Brungerley Bridge dates from the late Georgian period and is a handsome structure in a picturesque setting. Before a bridge was built, people crossed here by using the Brungerley Hipping Stones, stepping stones that crossed the River Ribble. These dated back to Medieval times, and were the site of a dramatic capture of a king, which is recounted later in this piece.
It seems likely that the stepping stones were lost when the river was modified for the supply of water to power a mill in 1782. This was the mill at Low Moor, which was Clitheroe’s first cotton spinning factory. A weir known as ‘The Coe’ was built across the river near Waddow Hall. From here, some of the water was diverted for the mill race (the channel that carries fast-running water to power the mill).
In 1784, new stepping stones were put in place on the southern bank, presumably replacing ones that had been covered by the rising water level caused by the weir downstream. These met up with the Medieval ones in the middle of the river that still extended to the northern bank. However, local author Jessica Lofthouse in Lancashire Countrygoer writes that in the end all the stones were covered because of the river modifications.
Once the stepping stones became submerged, a bridge was deemed necessary. The first bridge was a wooden one, and it was put in place in 1801. However, when it was destroyed by flooding, a larger structure was commissioned. This is the present bridge, and it was constructed in 1816.
The section of the river just upstream of the bridge is low enough for natural fords to occur. A short walk up beside the river into Brungerley Park reveals just how shallow the water is and how easy it would be to put stepping stones in place. Such fordable places can be rare on large rivers like the Ribble, although there is a similar point nearby at Edisford Bridge, which also has its fair share of history and visitors.
In 1876, the local farmer, Eli Tucker, dammed part of the river to form a boating lake by the bridge. The enterprise was known as ‘Tucker’s Fleet’. He also created pleasure grounds which included boat swings, and offered refreshments to tourists. The endeavour prospered right up to the time of the First World War. All these amenities have since disappeared, but Brungerley Bridge is still one of the most beautiful and popular parts of the River Ribble for visitors today.
The Capture of a King at Brungerley Hipping Stones
Most famously, the crossing point at Brungerley is the place where King Henry VI was apprehended while on the run after losing the Battle of Hexham. We know about the circumstances of his capture from Warkworth’s Chronicle. This is a book attributed to John Warkworth of Cambridge University and is thought to be a reliable account as it was written very close to the time of the events it outlines.
King Henry had been deposed by King Edward IV during the long cycle of the War of the Roses. Henry’s Lancastrian support had been defeated at Hexham by King Edward’s Yorkist men. Henry managed to escape and went on the run, living at various safe houses in Cumbria and Lancashire.
Henry had found sanctuary at Waddington Hall, near Brungerley. This was the home of Sir Richard Tempest. He was betrayed to King Edward’s supporters by “a black monk of Abyngtone”, one William Cantlow. On 13th July 1465, a group of them turned up to arrest Henry while he was eating dinner at the house. They were led by Sir Richard’s son-in-law, Thomas Talbot of Bashall. When they entered the house, Henry fled and they pursued him.
Warkworth’s Chronicle tells us that Henry was caught “in a wood called Cletherwode, beside Bungerly Hyppyngstones” by Talbot and his compatriots. Tradition has it that the king spent the night in Clitheroe Castle before he was “carried to London on horseback, and his legs bound to the styrups”. On reaching the capital, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London “where he was kept (a) long time by two squires to the yeoman of the crowne, and their men; and every man was suffered to come and speak with him, by licence of the keepers.”
The men who had caught him were handsomely rewarded by King Edward IV. It appears that as Sir Thomas Talbot of Bashall was in charge of the operation he received the most money. He gained a hundred pounds and a yearly pension of forty pounds. His cousin, John Talbot of Salesbury, received twenty marks a year and was granted some land. Both the Talbots continued to receive this money when King Edward’s brother, King Richard III, came to the throne, such was the gratitude for their service. Sir John Tempest (the brother of Sir Richard Tempest who had been hosting the king at Waddington) and Sir James Harrington must have played a lesser part in the whole affair, as they only received a one-off payment of a hundred marks each, plus an extra hundred to cover their ‘expenses’.
