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Reward for image of forgotten Holbeach bridge

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A lawyer with a passion for history is offering a reward for anyone who can help him solve the mystery of a medieval bridge.

Mike Salter is willing to pay £100 to see an authenticated print, sketch or any form of image of the bridge which once stood in the centre of Holbeach.

The bridge forms part of the famous story of King John as it may have been on his fateful journey from King’s Lynn to Swineshead where he’s said to have lost his treasure.

King John - Scanned 1897 Engraving credit: istock/benoitb (51271721)
King John - Scanned 1897 Engraving credit: istock/benoitb (51271721)

It’s said that, during this march, he established a toll on the Holbeach bridge, which remained until removed by the courts in the 19th century and was valid for all, barring Fleet and Whaplode fishermen, at Michaelmas.

It’s the connection to King John’s tale that attracted Mr Salter, who lives in Chelmsford and has no connection to Holbeach.

He said: “It started as a bit of a lockdown thing really. I always remember at school reading about King John losing stuff in The Wash.

“I am not in the slightest bit interested in treasure hunting because all the people who have done it have failed.”

Instead, his fascination centred on the bridge - and the apparent lack of record of what this would have looked like.

He added: “It’s purely about the mystery, as it were.

“I am a lawyer by background. What you do, or did, was solve problems. That’s what keeps me out of trouble.”

The medieval bridge is thought to still be beneath the town’s five-way crossroads.

It was mentioned in the recent Extensive Urban Survey conducted by Lincolnshire County Council’s heritage team.

The structure crossed the river known as ‘The Stinker’ which once ran through Holbeach along the course of Church Street. The river was covered over for health reasons in the mid-19th century.

Reports in our papers in 1968 suggested that the bridge could be seen by workers who were excavating the old town tunnel at Holbeach Market Hill.

A booklet printed in 1998 did make reference to the fact that photographs did exist of the bridge - but Mr Salter has been unable to trace these so far.

The author, Maurice Tennant, is now deceased. Mr Salter added: “I can’t image he made that up.”

l Anyone who possesses an image of the bridge should contact Mr Salter via email at mikeawsalter@hotmail.co.uk. He would ask for an expert from the county council or Spalding Gentlemen’s Society to verify any image is genuine.

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