Lord’s Bridge from the east bank

Lord’s Bridge
This elegant double-arched stone bridge spans the River Esk at Muncaster Head. The bridge was built in 1889 by Richard Cousins, who at the time was a well-respected builder from Whitehaven.

The maker’s name and date

The bridge was built at the request of Lord Muncaster, who, having acquired the manor of Birker and Austhwaite, wanted to extend his “private” coach road over the parish boundary at the Esk, between Muncaster Head Farm and Forge House (farm).

Muncaster Head and Forge House (Ordnance Survey, Sur. 1860, Pub. 1867)

Initially, this coach road on the south side of Muncaster Fell, continued north from Muncaster Head Farm to the parishes of Irton and Eskdale. Prior to the building of the bridge, during the early part of the 1880s, the coach road had many improvements, including diverting and widening of some sections.

Muncaster Head, Lord’s Bridge and Forge House (Ordnance Survey, Rev. 1897, Pub. 1900)

After the work on the road and the building of the bridge, a much improved link was created between the parishes of Muncaster, and Birker and Austhwaite, and a more direct link into Eskdale.

Lord’s Bridge from the west bank

In May 1892, a large crack appeared in the central foundation of Lord’s Bridge, due to a series of floods since its construction three years earlier. Richard Cousins and his team from Whitehaven conducted emergency repairs by temporarily diverting the river, and the necessary work was completed by the following month of June.

The River Esk from Lord’s Bridge

A few examples of storms leading up to the repairs:
On Monday 6th January 1890, after a heavy storm of wind and rain, many streams overflowed their banks and caused many floods in the Lake District. The lakes of Bassenthwaite and Derwent Water met, resulting in many hundreds of acres of land being inundated by flood water. For three days in early October 1890, the district witnessed one of the heaviest falls of rain in living memory. On Wednesday 1st October, the bridge that spans the River Brathray at the hamlet of Skelwith Bridge, collapsed and was carried away. The nearby valley of Langdale resembled a “seething lake”, and the rain gauge on Loughrigg Fell registered 6 inches of rain in 30 hours. On the night of Monday 24th August 1891, houses at the town of Cockermouth were flooded, and Waterloo Bridge which spans the River Cocker was considerably damaged. The following week the Lake District witnessed an extraordinary storm and thousands of acres of land were submerged, destroying all the crops in the path of the flood.

Back to the top