Lord’s Bridge

These notes by Mo and Peter Dow appeared in the Newsletter of February 2003, just before the demolition of the bridge.

The bridge was built by the Eastern Union Railway Company which opened its line through Elmswell in 1846. The new railway line cut through 3 fields -White Tops, Rush Bottom and Prettyman’s Pightle – belonging to Mr Walter Lord. His son, William, lived at Street Farm – still be be seen on Ashfield Road – with his wife Louisa and their young family. Walter himself, according to the census in 1841 was 55 years old and lived in Hawk End Lane with his wife Mary, their 30 year old son James, Sarah, possibly James’ wife, aged 20 and 8 month old Eliza, probably a grandchild.

Farmer Lord’s fields then, were divided by the railway. A bridge was obviously needed over the railway. Hence Lord’s Bridge. Unfortunately, fields were not the only thing to go when the Permanent Way was laid. Several properties in Hawk End Lane were bought and demolished, including Walter Lord’s house.

The 1851 census shows Walter living somewhere near to what is now The Grange, farming 7 acres with the help of 1 labourer and a 17 year old servant, Patience Armstrong. Presumably he has left Street Farm to his son who is, by 1881, farming 166 acres at Street Farm employing 5 men and 1 boy. A significant member of the community, William served as a juror at local inquests and, for many years, on the Vestry Committee, the forerunner of the Parish Council. His own son, however, was less upstanding. Alfred Lord, aged just 16 in 1861, was imprisoned for 4 years for ‘wilfully and maliciously placing a piece of wood across and upon the railway, in the parish of Wetherden, with intent to obstruct, upset and injure the engine and carriages, and to endanger the lives of persons travelling on the said railway.’ He did it, he said, “for a lark, to see how far the piece of wood would fly.” The same lad received 2 year’s hard labour in 1866 for stealing a lamb from Moses Wakeling of Ashfield.

Nevertheless, the Lord family has a monument at the east end of St John’s churchyard. Their bridge, too is to not to be forgotten. Its demolition forms part of the upgrading of the line so as to allow the passage of larger freight containers from the Continent via Felixstowe. However, at the insistence of the current owner, farmer Herbert Godbold, who no longer lives in the village but retains a true feeling for the community, it is to be replaced with a metal footbridge. This will allow the informal (permissive) footpath which has used the bridge for many years to continue. Further, it will allow the new Parish Council in May to revive the scheme, sadly lapsed under the current administration which has paid no regard to footpaths. This entailed the dedication of a permanent Right of Way over the bridge to link in with the existing footbridge network leading to Blackbourne and beyond and allowing access from Eastern Way via a strip of land bought by the previous Parish Council for the purpose. Informal discussions have already indicated Network Rail’s willingness to consider the scheme which enjoys the support and co-operation of the Ramblers’ association and many local walkers.

Lord’s Bridge will not, therefore be forgotten. However, one unique feature will go. Many who use the bridge comment on the peculiar indentations on certain of the stone blocks which form the coping at the top of the brickwork – as if worn away by constant rubbing. Which was, in fact, exactly what caused them. In the 1930’s and 40’s two well known village characters, Joe Meakings and ‘Spud’ Baker were frequenters of the bridge from which they could spot the various forms of game to which they were partial … rabbit, pheasant etc., and also spy on any lurking gamekeeper or landowner who might take issue with the two gentlemen regarding ownership of their quarry. As they watched and waited they would sharpen their knives on the coping stones of the bridge, week in and week out for many years. Hence the peculiar indentations, soon to disappear.