Benches 74 - 76: Bridge Street


Down the hill from Bench 62 we go. Past the Old Cemetery to the left (we'll get to that spot in time) and Grimsby Road segues into Bridge Street. You can't fault the namers for coming up with that; there's one of Louth's oldest river crossings here.

If you're in a car you might not notice the bridge. The grey bulk of St James' church up ahead will fill your field of vision. Impressive Georgian homes to each side; an imposing terrace of townhouses to your left on the south side of the Lud.

On foot it's different. The mill-house to the left; there's still evidence of a channel for a water-wheel if you peer over the bridge parapet. The Lud's not so grand a sight. A shallow channel of fast-flowing water about ten feet wide. It's a responsive river, though. Rain up on the Wolds and you'll see the change in the colour, consistency and speed of the flow. Louth likes its flood heritage. See the 1920 marker on the side of the mill building? It's scarcely creditable that this inoffensive stream could ever have raised itself to such murderous heights.

If you cross over to the right hand side, the view's of back gardens with whimsical little bridges of their own to the far side of their properties. Who wouldn't like a river running through their orchard?

The name is newish though. A couple of hundred years or so, perhaps indicating that this bridge is one of several that've been here over the centuries. Willow Row, this was, in 1808. Cait Green reports that this was listed as part of nearby Chequergate as late as the 1830s; that makes sense. There would have been a counting-house, a toll booth, at the crossing point.

Before then, this would have been a fording-place. Archaeological finds here indicate habitation in the fourteenth century, and evidence of people at least passing through (a Neolithic flint blade) into time beyond memory.

Over the water, and past McLeod's deli. It's a Sunday morning, and McLeod's doesn't open on the Sabbath any more. There's been a shop here as long as I can recall (a competitor, Smeeton's, was in the front room of one of the smaller terraced houses facing the church) ; first of the family-run grocery kind, and then the town's first proper delicatessen. The town's full of them now. I'm biased, but Royston's is the best.

I've not been in for a few years; a great stock of ales, some cheeky pricing, always something of interest in the chiller cabinets. I copped for some fizzy hummus from there once and suffered the intestinal consequences mightily; half the town has a similar story, but I'm sure that's old news from a bygone time too. I didn't check to see the food hygiene rating sticker; I've no reason to think that it'll be anything less than the maximum five stars.

A shame the shop's shut today. A can of Rubicon Mango would have been the very thing. Always time for a sit-down, though. And there's three benches from which to select.

The benches sit on a path between two pleasant areas of green space. We're at the staggered crossroads of Bridge Street, Chequergate, Upgate, and Westgate. There were houses here once, and the current path is an echo of a lane between two sets of homes. You can see the houses on Brown's Panorama. These homes were linked to local butter and coal charities, and were infamous for their smell and poor upkeep in Victorian times. Clearance of the eastern half (closest to the road junction and the traffic lights) started for Victoria's 1888 jubilee; this new green space was renamed Jubilee Grounds in her honour, according to Cait Green. There were some houses here on the western half until as late as the end of the second world war, though.

Before that, this was part of the churchyard associated with St James'. The above-mentioned charities kept their stocks of butter and coal in churchyard sheds here.

There's old bones under my feet. I hold still, but the only rumble is that of passing traffic. The dead sleep deep.

The benches need a bit of TLC. Paint is flaking off in leaf-like curls. It looks as though they're providing their own mulch, but that's just the accumulation of leaves from nearby trees. A few minutes with a yard brush wouldn't go amiss. The leaves give the impression of this being an ill-used place, but it's busy enough with pedestrian passers-by.

There's plenty of space too. These are wide seats, room enough for four or five per bench if it comes to it. Companionable separation's by no means an issue here.

One of the benches has a dedication plaque. The Ants and Nats run Louth's museum and they host local history talks. Another civic organisation doing its bit for the town.

You're in the open, there's a fine view of the church, and the traffic's not too terrible; the once-way system and the bypass have taken care of that for you.

At weekends you'll see clusters of folk dressed-up in wedding gear doing a secondary round of photos once they've done their church-based shots. Not a bad spot to neck some drink before or after a service if you don't fancy the Wheatsheaf round the corner on Westgate. There's enough green space to let the kids run loose, and if you keep them on the inner patch of grass there's not the slightest danger from cars.

There's flowers in season - if they've been planted then it's random-enough to pass for spontaneous nature.

The statue's part of Louth Art Trail; there's sculpture dotted all around the town. A millennial project. Like as not someone'll put a scarf on him in winter.

It's a little exposed here, which is good; you can see what's what and you can be seen by others too. I end up staying for about half an hour. Then the old thirst comes back. I never did get that can of pop. So off towards the middle of town so see what's in the fridges in the Spar.

---

The Google Street View image is from July 2011. Someone's sat on Jack Yates' bench. Looks like they're reading, or maybe even sketching St James' spire.

Here's the updated map of benches visited to date.



Eamonn Griffin

Field notes for a personal geography of a Lincolnshire market town. You can find me here on Twitter: @eamonngriffin and also here: www.eamonngriffinwriting.com
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Comments

Unfortunately the plaque on Mill House has, this week, been plastered smooth so is just now a little square with no information on. Strange. It was for sale for ages and perhaps will soon be again. Maybe the owner thinks the flood line info was off putting for potential buyers. Is a shame it's not still there I think. After all, it did happen.
2015-06-12, Alison

That's criminal. You'd have thought that kind of local history would add to the value of a property. A real shame. Will look again next time I'm passing, and scowl at it.
2015-06-12, Eamonn Griffin


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