Warkworth Bridge Gate

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Bridge

There are major building remains

NameWarkworth Bridge Gate
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishWarkworth

Warkworth Bridge and defensive gateway are well-preserved, having been by-passed for vehicular traffic by the construction of the modern bridge immediately downstream. The bridge is believed to be the only surviving fortified bridge in England. As one of several medieval monuments which survive in Warkworth, its importance is enhanced by its relationship to these, and to the preserved layout of the medieval town.

The monument includes the above and below ground remains of Warkworth Bridge, a multi-span bridge of late 14th century date over the River Coquet, and the remains of a defensive gateway. The bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic since the 1960s but is still open to pedestrians. The bridge and defensive tower are Listed Grade II. The bridge measures 43m long between land piers, with an overall length of 61m, by 3.5m wide between the parapet walls. The bridge, built of squared and coursed sandstone, has two segmental ribbed arches, each with a span of 18.4m. The central pier has a triple chamfered plinth, and the north and south abutments have a single chamfered plinth. To counteract the abrasive action around the bridge foundations the river bed beneath the southern arch is paved with stone blocks set between lines of timber piles. The addition of upstream and downstream cutwaters, or triangular projections, to the central pier also aids the flow of water. The cutwaters are carried up to parapet level and form niches into which pedestrians could retreat. The angles between the faces of the cutwater and the bridge parapets are spanned by short intermediate sections of wall, overhanging the angle below, and carrying drains with stone spouts. The parapets have been rebuilt in the 20th century. At the south end of the bridge two wing walls extend for several metres: the eastern wall measures 19m long and ends in a stone pier; the western wall measures 18m long and links to the defensive gateway

At the south end of the bridge is a defensive gateway of 14th century date, constructed of large squared stone with cut dressings. It is rectangular in plan and measures 8.3m by 5.5m externally and stands about 8m tall. The entrance is through an archway opening into the gate passage, 3.5m wide, covered with a stone vault. On the west side of the gate passage there is an arched opening, with a studded door, into a guard chamber. The chamber, which measures 3.7m by 1.9m, has a stone bench at the north end, is lit by a slit at each end, and is covered by a stone vault. On the east side of the gate passage is a similar arched opening, with a door, to a spiral staircase for access to an upper room; here the wall is 1.5m thick, elsewhere the walls are about 0.7m thick. The upper floor, which measures 6.85m by 4.7m, was lit by windows in all four walls and, although partly restored in the 19th century, remains roofless. Traces of the windows can be seen on the north and south external elevations. On each of the east and west external elevations is a square headed chamfered narrow window, with a stone spout below that on the east. The room is said to have had a fireplace and three roof corbels but these are not visible today. Documentary evidence records that John Cook of Newcastle, who died in 1378-9, left 20 marks towards the building of Warkworth Bridge on the condition it was built within two years. Documents also indicate that the bridge was in the charge of wardens from at least the 15th century; a 'custodes pontis' was recorded in 1498 and bridge master in 1726. There is said to have been a cross on the east refuge of the bridge until about 1830 but this is now lost. (Scheduling Report)

Gate tower at south end of bridge, late C14 with some C19 restoration and patching. Large squared stone, with cut dressings. Rectangular plan 8.3 x 5.5 metres externally.

North (external) elevation shows double-chamfered 4-centred archway with slit window to right; upper floor ruinous but chamfered left jamb of window remains. Returns each show square-headed chamfered loop to upper floor, with stone spout below that on east. South elevation shows plain arch and loop to left; remains of two windows on upper floor.

Interior: Gate passage has rough 4-centred vault. At inner end of passage a 2-panel door in chamfered round arch to newel stair on east; and studded vertical-panelled door in similar arch to guard chamber on west. Guard chamber has similar vault and stone bench at north end. Upper chamber (not seen) said to have fireplace and 3 roof corbels.

Historical notes: Rare example of a fortified gateway on a bridge. The guard chamber was used as the village lock-up in the C18. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Given the antiquity, rarity and good state of preservation of this bridge gate it is surprising it has only a grade II listed status. However it is a scheduled monument and is not at risk of development.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2 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 ReferenceNU248062
Latitude55.3492584228516
Longitude-1.61017000675201
Eastings424818
Northings606207
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Tony Worrall All Rights Reserved
Copyright Tony Worrall All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 141
  • Beckensall, Stan, 2010, Coastal Castles of Northumberland (Amberley) p. 15-16, 157-192
  • Geldard, Ed, 2009, Northumberland Strongholds (London: Frances Lincoln) p. 44
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 128, 129, 143-4, 270
  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 210
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 197
  • Bond, C.J., 1987, 'Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Defences' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 92-116 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 363
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 346
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 110
  • Toy, S., 1970, The Castles of Great Britain (London) p. 262-3
  • Jervoise, E., 1931, The Ancient Bridges of the North of England (London; The Architectural Press for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) p. 9-10
  • Hodgson, John Crawford (ed), 1899, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 5 p. 42, 143, 355 online copy
  • Tomlinson, W.W., 1888, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (London) p. 408

Antiquarian

  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England (Sutton Publishing) p. 343
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 64 online copy

Journals

  • 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
  • Hague, D.B., 1976, 'Warkworth Bridge' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 133 p. 159
  • Honeyman, H.L. 1942, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser4) Vol. 9 p. 190
  • Hodgson, J.C., 1916, 'List of Ruined Towers, Chapels, etc., in Northumberland; compiled about 1715 by John Warburton, Somerset Herald, aided by John Horsley' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser3) Vol. 13 p. 16 abridged transcription

Other

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