Tuesday 1 June 2010

Swarkestone Bridge

As I said in my post yesterday, Bonnie Prince Charlie's men may have drunk in the Dolphin Inn, but they can't have known that they were within a few short miles of the southernmost point of their journey, which came here, 6 miles south of Derby, at Swarkestone Bridge.

Built in the 13th century, this bridge remained the primary Midland crossing over the River Trent for around 300 years. The bridge itself is almost a mile long and has 17 arches, the reason for this being that the river was edged by an area of wetlands over which the bridge extended; more like a causeway than a bridge proper.

Being a major crossing made it a strategic location in a military campaign. In 1643, it was defended (unsuccessfully) by the Royalists against the Parliamentarians and, in 1745, the advance guard of the Jacobean rebellion was sent here to take control.

The Jacobean army was not strong and, although enough clansmen had been roused to march with Prince Charles Edward Stuart, his generals were looking for support from the south or from France. As this appeared to be unforthcoming, the generals decided to retreat (against the wishes of their leader).

What they did not know was that the English were singularly unprepared for an invasion with most of their troops abroad and King George himself preparing to flee to Germany just from the news of the Jacobean marching. If the march had continued, it would almost certainly have been successful and English history would have taken a very different path. (One wonders if this is one of those 'fixed points in time'. Dr Who fans will understand.)

As it stands, all we have is a slightly overgrown cairn, erected to mark the southernmost point of the march of the Jacobean rebellion.

1 comment:

  1. I love places like this. It is with only the smallest amount of imagination that we can transport ourselves back to the day that horses would thunder over this bridge and women in long dresses would cover their mouths in alarm!

    Neat post!