Hugh’s or Hugs Bridge

On the main road that runs between Macclesfield and Leek can be found an insignificant looking bridge, that if you were to cross in a car you would probably not even realised you had crossed it. There is however more to this bridge than meets the eye, as there has been a bridge of some sort of description at this crossing point between Staffordshire and Cheshire since at least the 1600s.

The name Hug’s bridge would have been a corruption of the original name Hugh’s bridge, and it is thought to have acquired its name from the man who had use to own it, Hugh Despenser. It is believed that the Despenser family originally arrived here with William the Conqueror, and apart from the fact that they helped put down resistance which was occurring in nearby Macclesfield, they were also thought to be skilled medics and dispensers of medicine, which is where the term dispensers comes from.

At one time a toll would have been needed to cross the bridge, and it is recorded that in 1620 the bridge was destroyed in a flood as in those days it was only constructed out of wood. The river Dane being the fastest rising river in the country can transform itself into a very powerful fast flowing river in the blink of an eye. When the bridge was rebuilt again after the flood the Cheshire side was built of stone, however the Staffordshire side was still built out of flimsy timbers, definitely not a meeting of great minds!

Another story I have come across regarding this bridge is the following narrative from Millers “Old Leake” written about two hundred years ago, and is as follows: “A begging Friar, returning from his round, alarmed the Monks of Gawsworth with the news that the Danes were coming, and knowing something of their character, they determined on resistance. They summoned all their tenants, retainers and servants and armed them with such weapons that were at hand, scythes, pitchforks and flails, and with their cross bearer at their head, marched to repel any invasion by the Danes”

“The Monks found the Danes at the ford in the act of crossing the river, A furious battle took place. The Monks and their allies fought in desperation and having the advantage of numbers, drove the invaders back into the river, and the Monks were both masters of field and flood. A bridge afterwards was erected at the place, and is called Hug bridge, to keep in remembrance this celebrated battle of their territories by the Danes”.

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