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Harrold Odell Paths to Crime Walk stop 6 Harrold Bridge

Harrold Bridge

Children fishing from Harrold Bridge 1913

Children fishing from Harrold Bridge 1913 [ref.Z1130/54/48]

Unfit for Purpose

The ancient bridge at Harrold posed problems which were referred to the Quarter Sessions several times during the period covered by the Paths to Crime project. The age of the bridge meant it was often in need of repair, and the complicated issue of its ownership meant uncertainty over who was responsible for the cost of its upkeep.

 Presentments had been made at the Quarter Sessions concerning the repair of the bridge as early as the mid-seventeenth century and these continued into the nineteenth century. Following accidents on the bridge in 1846 and 1847 plans were drawn up either to widen the bridge or to build a new bridge on another site. The replacement scheme was recommended by a committee appointed at the Quarter Sessions, but it never came to fruition. In 1855 another jurors presentment was made concerning the failure to keep Harrold Bridge in repair, and in 1885 a notice was issued advising that the bridge was "insufficient, inconvenient and in want of reparation".

 Harrold Bridge in need of repair 1885

The first arch of the bridge was owned by the Alstons of Odell Castle, the second by Earl de Grey of Wrest Park, the third and fourth by the Trevor family, and the remainder by the County, which later also became responsible for the fourth. This multiple ownership inevitably led to disputes. In 1841 a letter was received by the Justices of the Peace in which Earl de Grey denied liability for repairs, but this was refuted by the Court. In 1847 the scheme for the new bridge was recommended with the proviso that the private owners would take on a fair proportion of the cost in respect of their shares of the bridge, in return for which they would be exempt from future liability. The Misses Trevor refused to cooperate and nothing was done. Bedfordshire County Council finally took over responsibility for the entire bridge in 1930.

Plan for new bridge at Harrold

Plan of Harrold Bridge showing ownership of the arches [ref.QSX19]

References:QSR1840/4/10/1,4; QSR1841/1/2/17; QSR1847/2/10/3,5; QSR1856/1/2/4; QSR1885/4/10/2; QSX19