THE GREAT BRIDGE OF DERBY
I created a data base from the entries in the Cartulary of Darley Abbey to enable
me to identify place names of 12th to 14th century Derby.
The Cartulary of Darley Abbey is the collection of rolls from the Abbey of St Mary
edited by Reginald R Darlington.
I had noticed that two names for a bridge kept cropping up and I wondered if they
were one and the same or whether they were different bridges.
Bridge Gate is mentioned from the early AD 1200’s through to AD 1287 but no name
is given for the bridge itself. However, two rolls specifically mention the Great
Bridge and I wondered if this was the name for the bridge on Bridge Gate.
As I compared the data I began to realise that the Great Bridge was probably not
the bridge on Bridge Gate that we today call St. Mary’s Bridge.
One entry from the Cartulary mentioning the Great Bridge is E32 dated AD 1233 to
AD 1248 which concerns Henry Bene and describe “two parts of a toft in the street
leading to the great bridge i.e. the toft which Robert vicar of St Peter's gave
to the aforesaid Henry with Mary his daughter as her marriage portion” The other
entry is E53 from a roll dated AD 1275 to AD 1287 this time involving Peter son
of Luye and, “one plot of land in the street leading to the great bridge lying
between the land which Peter son of Luye held and the land of Walter of Morley,
Richards brother” Naturally I tried to reconcile the reference to “the street
leading to the great bridge” with Bridge Gate but it does not seem to fit. Then
I wondered whether the following two rolls would give me a better understanding.
Roll A54 talks about a Toft, “lying on the west side of the great street between
St Mary's cemetery and the toft of Roger Wendelard , chaplain” and the previous
Roll, A53, tells us that Roger the chaplain’s toft was “next to the cemetery of
St Mary of Derby on the North side” Both entries are dated to AD 1248 to AD 1261.
I suppose that you could make the Great Street lead to Bridge Gate if you turn left
then right, carry on for some distance and then turn sharp right again but somehow
it just feels wrong. Then I was struck with another thought about the Great Bridge
and that was that it could refer to the one over the Markeaton Brook, at the other
end of the street, which is called St Peter’s Bridge on Speed’s 1610 map. It is not
that close to St Peter’s church on Speed’s map but if my findings about early water
levels are correct then the brook would have been considerably wider in the
thirteenth century and the foot of the bridge would have been a lot closer to St
Peter’s. This idea also connects the Great Street directly with the Great Bridge.
I include a section of Speeds 1610 map with my suggestion of where the water was
in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
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