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Cromford: Bridge over the Derwent and Entrance to Willersley Castle

In a newspaper report on the marriage of Miss Miss Edith Ann Arkwright of Willersley to Mr. Richard Digby Cleesby, a barrister, that took place on 19 April 1870 in St. Mary's Church on the far side of the bridge the journalist assigned to the story allocated a good deal of his copy to describing the local scenery. He wrote that Cromford Bridge was "formerly ... but a pack horse bridge, but now is twice its previous width. It has peculiarities about it, one of which is that the arches are pointed on one side and circular on the other. The bridge is said to occupy the site of a Roman ford ...It is also remarkable, as being the scene of a man named Froggatt, whose horse leaped over the bridge into the river, the rider retaining his seat, and both himself and horse escaping unhurt"[1].

Edward Bradbury, the author and journalist known as "Strephon", agreed that Cromford Bridge was an architectural curiosity: "it was formerly a pack saddle structure and was widened during the last century"[2].

The exploits of William Froggat in 1697 were expanded further in 1926 when it was said that the rider was travelling in the direction of Cromford Bridge but was unable to negotiate the curve. His horse leapt over the parapet into the swollen river. Fortunately, both horse and rider escaped unhurt. The newspaper correspondent stated:- "I examined the famous inscription Cromford Bridge. It is on the face of one of the big stones forming the bridge wall on the down-stream side of the road at the Cromford end"[3].

Arthur Jewitt, in "The Matlock Companion" of 1835, referred to several accidents. He added that they occured when horses came "at full speed, leaping over the then low parapet at the end next to the cottage, into the river below". Whilst the stone records one leap, there were two others "by two hoses of Mr. Arkwright's, ridden by his grooms". None of the accidents resulted in a fatality, fortunately[4].

Charles Colledge, who took the picture, was looking upstream. The entrance to Willersley is on the far right and he has quite cleverly ensured that the Castle building is above the central pointed arch of the bridge.

The inscription on the bridge can be found amongst the Matlock MIs (scroll down).
Michael Fay's article, "The End of a Long and Winding Road", in the Matlock section of this website has a picture taken of the restoration of the ancient medieval chapel next to the bridge and two photos of the old fishing lodge that is by the roadside (see images 11, 12 and 13).

"Bridge over Derwent and Entrance to Willersley Castle, Cromford. Matlock". Published by Charles Colledge, Smedley Street, Matlock. Printed in Great Britain. Unused.
Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "Derbyshire Times", 23 April 1870.

[2] "Derbyshire Times", 31 August 1895. The Derwent and its tributaries by Edward Bradbury ("Strephon"). Bradbury meant it had been widened in the 18th century.

[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 2 July 1926. Town and County Gossip. The journalist added that Bulmer was his source: "Bulmer says that the over-vaulting horseman was named Froggatt".

[4] Jewitt, Arthur (1835) "The Matlock Companion; and visitor's guide to the beauties of Matlock ..., including also a brief sketch of Buxton". Second edition. Duffield, Derby.

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