The Building of Yarm Bridge -1400

 

The Event:

 

The stone bridge which connects Yarm, on the southern bank of the River Tees with the area north of the river, was built in 1400.

 

The current bridge has been modified since it was built and it was not the first bridge across the Tees at Yarm. There had been an earlier wooden bridge which had been built around 1200.

 

The bridge we see today at Yarm was commissioned around 1400 by Walter Skirlaw, the Bishop of Durham.

 

The bridge connects Yarm on the southern bank to Egglescliffe on the northern bank of the river and, prior to the opening of the Tees Barrage in 1995, marked the furthest reach of tidal flow up the River Tees.

 

During the English the bridge was the focal point for a skirmish when Parliament forces attempted, unsuccessfully, to prevent a passage of royal arms travelling from Newcastle to York.

 

Also during the Civil War a drawbridge was built into the northern-most arch of the bridge. This was a defensive measure to prevent Parliamentary troops from crossing the bridge and marching on the town of Stockton – then held by the Royalists.  This drawbridge was in place until 1785 when it was removed as the bridge was undergoing one of its many renovations.

 

By the early nineteenth century concerns were being raised about the bridge piers obstructing the river flow and causing Yarm to flood. As a result, a new iron bridge was opened in 1805. Unfortunately, after being in use for less than a year, the iron bridge became unusable when one of the arches collapsed.

 

Fortunately, the old stone bridge had not been demolished. It was brought back into service after widening alterations were done. Though much repaired down the years, it still stands today.

 

Before 1825, on Sunday evenings, carts would line up on the Yarm side of the bridge waiting to cross the river to collect coal from the Durham mines. The bridge was traditionally closed from midnight on Saturday until midnight on Sunday.

 

The Significance:

 

The stone bridge at Yarm was the lowest crossing point on the River Tees. To cross the river lower down, people were dependent on ferries (and the tides).

 

This state of affairs continued until 1771, when a stone bridge was opened at Stockton on Tees. As a result for over three hundred years Yarm was the place where traffic from north or south converged to cross the river. As a result, a lot of trade passed through Yarm and businesses to support the trade developed in the town, including stables, hostelries and other businesses.

 

Suggested Places to Visit:

 

Yarm Bridge, Yarm