Places of Sanctuary for the Hunted King
We know the places that King Henry stayed at during his time evading those that sought to imprison him. He first stayed at Muncaster Castle in Cumberland with the Penningtons, just over the border from the region known as Lancashire North of the Sands. He presented his host family with a small Venetian green glass bowl, decorated with gold and white enamel. This became known as the ‘Luck of Muncaster’ and the Penningtons still have it to this day. Although the house is open to visitors, the bowl is not on display. Perhaps this is because the family take very seriously the tradition that if the bowl was ever damaged they would lose the castle.
Dr Whitaker, the Georgian antiquarian and vicar of Whalley, wrote two books on local history. One was a history of Whalley and the other a history of Craven, Yorkshire (which covered parts of Bowland before it became part of Lancashire). In these publications he mentions three houses that King Henry hid in. These are the halls at Bolton-by-Bowland, Bracewell and Waddington.
At Bolton Hall, there is still a covered well named after Henry. Whitaker states that the hall also had three mementoes of the king: a spoon, a boot and a glove. He states that the boot and glove were remarkably small. Whitaker notes that at Bracewell Hall there was an apartment called the King Henry Parlour, “undoubtedly one of the retreats of Henry VI”. The Historic England website states that the building now known as Bracewell Barn incorporates King Henry’s Parlour and was probably part of the original hall before it was converted to a barn. Finally, Dr Whitaker writes about Waddington Hall where “...one room contains the name of the King Henry’s Chamber” and he includes an etching of the then ruined hall, which has since been restored.
There are no parking places at Brungerley Bridge. However, it is only a short walk from Clitheroe town centre, where there is ample paid parking. Once parked, walk down Waddington Road. You will pass the entrance to Brungerley Park and Sculpture Trail on your right; shortly after you will reach Brungerley Bridge. There are steps on the left hand side of the bridge down to the river. You can follow a path by the side of the river that heads in the direction of Waddow Hall and the weir.
Nearby, just a short distance away
Much of the evidence for the capture of King Henry VI comes from Warkworth’s Chronicle. This is attributed to John Warkworth, Master of St Peter’s College (Peterhouse) Cambridge. He was master of the college from 1473 to 1500. Although Warkworth had a hand in the production of this document, more recent research suggests that it was written by one or other of his fellow college tutors. Either Roger Lancaster, who died in 1502, or Thomas Metcalf, who died in 1503, is now thought to be the author. Both were probably from Yorkshire. The chronicle covers the years 1461-1474.
The volume was later edited by James Haliwell-Phillips (although it is attributed to his birth name of James Orchard Haliwell) of Jesus College, Cambridge. He added a lot more detail and clarification to the story in his extensive footnotes. It was printed by the Camden Society in 1839. You can read the book for free at Google Books. See the reference section below.
The History of the Bridge
Lancashire Countrygoer, Jessica Lofthouse (1962), Robert Hale
The Bridges of Lancashire and Yorkshire, Margaret Slack (1986), Robert Hale
The Story of King Henry VI’s Capture
Warkworth’s Chronicle is entitled A Chronicle of the First Thirteen Years of the Reign of King Edward the Fourth, by John Warkworth. Edited from the manuscript by James Orchard Haliwell (1839). Printed for the Camden Society by John Bowyer Nichols and Son, Parliament Street. It is available to read for free in Google Books. Once you have found the book, use the search term ‘Talbot’ to read the relevant contemporary section and the later footnotes.
Antiquarian Interest in King Henry’s Places of Refuge
The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England’s Legends from Spring-Healed Jack to the Witches of Warboys, Jennifer Westwood and Jessica Simpson (2005) Penguin Books
historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1362302. Waddington Hall.
historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1073405. Bracewell Barn incorporating the remains of King Henry’s parlour
bolton-by-bowland.org/boltonhall.html. Bolton Hall, Bolton-by-Bowland.