood. The structure consists of a low bridge of three arches crossing a stream. The stream at this point has a laid stone floor. The masonry consists of regular courses of hammer-dressed stones or coarse ashlar. The faces of the semi- circular arches are quite plain, and the edges square, without any mouldings or chamfer. The westerly arch has lost its voussoirs, or wedge shaped stones forming the outer stones of the arch, on the north side. The arches have a span of 2.1m, and rest upon low piers, which are only two courses high. The springers, or arch supports, on each pier are single stones cut to suit the voussoirs of the arches. The height from the bed of the stream to the soffit, or underside of the arch, is 1.1m, and to the level of the roadway 1.6m. The parapet has not survived but there are traces of a moulded string course just below. The piers are 0.7m wide and project 0.1m beyond the springers all round. Both ends are square with cutwaters to break the current of the water. On one of the piers is the same mason's mark that appears frequently at Furness Abbey, notably in the Chapter House. The overall width of the bridge is 3.2m and its length 13m. The present width of the roadway crossing the bridge is 2.4m. Bow Bridge is in the guardianship of the Secretary of State. The bridge was constructed towards the end of the 15th century to carry the road to the abbey's New Mill, a short distance upstream. Traces of the mill- race measuring some 1m wide and up to 0.6m deep exist to the west of the bridge adjacent to a railway embankment, but are not included in this scheduling. All railings and catchwater chains are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath the railings however, is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Kelly, P V, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in A Bridge of Monastic date and other finds at Furness Abbey, , Vol. XXVI, (1927)
Pagination 6, Overy, C. G. D., MPP Single Mon Class Description - Multi-Span Bridges (Medieval), (1990)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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