On this day … 9 March 1883

Penwortham Bridge 1909
Preston in 1909 just before Penwortham New Bridge was built: https://maps.nls.uk/view/128075868

A new bridge across the Ribble was proposed that would link Preston and Penwortham from the bottom of Fishergate Hill near the old Regatta Inn to Penwortham Brow on the other side, according to Hewitson’s History of Preston. The proposal came from the commissioners of the old Penwortham Bridge, who suggested that the county would share the cost.

At that date, there was only the old bridge, more than a third of a mile upstream from the proposed bridge, which had been built in 1759, two years after the first bridge there had collapsed, only two years after it was built. Before then, the Ribble downstream from Walton Bridge was crossed by a number of fords and a ferry.

On 14 March, the commissioners for the old bridge went to inspect it and found it needed repairs. They adjourned to the Bridge Inn to discuss what was to be done and decided to reintroduce tolls for four months to cover the costs of the repairs.

Tolls had been used in the past to pay for repairs, and in 1858 when they were being levied an incident occurred that gives another insight into the character of the vicar of Preston, the Rev John Owen Parr.

The toll collector at the bridge stopped the vicar’s carriage to ask for the toll payment. Parr refused to pay, apparently maintaining that if detained all day he still would not pay. He successfully avoided payment, as he did again a few days later.

This raised serious complications for the bridge commissioners, who had never previously been faced with such a bold refusal to pay. Other bridge users questioned why they should have to pay if the vicar was exempt. The commissioners instructed their lawyer to serve a distress warrant on Parr. The tolls were waived shortly after, so presumably the action against the vicar was not pursued.

Parr, it should be remembered, was the vicar who set the bailiffs on the poorest residents in the parish who would not or could not pay the Easter dues that supplemented his income.

Penwortham New Bridge was eventually built in 1912, shortening the road between Preston and Penwortham by a mile.

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