Friday, 13 June 2014

Ancient Ways - Rapes Highway and Eastergate Bridge

Eastergate Bridge, Marsden
Eastergate Bridge
I absolutely love ancient routes and highways. There is something very connecting and almost magical about walking a route that you know has been walked for hundreds or thousands of years, and by millions of feet. It combines several of my biggest loves in life, history, nature and walking.

Rapes Highway
Rapes Highway
I love to wander on these ways, imagining what might have gone before. In many instances, this is fueled by little evidences along the way, or a route that I know has changed little over the millennia.

Packhouse routes, roman roads, ancient trackways, footpaths to another time and place....

In the North of England, we are blessed not only with great scenery, but a multitude of these tracks, particularly the Packhouse Trails, legacy of a system of transport that was familiar for hundreds of years, but is now largely forgotten.

One of my favourites is Rapes Highway, which was a route that used to run between Marsden and Rochdale and which has as one of its highlights the beautiful Eastergate Bridge.

Marsden Moor

The bridge is named on maps as Close Gate Bridge but thought to have become known as Eastergate after the landlady, Esther Schofield of the Packhorse Inn, which was demolished in 1830. The bridge is now a scheduled ancient monument. Close gate Bridge means 'the road to the cloughs,' (steep valleys/ravines.)

In 1908 there was a famous court case where Sir Joseph Radcliffe, the Lord of the Manor, tried to stop people from using the route after the Local Council had made some repairs to it. He lost the case and the route became established as an offical public right of way.

This is an amusing extract from a letter to the Huddersfield Examiner at the time of the Council improvements:

Rapes Highway
P.H.ROAD post on Rapes Highway

' of the most commendable features of the undertaking, and at the same time the one that is most open to criticism, is that the Council has ordered nearly a dozen stone posts on which are hewn the following hieroglyphics, "P.H. ROAD." To the average wayfarer this post may suggest something connected with a prison or he may conclude that the road leads to Halifax or some other undesirable place....'

The route is now a bridleway, part of a beautiful walk across the moors.....(see links below.)

Thanks for reading!


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Sources and further reading:

Marsden Places of Interest 
South Peninnes Packhorse Trails Trust
Rapes Highway Court Case - Marsden History Group
Packhorse Inn
Circular Walk including Rapes Highway
Another One


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