Stainforth Bridge

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Stainforth Bridge
West Riding
Stainforth Packhorse Bridge and the River Ribble - - 433333.jpg
Stainforth Bridge
Crossing: River Ribble
Grid reference: SD818672
Location: 54°6’0"N, 2°16’48"W
Length: 57 feet
Built 1675
Architect: Samuel Watson
Owned by: National Trust

Stainforth Bridge, (also known as Stainforth packhorse bridge and Knight Stainforth bridge) is a 17th century, arched packhorse bridge over the River Ribble in Stainforth north of Settle in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

The bridge was formerly on the main packhorse road between York and Lancaster, which has been superseded by later roads. It was in private ownership until the 1930s, when it was taken on by the National Trust.

The bridge is now a Grade II listed structure[1] and provides access to Stainforth Force, which is just below the bridge.


The bridge was built by Samuel Watson in around 1675.[2] Watson was a local Quaker who owned Knight Stainforth Hall, a Jacobean house which was nearby.[3][4][5] Until the bridge was built, the site was a ford which was impassable during times of flood.

Local legend has it that the crossing was used by the Romans.[6][7] The bridge carries a minor road, Dog Hill Brow, over the river connecting Knight and Little Stainforth.[8] Besides being a Mediæval road linking York and Lancaster, it was a monastic route taken by monks between their houses in Yorkshire and the Lake District, and the route was also a packhorse road connecting Clapham with Malham.[9][10]

A covenant was drawn up in the year of the bridge's building stating that people on foot, or with carts and cattle, had "free passage between the towns of Knight Stainforth and Stainforth Under Bargh."[11] The bridge was built by using tradesmen from Stainforth-under-Bargh (now the main village of Stainforth), and in return, the people of Stainforth were afforded full usage rights, as the bridge was also a necessity locally.[12]

Both of the bridge abutments are set into solid rock and the bridge itself is 57 feet long and 17 feet at its highest point above the normal water level.[13] At its widest point, it reaches 7 feet 2 inches.[14] The limestone that the bridge is built on, is part of the Kilnsey Limestone, which is younger than the Chapel House limestone underneath Stainforth Force, which is only 100|yards below the bridge.[15][16]

On 23 September 1931, the bridge went from private ownership into the National Trust, helped by an endowment by the previous owners. Doubts had been expressed about the structure after heavy motor vehicles had been using it, causing the bridge to be weakened.[17] It was thought that the National Trust could enforce restrictions on heavy goods vehicles more effectively than private owners.[7]

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Stainforth Bridge)


  1. National Heritage List 1166894: Knight Stainforth Bridge (Grade II listing)
  2. Wright, Geoffrey N. (1986). The Yorkshire Dales. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. p. 191. ISBN 0715387022. 
  3. Scholes, Ron (2006). Yorkshire Dales. (3 ed.). Ashbourne: Landmark. p. 66. ISBN 1843062097. 
  4. Moore, Lindsey (1 June 2016). "Damaged 17th century bridge is closed to traffic". Craven Herald. 
  5. Speakman, Colin (1982). Walking in the Yorkshire Dales. London: R. Hale. p. 88. ISBN 0709196172. 
  6. Mitchell, W. R. (1999). The story of the Yorkshire Dales. Chichester: Phillimore. p. 71. ISBN 1860770886. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "A Yorkshire bridge". The Times (45936): p. 9. 24 September 1931. SSN 0140-0460. 
  8. Quantrill, Tim (10 October 2014). "A walk in spectacular scenery". Craven Herald. 
  9. Wright 1985, p. 107.
  10. Hartley 1991, p. 117.
  11. Asher, Jean. "Samuel Watson (c1618-1708)of Knight Stainforth Hall,Quaker.". 
  12. Hartley 1991, p. 92.
  13. "Stainforth Packhorse Bridge". 
  14. Rennison, R. W., ed (1996). Civil engineering heritage: Northern England (2 ed.). London: Thomas Telford. p. 158. ISBN 07277-2518-1. 
  15. Speight, Harry (1892). Craven and the north west yorkshire highlands. London: Elliot Stock. p. 134. OCLC 650329471. 
  16. "Stories in Stone; Settle and Stainforth". p. 1. 
  17. "A Yorkshire bridge". The Times (45935): p. 15. 23 September 1931. SSN 0140-0460. 
  • Hartley, Marie (1991). The Yorkshire Dales. Otley: Smith Settle. ISBN 1870071727. 
  • Wright, Geoffrey Norman (1985). Roads and trackways of the Yorkshire Dales. Ashbourne: Moorland. ISBN 0861901231.