The Devil’s Bridge

Devil's Bridge

Devil’s Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale (c) Alexander P Kapp (licenced for reuse)


‘On a dark and lonely night, an old peasant woman was walking her dog along the banks of the River Lune…’

In Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, there is a Devil’s Bridge. Built in 1370, it is to this day a popular meeting spot, motorcycle hub, and occasional dangerous diving location. It holds a particularly prominent position in the hearts and minds of the people of Kirkby. It also holds a legend, about a woman, a dog, and the devil.

My oral history project would be to find out what that myth is to different inhabitants of the town, using a specific idea approach (rather than asking for life histories). I would interview people of different generations, genders, and social class in order to ensure an oral history of a broad cross=section of Kirkby Lonsdale’s society. In particular, I would ask how long individuals have lived in Kirkby and when they learned the myth, as well as from whom. The way they tell the myth could also tell me a lot about their relationship with it, whether they know it well or badly, were proud of it and told it regularly or had merely heard it in passing. In such a way, this project would be a case study for how myths diffuse, and what they become, particularly in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

‘Devil’s Bridge’ is a moniker given to many bridges, mostly in Europe, and all have a similar myth. All, interestingly, are reasonably important bridges for their communities, albeit for a range of reasons. By investigating the Kirkby Lonsdale legend, I would also hope to provide insight into the importance of particular myths and locations which hold communities together. I would ask people about their relationship with the bridge, whether they go there often, and how they feel about the legend. It might also be interesting to talk to younger people who ‘tombstone’ (high dive) from the bridge, to see if they feel a specific connection to it. The history of the bridge would also be available from local historians, which would provide a view into how much the history of the community is held dear. Altogether, I would explore the place of the bridge and the legend as a part of peoples’ lives in order to comprehend the nature of the community and its distinctiveness.

‘… and a figure arose from the gloomy darkness’


One Comment on “The Devil’s Bridge”

  1. Graham Smith says:

    This is a project that would link back to when oral history was much closer to oral tradition and you might want to think how the stories associated with the bridge change over time and over generations. Lots of good reading on this including the work of Eric Cregeen. You still might want to collect life history data in order to contextualise belief and narrative. Please categorize as well a tag posts… It makes them more useful to readers…

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