Tadcaster currently has three bridges over the River Wharfe. The present main bridge in the centre of the town was built in 1699, widened in 1791 and reconstructed after its partial collapse in the floods of Christmas 2015. The railway viaduct crosses the river upstream of the town. This was constructed in 1848 to be part of the Leeds to York Railway, but was only ever used as a siding for the mill beside the weir. The A64 bridge downstream of the town was constructed in the mid 1970s when the town bypass was built, opening in 1978.
However, there was another bridge across the River Wharfe. This one pre-dated the railway viaduct. It was a private bridge linking Healaugh Manor, a large house on the east bank of the river upstream from the town, to Wetherby Road.
In 1785, Mr Benjamin Brooksbank and his new wife Philippa, took up residence at Askham Richard while their new house was built. This new house was Healaugh House, later called Healaugh Manor, on Wighill Road, just outside Tadcaster. The house was designed by the well known York architect, Mr John Carr.
Following her marriage, Philippa kept a detailed diary. This diary still exists and is freely available on the internet. In it, she details the building of the house, her visits to her family in the south of England, and their many journeys around the country, including the costs. There are visits to York to see friends and attend the races, and occasionally mention of the birth of their children. It gives an insight into the life of a Gentleman and his family in the late 1700s.
The bridge was designed by Mr Brooksbank. He started the design in August 1794 and in October was building a model of his bridge. By the 11th May 1795, Philippa describes taking “a ride to see the foundation laid for the bridge“. It had stone abutments but the bridge itself was to be built of wood. Philippa goes on to say: “1796 1st Aug. Mr. Hunter, carpenter, here about the scaffolding over the river to begin the curious bridge. Only one arch, all timber work – were much engaged watching the grand job“. Then on 7th August “A great alarm on Sunday morning to hear the boat had given way and all the week’s work spoilt in the river“. However, by 17th December we know that the bridge was complete because Philippa wrote that she “walked over the bridge to meet my dear boys at Newton 2 o’clock from school“.
We do not know how long the bridge lasted. The bridge appears on the Ordnance Survey map of 1849 However, it does not appear on the later, 1893, map.
All that remains today is the stone abutment on the west bank of the river. The riverside path to Newton Kyme passes through a short, low tunnel in the abutment. The carriageway on top leads to an entrance and gates on Wetherby Road.