Swarkestone Bridge, Swarkestone, South Derbyshire
Swarkestone is a small village a short distance south of the city of Derby in the English East Midlands. Its main feature is the bridge which crosses the River Trent and adjoining wetlands to link the village with its neighbour, Stanton by Bridge.
From Swarkestone, the structure firstly comprises a proper stone bridge over the River Trent, which then continues as a causeway for a distance of almost three quarters of a mile to Stanton where the road climbs out of the flood plain.
Records of the bridge date back to 1204, when it was probably a mainly wooden structure. This was the year when the crusaders on their way to the Holy Land, supposedly to free it from Muslim domination stopped off to loot, rape and pillage Constantinople, the world’s largest Christian city at the time (wrong race/type of Christians?). Some historians claim this act sufficiently weakened the remains of the Christian Byzantium Empire to ensure its eventual fall to the Turks in later years.
At that time, King John, of Magna Carta fame, which established the principal of everyone being equal under the law, was on the English throne.
The causeway dates to the fourteenth century and parts of the original structure still exist although it has been repaired and widened many times over the years. The bridge section was replaced at the end of the eighteenth century following it destruction by floods.
The bridge is mentioned in my latest fantasy book in the light-hearted ‘Irrelevant One Saga,’ when the leading characters, stuck at home due to the covid lockdown take a vacation back into time. They come across the Bellamont sisters, whom legend claims had the bridge built after their sweethearts, two local knights, drowned in floods at that location. There are stories of the sisters haunting the bridge to this day.
The book also mentions Bonny Prince Charlie’s Scottish army and their march south to recover the English crown for the Stuart family from the German Hanoverians. Legend has it that the Scots turned back to Scotland having marched onto the bridge, disappointed at the lack of English support for them.
On a personal note, as a child I often used to cycle with friends to Swarkestone from my then home village to swim in the Trent under the bridge. My mother put a stop to this after one of the occasional drownings at that location (plus the Trent was not the cleanest of rivers in those days). The location also has a reputation as a road traffic accident black spot.
On the supernatural front. Many years ago, a friend of my father, who used to visit him occasionally and had to travel over the bridge on a small moped in order to do so, didn’t appear for some months. When he finally returned he explained that on his previous visit he was driving onto the bridge from the Stanton end, on his way home (after a couple of beers), when a woman dressed in white suddenly jumped out of the darkness straight in front of him. Causing him to fall off his bike. When he got up there was no sign of her. It frightened him so much that it was several months before he dared cross the bridge in the dark again.
‘Are you sure she’s the Tour Guide: Book 4 of the Irrelevant One Saga’ is out now. $1.99 on Kindle and also available on Kindle Unlimited.
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