The Generals Bridge, Stoneymeadow

Taken from the book, “The History of Crossbasket Castle” by Paul Veverka 2015 (c)

7 Generals Bridge

According to Mr. R.B Walker, (County Clerk in the 1920’s), the General’s bridge, nearby to Crossbasket Estate was of great interest to the seventh Baronet of Calderwood, General Sir William Maxwell, the landowner. This was probably due to his Calderwood Castle Lodge house being adjacent to the river crossing, and it is likely he felt the little stone bridge built in 1790, inadequate for his Calderwood estate entrance. On Roys Military map of 1747 there is a hint of a crossing or bridge there as early as then, perhaps a predecessor even to the turnpike bridge?

It is noted that at the time of building the turnpike road in 1790, Lt General Peter of Crossbasket had just finished making some improvements upon his own estate. A larger, more grand bridge was planned on Maxwell’s land and may have been funded or done with permissions also from nearby Crossbasket. After all, this new bridge would be visible from both the lands at Crossbasket, and the Maxwells land and lodge to the south. The bridge was on the boundary of their respective lands.

Sir William Maxwell was born on 4th December 1754 and acquired the title of full General after he had fought in the American War of Independence in the 1770’s and 80’s.

1775 – Like Lt General Peter, he had sailed to America and in 1775, outranked him, being a Captain. Maxwell joined the expedition of General Burgoyne fighting in several campaigns and saw much action on behalf of the name of Britain. Trapped at Saratoga, he remained a prisoner for 6 months and only set free on a prisoner exchange. For this he became a major.

1778 – Maxwell returned to England briefly, recharging, before heading back over to America , to New York in June 1779 serving under Sir Henry Clinton.

1781 – at the siege of Yorktown, he again became a prisoner. Upon his return to Scotland in December 1782, he was appointed Lt Colonel of the 91st foot regiment, which disbanded in June 1783 following the outbreak and resolution of American peace.

1783 – both Maxwell and Peter returned to their respective homes at Calderwood and the adjacent Crossbasket. They both continued in the army, with Maxwell always slightly outranking Peter. By 1793, Maxwell as a Colonel, Major General by 1795 and full General by 1812.

1829 – General Maxwell succeeded to the title of 7th Baronet on the death of his cousin, also William Maxwell. He married Isabella Wilson of Durham and had 4 sons.

1837 – General Maxwell died in 1837. Regarding the General’s Bridge, we know he often visited the construction work to see the progress taking a keen interest and upon its completion, the stone vaulted bridge was named in his honour. Now he succeeded to the title of 7th Baronet in 1829, and he died in 1837, thus giving us an 8 year window for when the General’s Bridge was built.

During this “construction window”, Crossbasket was in the hands of Charles McIntosh then later Alexander Downie.

Note, other historians have commonly suggested the bridge may have been built by General Peter of Crossbasket or General Stewart of Torrance, East Kilbride, but there is absolutely no evidence to suggest this was the case. Dates do not tie in, nor any record or fact found whatsoever. David Ure, early historian would surely have mentioned such an impressive bridge, had it existed in his writings of 1793. However, the Gothic architecture of the General’s Bridge was later to have an affect on Crossbasket itself when Crossbasket would use the design of the nearby bridge, now a grand entrance to not only Calderwood, but to Crossbasket itself.

Unfortunately, the most important piece of dating evidence relating to ownership of The Generals Bridge is now lost. On the upper mid sections of the bridge, is a stone “coat of arms”, long since weathered away. The fact there is a coat of arms there I think means it wasn’t Charles McIntosh or private owners of Crossbasket who built it, but was likely knighted Maxwells (i.e families with long lineage in those areas that had heritage sufficient to have a coat of arms in the first place!).

However, I would like to take this opportunity to suggest a few alternative viewpoints with possible indirect connections to General Peter. I will publicly say, I do favour the above history of the bridge being built by General William Maxwell, but upon researching this book, I found that General Peter of Crossbasket died in 1828, just one year before the alleged bridge construction. If built by General Maxwell between 1829-1837, it may also have been presumed by locals that the name General’s Bridge was in the honour of the recently deceased General Peter. Perhaps Maxwell was honouring his neighbor, himself, or both?

Another theory, is that the bridge did honour both. A Peter coat of arms on the north, a Maxwell coat of arms on the south. Maybe it wasn’t “The General’s bridge”, i.e with an apostrophe suggesting the property of one of them. Perhaps it was “The Generals Bridge”, i.e meaning the bridge of the Generals? Both of them.

I do like the theory that the bridge was built in honour of both Generals, but looking at maps, dates and the background research, it’s a little too much “sitting on the fence” for me. I shall leave this subject by saying, whilst favouring Maxwell as the constructor, given the evidence pointing to that, I would add that I am still open entirely to the lesser possibility that it had some connection to the Peters. The design is important to Crossbasket and was about to be copied and incorporated into the Castle itself.

The General’s bridge is a lovely structure to visit. It has been photographed locally by many people, below and above over the last Century or so. The scene captured here on this old postcard at Stoneymeadow Road is just about as quiet then, as it is today, 91 years later.

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