Packhorse bridge across Aldbrough Beck, immediately south west of High Green


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021019

Date first listed: 28-May-1953

Date of most recent amendment: 15-Jul-2003


Ordnance survey map of Packhorse bridge across Aldbrough Beck, immediately south west of High Green
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1021019 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 17-Dec-2018 at 00:04:54.


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

County: North Yorkshire

District: Richmondshire (District Authority)

Parish: Aldbrough

National Grid Reference: NZ 20221 11398


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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 packhorse bridge across Aldbrough Beck, immediately south west of High Green is a good example of a minor bridge. It retains a wide range of construction features and evidence of alterations that add to its interest and importance. The bridge has not been strengthened in modern times and is thus expected to retain original deposits in the interior of the bridge's structure.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a narrow bridge of three arches within the village of Aldbrough St John. Originally built for packhorses, but now carrying a footpath between High Green and a smaller green to the south, it crosses Aldbourgh Beck approximately 40m upstream from the more recent road bridge. It is known to the County Council as Bridge number 273.1. The bridge is listed Grade II.

Aldbourgh St John lies 1km west of Dere Street, the north-south Roman road which is still in use as the B6275 and, further to the south, as the A1. The village and its packhorse bridge lie on a route that diverges from Dere Street south westwards towards Richmond. It is thought to have formed part of a major medieval packhorse route linking Tyneside with Lancaster crossing the Tees at Piercebridge and then after Aldborough continuing via Marske, Hawes and Ingleton.

The packhorse bridge is of rubble stone construction and very irregular in design. Including abutments it is approximately 25m long with a total span across the beck of nearly 15m. The bridge's two piers are of different widths, the southern being twice as wide as the northern pier, but they are of similar design. Both have crude cutwaters which are triangular upstream and domed downstream. With the abutments, these support three irregular pointed arches. The southernmost arch is the smallest. This is fairly flat and has a double arch ring of rubble stone. The other two arches are both higher and wider but only have single arch rings. There is some evidence that this pair of arches are later than the piers, as there is a slight change in build. They also spring from lines of corbel stones that extend out from the piers and the northern abutment. Elsewhere, similar corbel stones have been identified as being for timber supports for a wooden deck. However they may also have been to support temporary timber work used during the construction of the stone arches. The current deck of the packhorse bridge is covered in modern concrete. The parapets are just over 1m high, topped with ashlar coping stones of triangular cross section and are 1.4m apart, sweeping outwards at either end. There is some evidence that these parapets are a later addition to the bridge, rising from an original 0.15m high curbing. Another more recent addition to the bridge are concrete aprons that extend around the piers in the river bed. These are designed to protect the piers from being undermined by scouring.

In common with many packhorse bridges, the dating of the various parts of the bridge is uncertain. It does lie on a known medieval packhorse route and thus is believed to be early in origin. A common medieval bridge design, first introduced by the Romans, used stone piers and abutments to support a timber deck. The corbelling on the bridge's piers could be evidence of the use of this design. Pointed stone arches are used in bridges from the 14th century, but Aldborough's could date as late as the 17th century. However the bridge is thought to pre-date the cottage that is built on the eastern side of the northern abutment. This cottage and its garden wall, which butts up against the bridge, lie immediately outside the monument. Similarly on the south bank the upstream, western, parapet butts up to a stone field wall that also lies immediately outside of the monument. Excepting these two parts, the monument includes an area extending 2m beyond the standing structure of the bridge, as well as the area beneath the arches.

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: 34722

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hinchcliffe, F A , A Guide to the Packhorse Bridges of England, (1994)
R H Fox, Packhorse Bridges of England, 1974, Unpublished manuscript

End of official listing