Drawing 193: Matty Benn’s Bridge

Direction of view: NW

Notes:   Easily accessible from the Cold Fell road: GR064103. The bridge spans the infant River Calder.

This view also appears on page Lank Rigg 5 in The Western Fells, and page 158 of Wainwright in Lakeland.

Named “Monks Bridge” on OS map; AW says that “Matty Benn’s Bridge” is the name preferred locally. The visitcumbria website states that this is the oldest packhorse bridge in Cumbria, and that its name comes from the family Benn, who lived nearby. A member of that family has posted online that “Matty” was born Martha Smallwood in 1831, and that she married John Benn in 1856; they lived and farmed at Brackenthwaite, Wilton. “Matty” regularly crossed the bridge to go to markets at Egremont and Gosforth. She sounds like a feisty character! Obviously, the bridge must have existed long before this appellation.

Comments:  Peter Messenger took the first photograph, probably in the late 1970s.

I took my picture for this project on 22nd July 2018.  Anne Setright and I were staying at Nether Wasdale for the weekend, but low cloud there gave us the idea of driving round to Loweswater, and we visited Matty Benn’s bridge on the way.  It is a charming feature in a lovely location.  The weather at Loweswater improved dramatically, and we enjoyed a splendid walk over Fellbarrow and Low Fell and around the lake