Bow Bridge 90m east of Bowbridge Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021085

Date first listed: 30-Nov-1925

Date of most recent amendment: 06-Oct-2003


Ordnance survey map of Bow Bridge 90m east of Bowbridge Hill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Richmondshire (District Authority)

Parish: Low Abbotside


National Grid Reference: SD 93429 91031


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

Reasons for Designation

Medieval and early post-medieval single span bridges are structures designed to carry a road or track over a river by means of a single arch, typically 3m- 6m in span. They were constructed throughout the medieval period, most commonly using timber. Stone began to be used instead of timber in the 12th century and became increasingly common in the 14th and 15th centuries. Many medieval bridges were repaired, modified or extensively rebuilt in the post- medieval period. During the medieval period the construction and maintenance of bridges was frequently carried out by large estates and the Church, especially monastic institutions which developed long distance packhorse routes between their landholdings. Some stone built medieval bridges still survive. These can be classified into three main types based on the profile of the arch which is typically pointed, semi-circular or flattened. 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. Bridges were common and important features of medieval towns and the countryside and allowed easy access along a well developed road and trackway system. However, only around 16 largely unaltered medieval single span bridges have so far been recognised to survive in England. All these are considered to be of national importance. A larger number retain significant medieval or post-medieval remains, allowing the original form of the bridge to be determined. These examples are also nationally important.

Bow Bridge is a good example of a surviving medieval pack horse bridge which retains a range of constructional features. Its importance is emphasised by the historic link with the Jervaulx Abbey estates and by its later widening as part of the 18th century turnpike network. Taken as whole the bridge makes a significant contribution to the study of transport and communications in the Yorkshire Dales in the medieval and post-medieval periods.


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


The monument includes a single arched medieval pack horse bridge which was widened in the 18th century. It crosses crossing Grange Gill Beck on an east to west alignment and it is located on the lower slope of the northern flank of Wensleydale. Grange Gill Beck is one of many small water courses which flow down the dale sides into the River Ure in the dale bottom.

Bow Bridge is thought to date to the 13th century and was built to service the Wensleydale estates of Jervaulx Abbey. The Abbey is located approximately 30km down the dale to the east. The bridge is located north east of the presumed site of Fors Abbey which was the original foundation before the monks moved it to Jervaulx in 1156. The site of Fors Abbey was occupied after by a grange of Jervaulx known to have existed until the mid-16th century. The bridge provided access from the grange to the extensive Jervaulx estates in upper Wensleydale and also lay on a significant medieval route carrying traffic along the northern side of Wensleydale and over the Dales to the west. It continued to serve as part of the road network through the post-medieval period and in the late 18th century was widened on the southern side in order to carry the Richmond to Lancaster turnpike. The bridge was replaced in 1899 by a new bridge built 30m downstream when the road was widened and straightened. Since then the deck has become grassed over and the bridge now serves an agricultural purpose to allow access between fields.

Bow Bridge is constructed of coursed limestone blocks. The earliest visible part is the surviving medieval arch, which forms the northern upstream side of the bridge. The arch is semicircular in shape and is supported on the underside by four ribs. The two inner ribs are square cut whilst the two outer are chamfered on the outer edge. It has a span of 4m and is 3.5m wide. The downstream, 18th century widening extended the bridge by 4m using a plain vaulted arch which continued the same width of span. Both the medieval and 18th century arches sit directly on the bedrock thus raising the foundations above the normal water level.

On both sides of the bridge the ends splay outwards by 3m in order to prevent erosion of the river bank and the undermining of the bridge. On the south side of the bridge there is a parapet capped by flat coping stones. There is no parapet on the northern side, which is not unusual for medieval pack horse bridges. Including the splayed ends, the bridge measures a maximum of 15m in length and is 16m wide. It is Listed Grade II.

At the south western end of the bridge the outer face and parapet of the south side of the bridge meets the gable end of a building. This gable wall and the side of the building which extends part way across the end of the bridge is not included in the monument.

The drain pipe attached to the south west face of the bridge is excluded from the scheduling, although the structure beneath 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: 35487

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Jervoise, E, Ancient Bridges of Northern England, (1931), 75
White, R, Yorkshire Dales, (1997), 57, 62

End of official listing