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Name:St Mary's Bridge, Derby
HER No.:18912
Type of Record:Monument
Designation:Listed Building (II*) 401092: ST MARYS BRIDGE, BRIDGE GATE
Scheduled Monument 1004597: ST MARY'S BRIDGE


Site of succeeding bridges. The present bridge was built in 1788-93 on a slightly different alignment to that of the medieval bridge

Grid Reference:SK 353 367

Monument Type(s):

  • BRIDGE (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD? to 1789 AD?)
  • BRIDGE (Post Medieval to Modern - 1788 AD to 2050 AD)

Associated Finds

  • FDR12641 - CLAY PIPE (SMOKING) (Post Medieval - 1700 AD to 1800 AD)
  • FDR12196 - SHERD (Post Medieval - 1700 AD to 1800 AD)

Associated Events

  • EDR1876 - Excavation by St Mary's Bridge, Derby, by Derbys. Archaeol. Soc., 1973
  • EDR1878 - Excavation at or near St Mary's Bridge or Chapel by Richard Langley in 1992

Full Description

(SK 353367) : St Mary's Bridge was built in 1788-93 by Thomas Harrison, to replace the original medieval bridge. It has three semicircular arches and each buttress has a pedimented niche. (1-2)

SK 353368. St Mary's Bridge, scheduled. (3)

The currnet St Mary's Bridge is grade 2* listed. It is an 18th century stone bridge of 3 arches, divided by buttresses each with a small pedimented niche. There is a modillion cornice and balustraded parapet. (4)

Site of St. Mary's Bridge, Medieval structure demolished 1789. (5)

The Cartulary of Darley Abbey, temp. Edward I, refers to the bridge at Derby. Quite early in the 14th century, it appears that the bridge was already of such an age as to be in need of repair. The Patent Rolls of that time record several pontages, or grants to the burgesses of the right to collect tolls for the purpose of repairing the bridge. By the mid 14th century, if not before, a bridge chapel had been constructed (see SMR 18990). A description of the medieval bridge, prior to its demolition in 1789, states: 'All the Authors that ever wrote upon Derby are lavish with encomiums upon the beauty and elegance of St Mary's Bridge, which is a proof they never saw it .. Its praise arises from its extraordinary elevation, which is one of its greatest defects; it is an arch upon arches; a mountain erected upon a river. Human infirmity and loaded carriages drag up heavily; but all move over it dangerously, being so extremely narrow as to admit but one carriage; so that we may safely remark, it cannot be travelled two ways at once. The gravel is incessantly washed away, owing to the steep ascent, and the arches left naked'. The appearance of the old bridge is shown in a painting of around the end of the 17th century, showing the bridge to have run more or less on the level across the water, but possibly the ascent to that level from the bottom of Bridge Gate was particularly steep. (6)

A trench put down at the rear of St Mary's Bridge Chapel on the west bank of the Derwent in 1973 located a pier and cut-water of the medieval bridge. There are records of a bridge over the Derwent here as early as the reign of Edward I, but by 1789 the existing structure had become too narrow and hazardous to cope with wheeled traffic. It was demolished to make way for a new stone bridge, constructed on a different alignment from its predecessor, east west instead of south-east north-west. The 1973 excavations, together with a survey made in 1970 of pier foundations then visible in the river, enable an accurate reconstruction to be made of the medieval bridge. It appears to have consisted of eight spans, somewhat irregularly spaced. A wide selection of 18th century pottery, bottles and claypipes was recovered. (7)

A newly uncovered 'Prospect of Derby from the East' shows early 18th century Derby, and confirms that St Mary's Bridge had seven arches. (8)

Sources and Further Reading

[1]SDR179 - Bibliographic reference: Jervoise, E. 1932. The Ancient Bridges of Mid and Eastern England. p33.
[2]SDR12891 - Bibliographic reference: Pevsner, N. 1979. The Buildings of England: Derbyshire. 2nd ed., revised. p176.
[3]SDR5322 - Bibliographic reference: DOE (IAM) AMs Eng 3 1978 28.
[4]SDR19551 - Listed Building File: DOE / DCMS. Listed Building Record. List entry number 1215897.
[5]SDR15587 - Index: TPAT. 2359. 2359.
[6]SDR7917 - Article in serial: Currey, P.H.. 1931. 'The Bridge and Chapel of S. Mary at Derby', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 52, pp 57-79.
[7]SDR7613 - Article in serial: Dool, J. 1972. 'St. Mary's Bridge, Derby', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 93, p 28.
[8]SDR20319 - Article in serial: Craven, M. 2005/2006. 'A New East Prospect', Derby Civic Society Newsletter. No. 83, pp 20-22, illustration. p 20.