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Li’le Emily’s Bridge – a window into past Dales lives

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

On a recent trip to Grassington to take some photos of the town which poses as Darrowby in the new Channel 5 remake of All Creatures Great and Small, I decided to walk down to Linton from the Yorkshire Dales National Parks Car park.

After crossing the main footbridge over the weir, I took a path on the right towards a group of cottages nearby.

It was here that I stumbled on a beautiful bridge which looked different from other little packhorse bridges I had come across on my travels. I took a number of photos and posted one on Instagram. Pretty soon I received a comment saying “Ah, Li’le Emily’s Bridge”.

Intrigued, I thought I would find out a bit more about the bridge when I got home. It turns out this lovely footbridge over Captain Beck is Grade II listed with Historic England.

The description given was that of a “single arch, slightly humped back, narrow footbridge with paved stone slabs with large blocks leading to a ridged parapet”. But the thing which differentiated this bridge from others was that the north end of the bridge is closed by 2 closely set stones to form a stile.

It turns out that these two set stones are known as a “Squeeze stile” and are designed to keep animals from the bridge. It also means that it definitely was not an old packhorse bridge as no horse could have got through the stile!

The stones of the bridge are very well worn indicating that the bridge must have been very well used over time. On further investigation, the bridge appears to have been built in the late 1600’s to carry the footpath from Linton Bridge over the River Wharfe near Grassington, for residents to travel to The beautiful gothic Church of St.Michael and All Saints at Linton.

The footpath soon after also became a main route for workers living in Grassington to get to Linton Mill.

This brings us to the question of who was Emily who the bridge was named after?

Emily was one of the local Norton family, a wealthy family, who owned lands in Wharfedale and were Catholic supporters during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

The story does link into a previous blog about Norton Tower - click here to read

Emily’s father Richard Norton was part of the Rising of the North, where Northern Lords with Catholic sympathies rose up against Elizabeth I with the aim of replacing her on the throne with Mary Queen of Scots.

Emily’s nine brothers were killed in the conflict and her father fled to Flanders. His lands and Norton Hall were handed to their great rivals the Clifford’s who had been loyal to Elizabeth.

It is thought in local folklore that someone in the locality may have felt charitable and taken the little girl in bringing her up near Linton, although no actual evidence exists for this.

The bridge itself is just one of the beautiful hidden away historical sites scattered across the Yorkshire Dales. As one of the routes to Linton Mill, it is a reminder of the Dales long forgotten industrial heritage.

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