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Elvet Bridge, Durham

Elvet Bridge is a Grade I listed mediaeval bridge acrossing the River Wear in Durham. In ‘Notes on the Folk-lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders’, William Henderson (1879) refers to a piece of folklore associated with the bridge. ‘It was on one of the unlucky days (between St. Thomas’s and Christmas eve), which happened also to be a Friday, that one of the waits disappeared at the foot of Elvet Bridge, Durham, not to be seen again; since which event the waits have never played in that city on Friday nights.’

Waits were official musicians.

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Ian Topham
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Re: Elvet Bridge, Durham

It may be co-incidence or related, but Jamie Allan (Born 1734) was for a short time one of Alnwicks waits, in 1769. According to John Sykes “13th November, 1810. Died in the house of Correction (under Elvet Bridge) at Durham, where he had been confined upwards of seven years, under sentence of transportation for life, James Allan, a character wellknown in most parts of the United Kingdom, particularly in Northumberland, where he was known by the name of Jemmy, the duke’s piper, and was in early life a great proficient on the pipes. He was capitally convicted of horse-stealing at the assizes held in Durham in 1803, and received sentence of death but was afterwards pardoned on condition of transportation for life; but on account of his age and infirmities, his sentence could not be carried into execution. He had nearly completed his 77th year and for the greatest part of his confinement was afflicted with a complication of disorders. Had the chequered life of this notorious character been prolonged a little, he would have regained his liberty as the first signature of the Prince Regent officially addressed to the city of Durham was a free pardon for Allan – but death had removed him beyond the reach of royal clemency.”



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