Derby St Mary's Bridge

Has been described as a Possible Fortified Bridge

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameDerby St Mary's Bridge
Alternative Names
Historic CountryDerbyshire
Modern AuthorityDerby; City of
1974 AuthorityDerbyshire
Civil ParishDerby

St Mary's Bridge, Derby is sometimes described as the site of the city's 'Stonegate', which apparently just consisted of a pair of wooden gates (Williamson 1931, 78). (Harrison et al 2010)

(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. (Jervoise; Pevsner) SK 353368. St Mary's Bridge, scheduled. St Mary's Bridge. Grade 2star. Site of St. Mary's Bridge, Medieval structure demolished 1789.

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 (Curry 1931).

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 (Dool 1972).

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

Gatehouse Comments

The bridge chapel survives but there seems little evidence of the possible gate on the bridge (or near to the west end), although a simple wooden gate would clearly be possible.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSK353367
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  • Pevsner, N. revised by Elizabeth Williamson, 1979, The Buildings of England: Derbyshire p. 176
  • Jervoise, E., 1932, The Ancient Bridges of the Midlands and Eastern England (London; The Architectural Press for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) p. 33


  • Harrison, D., McKeague, P. and Watson, B., 2010, 'England's fortified medieval bridges and bridge chapels: a new survey' Medieval Settlement Research Vol. 25 p. 45-51 online copy
  • Craven, M., 2005/6, 'A New East Prospect' Derby Civic Society Newsletter No. 83, p. 20-22, illustration. p 20
  • Dool, J., 1972, 'St. Mary's Bridge, Derby' Derbyshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 92 p. 28 online copy
  • Williamson, F., 1931, 'Additional notes on the Bridge Chapel' Derbyshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 52 p. 75–70 online copy
  • Currey, P.H., 1931, 'The Bridge and Chapel of S. Mary at Derby' Derbyshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 52 p. 57-79 online copy


  • Bruce Watson, 2013 Sept, Gazetteer of fortified bridges (working list kindly shared with Gatehouse)