The Hanging Bridge immediately south of Manchester Cathedral


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


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Manchester (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SJ 83855 98696

Reasons for Designation

Multi-span bridges are structures of two or more arches supported on piers. They were constructed throughout the medieval period for the use of pedestrians and packhorse or vehicular traffic, crossing rivers or streams, often replacing or supplementing earlier fords. During the early medieval period timber was used, but from the 12th century stone (and later brick) bridges became more common, with the piers sometimes supported by a timber raft. Most stone or brick bridges were constructed with pointed arches, although semicircular and segmental examples are also known. A common medieval feature is the presence of stone ashlar ribs underneath the arch. The bridge abutments and revetting of the river banks also form part of the bridge. Where medieval bridges have been altered in later centuries, original features are sometimes concealed behind later stonework, including remains of earlier timber bridges. The roadway was often originally cobbled or gravelled. The building and maintenance of bridges was frequently carried out by the church and by guilds, although landowners were also required to maintain bridges. From the mid-13th century the right to collect tolls, known as pontage, was granted to many bridges, usually for repairs; for this purpose many urban bridges had houses or chapels on them, and some were fortified with a defensive gateway. Medieval multi-span bridges must have been numerous throughout England, but most have been rebuilt or replaced and less than 200 examples are now known to survive. As a rare monument type largely unaltered, surviving examples and examples that retain significant medieval and post- medieval fabric are considered to be of national importance.

The Hanging Bridge immediately south of Manchester Cathedral is a rare survival of a medieval structure in the city centre. It is particularly notable for its context, close to the cathedral and is related by excavation to the Hanging Ditch and the medieval defences of the town. It survives in good condition and recent refurbishing of the buildings and environment which overlie and surround the monument have brought the remains into prominence as an educational and recreational enhancement for the public.


The monument includes the standing and buried remains of a medieval bridge now incorporated in the basement of the visitor's centre for Manchester Cathedral. The remains are located between Cathedral Yard and Cateaton Street. The bridge was originally built to span the Hanging Ditch which was an improved natural watercourse which led past the church, as the cathedral then was, and joined the River Irwell to the north. The ditch was a part of the defences of the medieval town, which lay to the north, and connected the road from Chester to the town centre. The name of the bridge is believed to derive from the wooden bridge, previously on this site, which was suspended over the ditch and was removable.

The bridge is documented from the 14th century and the fabric of the present bridge dates from the 15th century although there appear to be two different phases of construction.

The remains consist of two arches of red sandstone, the southern arch strengthened by three stone ribs. It measures approximately 3m in width and each arch spans 5.13m. One buttress survives on the eastern side. The arches rise to 3m above the abutments and central pier.

All the modern walls, concrete capping and the walkway constructed above the remains are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Greater Manchester Sites and Monuments Register, (2001)


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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