Crooklands Bridge has stood test of time

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A Friends of Lancaster Canal member takes a look back at the old Crooklands Bridge on Lancaster Canal.

Frank Sanderson sent in these pictures of Grade II listed structure which was built for light agricultural and local traffic to the design of John Rennie. The bridge now takes heavy modern traffic.

Mr Sanderson said: “One cannot but marvel how much has changed since the time it was built. Had Rennie any idea how much stress and weight his bridge would have to stand? Or come to think of it, did the Roman engineers consider this when they built their bridges and aqueducts, many still standing today?”

Crooklands Bridge is one of many on the Lancaster Canal, but somehow has a personality of its own. Alongside the bridge are large buttresses that carried the gunpowder wagon-way from the Gatebeck works to Wakefield’s canal wharf, to be shipped by barge down to Lancaster and Preston, then the rest of the world.

Later, a line was laid down to the railway station, no doubt conveniently situated some distance from Milnthorpe so as not to disturb the residents.

Mr Sanderson said: “That such a commodity as gunpowder was made in our area is due to the forestry and number of charcoal ovens, giving a major ingredient along with saltpetre and sulphur.

“The buttresses are massive, on the tow-path side one sits alongside the bridge, whist the other is several yards away, taking the crossing at an angle. It is said the gantry was somewhat rickety, so the horse and wagon was sent across on the gantry and the man walked over the bridge.

“The gunpowder works was eventually sold to Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, who moved everything to Ardeer in Scotland, and the metal gantry was taken down, no doubt much to the relief of the horse.

“But the buttresses still stand as a monument to Victorian ingenuity, and the one on the tow-path has been recently cleaned and pointed by heritage trainees under the Canal and River Trusts construction team from Galgate. Trainees undertake this type of work as part of their heritage apprenticeship.

“This splendid idea has to be welcomed and any inspection must agree the high quality of their work.”

Lancaster Canal Trust will be operating their 
trip boat, Waterwitch, from Crooklands every Sunday and Bank Holidays from May to October, after the boat underwent an extensive tri-annual refit.