Mark’s History: Calverley Bridge and the Normans

calverley bridge
Photo: Mark Stevenson

At first I kind of half-read this article on William the Conquerer coming to Horsforth – but when I got home I looked at it properly and I started arguing with myself in my head, writes Mark Stevenson.

I know from personal experience that the river can be crossed further down than where the article suggests.

One of those places is near Armley Mills, assuming the river there behaved the same as it does nowadays, but as I am no general I would not know a good place to cross a river with an army from a bad one.

Remains of the Mill Stream 11-05-2017 09-17-27
Remains of the mil stream. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Although the article does say one of the Normans went off looking for a river crossing and he eventually found one, could this have been in Armley? I say this because Armley was one of the few places in the country to keep its Saxon Lord, could this have been a reward for telling the Normans about the ford?

The article makes mention of Calverley Lane and the old stone bridge.

Remains of the weir and bridge. Photo: Mark Stevenson

The old stone bridge being Calverley Bridge. This part of the River Aire in Rodley has ancient connections thought to date back to Roman times when it was a Horse Ford (Horsforth) and provided the only link between Calverley and Horsforth.

The Saxons were well established in the area when William the Conqueror was out and about killing everyone and may well have maintained some kind of crossing here.

Even today when the water is low it is possible to cross the river on foot. The stone bridge called Calverley Bridge after the Calverley family who paid for it is actually in Rodley and dates from 1775 and was a toll bridge used by horse/car for nearly two hundred years.

Remains of the weir. Photo: Mark Stevenson

You would pay your toll at the Railway Pub where there used to be an old lean to shed – later a house was built for the gatekeeper on the Calverley Lane side.

The stone bridge was probably just one of many bridges that had spanned the river here over the years, even as late as the 1840’s a wooden bridge was still in use a little further up river.

It is known that in the 13th century a mill and dwellings were on the Rodley side of the river.

Calverley Lane was first mentioned in documents in the 13th century.

If you stand on the bridge looking up river you can see the remains of the weir that was there for nearly 600 years until it was destroyed by a storm in 1944.

If you look down river you can see the man-made island that was part of the mill race to direct water to the mill.


  1. I used to play, as a kid, in the derelict mill buildings. There was a huge round stone which I assume was for grinding flour but I can’t find any records of the mill
    Is there anywhere I can research the Mills history

    • Hi, just seen this post. I’m new to the area but a fairly frequent visitor to the Railway pub and that bit of canal and river. Like you I would like to know more about the history of the mill and have just begun to look at the OS maps of the area from 1850 available from the National Library of Scotland (I can give you the url if you want). From the article you commented on it seems the most interesting bits were probably before that period. The only other reference I have found so far is Calverley Mills (Calverley with Farsley, West Yorkshire). ( which is not very helpful. I’d be interested to know if you found out more that you can share. Thanks

  2. I remember vividly the night the weir at Calverley Bridge burst, surging onto the far bank washing away literally hundreds of ton of earth
    The result was that a pylon, carrying the grid system, collapsed and the cables were laying across the bridge
    I remember ducking under the cables to cross the bridge, not thinking they may still live with thousands of volts
    In the previous description 1944 was xstated as the year this occurred, but |I think it was more like1954. The reason for my saying 1955 and not 1944 is because I would have only been 8 years old in 1944 and not likely to have there on my own.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.