Swarkestone Bridge, over the River Trent in Derbyshire, was built in the 13th century and is the longest stone built bridge in England. It was an ancient route to and from the cities of Coventry and Derby, and the only crossing between Burton on Trent and the City of Nottingham. The road over the bridge was the main road into Derby from London until the 18th century.
There are numerous stories about the bridge being haunted by ghosts, ranging from Civil War horsemen through Jacobite rebels to the many who had drowned in the river at the bridge. At this historic site you can also see evidence of defenses (tank traps, etc) built during the Second World War.
According to legend the bridge was commissioned by two beautiful and noble sisters, heiresses of the Bellamont family. The sisters were betrothed to a pair of knights who, during the engagement party were called away to a meeting of the barons. During the meeting, rain swelled the river making their return to over the fording point hazardous. Both knights plunged in regardless and were swept away with their horses as the forlorn sisters looked on.
Devastated by the loss of their lovers the sisters decided to have a bridge built. The cost of the bridge is said to have ruined them both financially and unable to forget their loves, they never married. The sisters are believed to haunt the bridge on stormy evenings when the water is high.
On this day in 1745
On the 4th of December 1745, the Jacobite army led by Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) reached Derby. An advance party of seventy loyal highlanders were sent to secure Swarkestone Bridge and prevent King George’s men from crossing the River Trent.
The bridge, six miles south of Derby is believed to be the southernmost point reached by the rebels in their advance towards London. The Jacobites held the crossing until 6th December 1745. Due to lack of support in England, the prince reluctantly followed advice and began the long retreat north, a journey which would end in bloody defeat at Culloden. There have been many reports of ghostly shouts and the sound of horses hooves across the ancient causeway and around Swarkestone Bridge and it is believed that the ghosts of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s loyal Jacobite troops still defend the bridge to this day.
Here is a YouTube clip showing a modern re-enactment: https://youtu.be/lfBT2sErono
(Written and abridged from previous blogs on this article.)