The bridge at Rowsley spans the Derwent to the north west of that
river's confluence with the Wye, close to the Peacock Hotel.
The Derwent Bridge was built when people crossed
the river on foot, or travelled on horses or donkeys, and the
single lane bridge was unsuitable for post First World War
traffic and motorised vehicles.
John Gisburne wrote the following about Rowsley's ancient
Rowsley! thine arches grey are seen, and sure
More graceful arches never yet beheld
Their circles finished in a glassy flood."
Rowsley Bridge was already problematic at the beginning of
the twentieth century. In 1900 the County Council's Bridges
and Highways Committee reported that they were taking steps
to replace the roadway over the bridge and the work would cost
state of the bridge was discussed again in 1912 in a report
from the same Committee. The roadway was then in very bad repair,
and a considerable amount of work was needed
to put things right. At the time the road was paved with gritstone
setts, and the Committee had been advised of the
necessity of completely re-paving the bridge, substituting
the gritstone with granite setts and with a concrete foundation
instead. It was also suggested was that the only way for the
work to be carried out was to close the bridge to heavy traffic
during the day and then completely closed between 10p.m. and
8 a.m. for the majority of the work to be carried out during
This drawing dates from about 1907.
By 1924 there was a great deal of discussion and dissent about
what to do. The County Council had put forward a proposal to
demolish the historic bridge and build a new and larger
structure, but the idea faced considerable opposition. The
North Darley Urban District Council then passed a resolution
recommending the county authority retain the bridge and widen
it. It was described as a "beautiful
old structure" by
the Council's chairman, Mr J. Wall,
and the resolution was a good compromise. In the spring of
1925 agreement was reached with the Marquis of Granby
that included the payment to his lordship of
£350 for part of the Peacock Hotel garden, whilst £250
was to be paid as compensation.
Nikolaus Pevsner wrote that the early 17th century bridge
was widened from 16 feet to 40.
We can see how narrow the original structure was on two superb
Harry Gill photographs in Michael Fay's article "The
End of a Long and Winding Road".
Thomas Tudor visited the Derwent Bridge when it was being
widened. He pointed out that, unlike other bridges such as
Bakewell, Cromford or Duffield, there was no open access to
any ground from which its full merits could be seen.
The railway line had been constructed on the north eastern
side of the river in the 1840s and the Rowsley to Buxton extension,
begun in 1860, was opened in 1863 but you can't see it in either
of the images here. The extension passed over the road A6 close
to the north eastern end of the Derwent bridge. The line was
dismantled in the 1970s as part of the Beeching cuts.
He added that the five bold Gothic arches on the lower side were to
be saved and there would be rounded arches on the newer section.
In October 1925 the abutment on the western side of the bridge
had been completed up to springing level, and the work of the
abutment on the eastern side and the river piers was proceeding.
The rebuilding work was eventually completed in the summer
of 1926, after 12 months work.
In the first week of July the bridge was tested with ton weights
and was found to be quite within the standard required.
The following year a new tarmacadam surface was laid over the
bridge; the Derby Daily Telegraph cautioned that care
Rowsley is mentioned in the following