9 August 2023
Power tool used to engrave protected Scheduled Monument, Beggar’s Bridge
Damage to a well-known 17th-century bridge in the North York Moors National Park has been labelled as a staggering act of vandalism by conservation experts.
Beggar’s Bridge is set over a picturesque part of the River Esk on the edge of Glaisdale village and alongside the path of the Coast to Coast trail. It is popular with walkers, photographers and historians alike, but a recent act of vandalism – believed to have been caused with an angle grinder – has thrown the immediate future of the 400-year-old structure into uncertainty.
Last month the North York Moors National Park Authority was alerted to significant damage across four pieces of the bridge’s parapet wall, consisting of inscribed letters or initials that up to 1.5 inches deep. Because the wall is relatively thin in places, it is uncertain whether some or all the damaged stonework will need to be replaced.
Annabel Longfield-Reeve, Heritage and Conservation Officer at the North York Moors National Park Authority, said:
“Beggar’s Bridge is an irreplaceable historic asset that we are keen to preserve for future generations.
“We’re shocked that someone or a group of people would commit such a crude act of heritage crime and we urge anyone with information that might be helpful to contact the police.”
Expert Conservation Officers will now assess whether the damage, which is located in a prominent position on the Scheduled Monument can be removed or repaired, without causing structural instability to the monument.
“Although built in 1619, the bridge incorporates stonework from an earlier 14th century crossing, so you can’t just replace the stone like for like. You would be losing that age, the history and some of the story of the bridge over time.
“Although particularly destructive, this also isn’t an unusual occurrence. Crime against our heritage assets is on the increase. Many of our monuments are in rural locations and cannot be regularly monitored, so we often rely on local communities to help keep an eye on them. Sadly though, as is in this case, it isn’t always enough.”
Glaisdale Parish Councillor Roger Norris spoke of the shock of local residents:
“Beggar’s Bridge is a national treasure that has survived for such a long time.
“To think that someone would carry a grinder there for the purpose of damaging it in this way is outrageous. This isn’t children scratching stones, this is criminal vandalism.”
Anyone with information regarding the damage should contact police on 101. The crime reference number is NYP-27072023-0395.
Notes to editors
History of Beggar’s Bridge
Beggar's Bridge was built in 1619 by Tom Ferris, a wealthy merchant who became Sheriff of Hull in 1614 and Mayor in 1620. Legend has it that he was originally the son of a poor Egton farmer and loved Agnes Richardson, daughter of a squire across the River Esk in Glaisdale. Ferris was rejected as a suitor and denounced as a ‘beggar’ by the squire. He thus resolved to go to sea to seek his fortune, but was prevented from saying good-bye to Agnes by floods making the river impassable. After making his fortune in the Caribbean, Ferris returned to marry Agnes and built a bridge to help future lovers. Beggar's Bridge may incorporate stonework from a 14th century bridge that had collapsed by 1577.
Communications Officer, North York Moors National Park Authority
The North York Moors National Park
The North York Moors is a beautiful landscape of stunning moorland, ancient woodland and historic sites. Created on 28 November 1952, it become Britain’s sixth national park. Covering an area of 554 square miles (1,436 square kilometres) the National Park has 26 miles of coastline, two national nature reserves, 840 Scheduled Monuments and over 3,000 listed buildings, attracting an estimated 7.7 million visitors a year.
The National Park has two visitor centres, Danby Lodge National Park Centre and Sutton Bank National Park Centre, providing opportunities for cycling, walking, eating, picnicking, shopping, crafts and wildlife-watching. The centre in Danby also houses the Inspired by… gallery, which features regularly changing exhibitions by artists who draw their inspiration from the North York Moors.
The North York Moors National Park Authority works with a wide variety of people to care for this beautiful corner of Yorkshire, providing apprenticeships and volunteering opportunities with nearly 14% of staff being apprentices from local families. To view other press releases and for further information about the North York Moors National Park, visit www.northyorkmoors.org.uk