Archive centreCarlisle
DescriptionQ/A/B/1 Deeds
ContextThe Title of Bridgemaster in Cumberland [An extract from a letter to the County Surveyor, dated 14th July 1971]

The modern title of County Surveyor and Bridgemaster dates only from 1887. As early as 1531 Statute of Bridges, County Quarter Sessions were empowered to appoint two bridge surveyors within their area, and to levy a rate for the maintenance of bridges and the highways for 300 yards of either side of them. In fact most counties did not appoint surveyors at this time, the usual arrangement being that one or more of the local Justices of the Peace supervised the work of county bridge repair and recouped their expenses at the next Sessions.

The first `Bridge Surveyor of Planner' was appointed in Cumberland at the Midsummer Sessions 1775; this was Francis Murray, whose duties included the co-ordinating of work on bridges, and the repair of the county gaol if required. He had the power to contract for the repair of any bridge up to £10 with the consent of two magistrates. He, like his successors for the next 100 years or so, was indifferently known as the Bridge Surveyor or Bridgemaster. At the Epiphany Sessions 1803/4, two bridge surveyors were appointed, one with responsibility for Cumberland, Leath, and Eskdale wards, and the other for Allerdale Above and Below Derwent wards. This arrangement continued until the first full-time Bridgemaster was appointed with effect from the beginning of 1835. At Epiphany 1851 the then Bridgemaster was designated County Surveyor, and became responsible for the maintenance of all county buildings in addition to bridges.

This system continued until Midsummer 1887, but in the meantime the first county official with responsibility for Highways had been appointed, at Easter 1879, who was known as the County Road Surveyor. This was the well-known George J Bell. At Midsummer 1887 Bell was appointed County Road and Bridge Surveyor, with responsibility for both bridges and roads, whilst a new County Architect was appointed to take responsibility for buildings.
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