NOSTALGIA: The history of Kendal's bridges

The Westmorland Gazette: Miller Bridge in the 1950s (Picture courtesy of Trevor Hughes) Miller Bridge in the 1950s (Picture courtesy of Trevor Hughes)

Historian Arthur Nicholls takes another look at the bridges of Kendal

 

Access to the town from the Castle Corn Mills on the east side of the river made it neccessary to build a bridge across the river in about the 1600s.

It was a simple wooden bridge which, in 1635, was washed away by one of the regular floodings of the river.

A new bridge was, in turn wrecked by floods in 1668 and, being obviously of commercial importance, was rebuilt the following year, this time on stronger and more substantial stone piers but still with a wooden roadway.

This new bridge served its purpose well but by 1742 had become too narrow for the increased traffic across it.

The Mayor of Kendal, John Waide, and the Corporation, subscribed the sum of £40 towards the building of a new stone bridge in its place.

On a stone in the bridge were inscribed the initials of the Mayor and the date 1743.

Alexander Deary of the Common Garden and James Wilson of the Castle Mills each agreed to pay five guineas to use the bridge for their businesses and a gate was constructed half way across the bridge.

The bridge now gained new life for three-quarters of a century but, when the Kendal Canal was opened in 1819, the heavier traffic demanded changes to the bridge.

The Corporation anticipated this and, rather than just widening it, Francis Webster was engaged to design a completely new bridge, which was built at the cost of £888 a few yards to the south “for a more commodious passage to the intended canal basin” as was claimed at the laying of the foundation stone in 1818. This is now known as Miller Bridge.

This was not the end of the story of the bridge as it was found neccessary to widen it in 1822, eventually taking only traffic to the south.

There were two footbridges across the river, one from Gooseholme between Stramongate and Miller Bridges and the other, between Miller and Nether Bridges, the latter taking the name Jennings’ Bridge, from Jennings’ Yard.

In the slum clearance development of the 1960s only a tiny fragment of the yard was left at the Highgate end.

Both the footbridges were demolished in the great flood of 1898 when the water reached its highest level ever. Both the footbridges were later replaced and stand firm today.

Jennings Yard was named after a great Kendal character, William Jennings, a grocer with a shop at the head of the yard.

He was big in every sense of the word and everything he did was on a grand scale.

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