« PreviousContinue »
bridge. Until its repair, the expense of which was borne by the whole county, traders and others coming to Chester were forced at some risk, inconvenience, and loss to cross by the old ferry. The bridge was so important a means of communication for military as well as trading necessities that the king was urgent upon the citizens of Chester to rebuild, and at their own charges. They were compelled, as the Chronicle states, to accept the common law of England contra libertates sibi concessas, and although they proved that it was the county and not the city which was liable to repair the bridge. In 1297 and 1353 the bridge was again carried away by flood. In the latter year it is stated that the proceeds of the passage or ferry amounted to £13. 5s. Id. (quia pons ibidem disruptus fuit et non reparatus in toto). Incidentally we learn that the system of season tickets is not entirely of modern origin, for in the account for this year 3s. 4d. is acknowledged to be received from Hoel ap Oweyn Voil for the passage of himself and his men during the year, by agreement. Sir John Danyers paid the same sum with arrears for two previous years.
The bridge does not appear to have been immediately rebuilt, and after the lapse of thirty-four years we find King Richard in 1387 granting to the citizens "the issues of the passage of the Dee at Chester, and of the murage accustomed to be given for the repair of the walls to be applied to the rebuilding of the bridge there, the destruction of which caused the inhabitants & those resorting to the said city much danger & inconvenience & was a source of great loss." During this reign the ministers and officials of Chester Castle commenced the erection of a tower on the bridge, presumably for the better defence of bridge and castle. The tower, however, was not immediately completed. In 1407, the
then Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (afterwards King Henry V.) granted the murage for five years to the corporation provided that one moiety be expended on the walls and the other moiety upon the completion of the tower on the Dee Bridge begun in the reign of the late King Richard.
In 1499 it is stated that the further end of Dee Bridge was "buylded." In the fourth year of Edward VI. complaint is made that the battlements of the bridge were suffered to be broken down. The bridge existing at this time was presumably of stone, yet wood seems to have still entered largely into its construction, for the accounts of the murengers or muragers (whose original duty of seeing to the repair of the walls had been extended so as to include the bridge) for so late as 1557 mention “iii planks unto Dee Brygg iis." The rule was strictly
enforced that no carts with iron-bound wheels should cross by the bridge, and in all probability they would be sent across by the ferry. In the sixteenth year of Elizabeth (1574), the town council make order that the treasurers of the city "with all convenyent expedicon shall cause the arche of Dee Bridge & that Bridge now in Ruyn & decay to be repaiered & amended."
At either end of the bridge was a tower and a house. The bridge is delineated in the following maps and views*:
Map of Chester, from G. Braun's Civitates Orbis
View of Chester, by William Smith, Rouge Dragon,
Speed's Map, 1610.
Randle Holmes's Sketch made before the Siege of
* As to the accompanying sketch, see note on p. 94.
Map, by Crew, in Vale Royal, 1656.
View of Chester, c. 1690, by Edward Wright.
Not far above Chester Bridge were the fords at Boughton. These, according to Mr. Thompson Watkin,* were used by the Romans, there being a small road across from the junction of the three larger ones at Boughton.
"Heron Bridge" is a name which still appears on the map at a point between Boughton and Eccleston, where there is now no bridge. It appears to commemorate the former existence of an "iron brigge," which is mentioned in a charter of 1355.†
Eccleston Ferry is still well known to parties boating up the Dee. It is from this point upwards that the fordable places become frequent. After the battle of Shrewsbury, in 1403, to prevent the incursions of the Welsh, the fords were ordered to be closely watched from Poulton to Eccleston, and this apparently with a view to the security of Wirral. Evidently the Welsh, however warlike, were not like Cæsar, who, as Cowley says, never went one foot out of his way for a bridge or a ford or a ferry, but flung himself into the river immediately and
At Eaton was another ferry. "Boat Lane" leads to it from the east, and "Eaton Boat" is named on Morden's map of Cheshire (c. 1700).
A little higher up is Aldford, at the point where the Roman road from Chester southwards crossed the river. "When the river is low," says Mr. Thompson Watkin,§ "the paved causeway, formed of large stones, may still be seen at the bottom of the river." The village of Aldford,
*Roman Cheshire, 63, 82. + Cheshire Sheaf, i. 189.
Wylie, England under Henry IV., ii. 2. & Roman Cheshire, 49.