Boroughbridge has a long and at times extraordinary history.
From the earliest times the three arrows monoliths in Boroughbridge are evidence of human occupation in the area, as long as 4000 years ago. However the town itself as we know it today only took root with the destruction of the neighbouring town of Aldborough, earlier the important Roman city Isurium Brigantum. Aldborough had suffered destruction by the Danes in the 8th Century and again by the Normans through their “Harrowing of the North”after the Conquest. A new wooden bridge was constructed upstream from the devastation and rubble of Aldborough in what is now Boroughbridge by the Normans and the town developed around the bridge. Its geographical position on the intersection of the Great North Road and the York to Ripon road was a key feature of its early development. The river Ure was navigable from the Humber as far as the town, and river trade developed alongside road traffic. The town was gradually built up on its Norman foundations, and first came into prominence at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322.
The town was the 44th “new town” to be created by the Normans and it rapidly grew in importance as a river and road centre. In 1115, together with Aldborough, Milby, Roecliffe, Durnsforth and Grafton, it became part of the Honour of Knaresborough (an Honour was a collection of manors controlled by one Lord) when the holders of the honour the Stutevilles line failed in 1205 the honour came under the direct rule of King John, from there to King Edward 11,who presented it to his “lover” Piers Gaveston. the Earl of Cornwall, thence to Edward 111. In 1325 as part of his marriage settlement he gave the honour including the Manor of Aldborough and Boroughbridge to his wife Queen Phillipa ,when she died it passed to her son, John of Gaunt the Duke of Lancaster and thence to the Duchy of Lancaster.
Since Tudor times it found itself in the unique situation of having two MPs in Parliament alongside Aldborough which had two more. This resulted in a dubious scramble for property in the town to gain control of the votes for Parliamentary MPs. When finally, at the time of the Industrial Revolution, with the two towns between them having 4 MPs representing some 1300 people whilst Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham had none, the party came to a sudden end with the Parliamentary Reform Bill of 1832 when the “Rotten Boroughs” were finally abolished, resulting in an unprecedented wholesale disposal of property in the town.
The fortunes of the town have ebbed and flowed over the centuries, but because of its geographical position as a transport hub, it has always been a hub of activity. It is certainly not short of interesting stories to tell, and the Boroughbridge Historical Society has recently embarked upon a project to gather and collate information on all aspects of its history, in the hope of being in a position to publish a book on the subject within the next two years.