Why would anyone name a bridge the Devil’s?
The Devil’s Bridge near Kirby Lonsdale spans the River Lune on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Built around 1370 it is steeped in the Medieval folktales of the time. According to the legend, a local woman could not cross the river to retrieve her cow. The devil appeared and offered to build her one in exchange for the first soul to cross the bridge. The woman agreed and bridge was built. The woman then threw a loaf of bread over the bridge and her dog chased after it, tricking the Devil into taking the dog’s soul. The Devil exited in a bit of a huff having left his handprint on the stone. A feature that requires a great deal of imagination to see.
(The bridge is too narrow for modern vehicles, and hasn’t been used by cars since 1932.)
There is another Devils Bridge in Wales, near the Devil’s Bridge Falls. The bridge crosses the River Mynach. ‘Mynach’ is Welsh for monk and the land nearby was owned by a monastery. Until 1734, it was known as Pont ar Vynach and the Welsh version Pontarfynach meaning ‘Bridge over the Mynach’. So why the Devil’s Bridge? Guess what, there’s a legend about the bridge, involving a woman, the devil, a dog, and a loaf of bread. So who does this legend belong to? The bridge in Yorkshire or Wales?
It would seen, unsurprisingly, that folktales are not the most reliable source of historical information. What can’t be refuted is the evidence of a structure, and this is where the Devil’s Bridge in Wales gives us something special, because its not one bridge, but three built on top of each other, like a stack of cards.
The first bridge was likely to be built around the 12th Century. The second bridge was built over the first in 1753 and top road bridge in 1901. The medieval bridge was unstable, but was sufficiently intact to provide the second batch of builders a foundation for scaffolding, the third bridge eliminated a slope in a roadway. Altogether the bridge is about hundred metres tall.
Incorporating older bridges into newer ones isn’t unusual, but building them on top of each other is a definite visitor attraction. As for the Devil’s involvement in the two Medieval bridges, only the Devil knows which one he built, but the reality is that Mynach (monks) is a reliable hint. The original Medieval bridges of Wales and Kirby Lonsdale were more likely the work of the Church not the devil.