Tadcaster - community spirit after the floods

PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 June 2016

Cllr Richard Sweetring in front of the still-closed bridge in Tadcaster

Cllr Richard Sweetring in front of the still-closed bridge in Tadcaster

Joan Russell Photography

A lot of water has gone under the bridge (or what's left of it) since Tadcaster hit the headlines at the start of the year and the town is getting back on its feet.

Flood water swept away part of Tadcaster’s bridge spliting the town in twoFlood water swept away part of Tadcaster’s bridge spliting the town in two

For a few days around the turn of the year Tadcaster was big news. The floods caused havoc across Yorkshire, but the scenes of Tadcaster’s bridge being swept away by the swollen river Wharfe seemed to sum up the weather’s devastating power.

The footage appeared on news broadcasts around the world but while the news crews have moved on to other stories, the people of Tadcaster are still without a road link across the river. A temporary footbridge is in place but anyone needing to drive between the two halves of the town still faces a 20 mile journey.

Plans are in place for a similar looking replacement bridge which will cost around £3m and could be open before the first anniversary of the collapse in December.

Cllr Richard Sweeting, the vice chair of Tadcaster town council, was among those who were out on the streets during the storm helping people cope amid the rising waters.

‘One lovely thing about Tadcaster is the strength of the community and that really came to light on Boxing Day and the days after when people came together to help one another and to start the clean up. There were masses of people helping out,’ Cllr Sweeting said.

‘On December 29 when the bridge collapsed the town was united and people were supporting each other and doing whatever was needed. It wasn’t just a bridge that came down, for a start there was a gas pipe on there so people had to be evacuated from their homes, but it was also a link between the two sides of the town. It’s not been easy for anyone without the bridge but we are adjusting to the situation.

‘I was out there through the night helping because I am a Tad lad and it’s very dear to me. I feel it’s my duty as a councillor to be out there in times like that. I take my responsibility seriously – being a councillor doesn’t just mean attending meetings, you’re there to support people and to be an ambassador for the town.’

Cllr Sweeting is in his 25th year on the town council and is the current deputy mayor, having twice worn the chains of office and he has more reason than most to feel upset about the bridge’s demise. ‘I’ve researched my family history and found that my ancestors were labourers who came to Tadcaster around the time the bridge was built. I don’t know for sure but I’m surmising that they might have been involved in building the bridge.’

John Smiths Brewery welcomes Tour de YorkshireJohn Smiths Brewery welcomes Tour de Yorkshire

The bridge was still relatively new when Samuel Smith opened his brewery in the town. Over the centuries, many breweries have made their base in Tadcaster, attracted there by the quality of the water, which filters through limestone which makes it ideal for brewing. And limestone has been important to the town for even longer than beer – the town’s Roman name Calcaria came from the Latin for lime and quarries have long been big business here.

Today there are three breweries in Tadcaster – Coors, John Smith’s and Samuel Smith’s which is the oldest brewery in Yorkshire and which still takes water from a well sunk 85 feet beneath the Old Brewery in 1758.

There’s no excuse, therefore, for not raising a glass and toasting the community spirit which has helped the people of Tadcaster get the town back on its feet so quickly after their dreadful start to the year.

A brief history of Tad

Nine hundred and fifty years ago, in 1066, King Harold gathered his troops in Tadcaster before marching to York for the final battle with the Vikings on English soil. After killing the Viking king Harald Hadrada – and our own King Harold’s brother Tostig, a Viking ally – he marched his armies to Hastings for a meeting with William of Normandy. You know the rest.

A castle was built near Tadcaster’s present-day town centre in the 11th century using stone reclaimed from the old Roman town of Calcaria. In the mid-1200s when the first stone bridge was built across the Wharfe, stone from the castle was reclaimed for the job. This bridge was the scene of a skirmish between Royalist and Parliamentarian forces during the Civil War. * The Pilgrim Fathers are said to have made plans for their journey to America at The Ark, a 15th century building in Kirkgate which now houses Tadcaster Town Council.

A market has been held in Tadcaster since the town was granted its charter by Henry III in 1270. These days it is held in the social club car park each Thursday.

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