An old trackway crosses from Yorkshire into Derbyshire, crossing the Ladybower Brook and into the Derwent valley over a bridge known as the Cutthroat Bridge. How did it acquire such a grim name?
On a moonlit night in 1635 a packhorse team led by a Robert Ridge were crossing the bridge when they saw a man floundering around in the rocky stream below. His throat had been slit, no doubt by robbers after his cargo, and the men rushed to his aid. He could not speak and so they took him to the nearby mansion of Bamford Hall where it was hoped a surgeon might be able to help him. Unfortunately the man died a couple of days later, still unable to speak or even gesture, and so his killer was never found. The name Cutthroat Bridge stuck and so it has been known by this name right up to the present day...but history sometimes has a habit of repeating itself.
This little area has two rather dark associations with the worlds of pop and rock music, the first being the more macabre and with a direct association with the name of the bridge and its history. Late December 1995, while many people were planning their Christmas Days and stressing over presents, a man named Anthony Antoniou was planning something altogether more gruesome. Antoniou was the on/off partner of the pop singer Gabrielle, who at this time was at the height of her success, and they had a child together.
On that fateful night just before Christmas, Antoniou was sitting in the rear of his friend Tim Redhead's Nissan 180 as it sped along the A57 from Sheffield with another man, Walter McCarthy, sitting in the front passenger seat. He had joined the other two for the trip on the pretext of conducting a business deal with Antoniou but Redhead suddenly veered off the road and into the layby next to the Cutthroat Bridge. From the back seat Antoniou launched into a savage assault on 59 year old McCarthy, stabbing him over fifty times with a combat knife before dragging him out of the blood-soaked car and down to the bridge.
Antoniou had retrieved a Samurai style katana sword from the car and, laying McCarthy across a boulder next to the stream, he decapitated him. As if this hadn't been gruesome enough, Antoniou then placed the head on a rock and conducted a one-sided “conversation” with it, taunting and prodding the lifeless head for twenty minutes! The pair placed the corpse of Walter McCarthy among some boulders under the bridge then left the scene, heading southwards towards the home of Antoniou's lover Gabrielle. During the journey he kept the head placed between his feet.
While Antoniou headed inside to spend the night with Gabrielle, he sent Redhead off to burn the car and to dispose of the head, but after torching the Nissan his accomplice struggled with their decapitated trophy, forcing Antoniou to come out and help. It wasn't long before the two were arrested and charged with the murder, which they denied, but were both found guilty at Nottingham Crown Court and sentenced to life. It was suggested during the hearing that McCarthy had abused children and this had provoked the murder. Gabrielle, after undergoing police interviews, was released after it was made clear that she had nothing to do with the murder.
So Cutthroat Bridge it was, and so it remains, but what was the other connection to the music world? On New Years Eve 1984 Rick Allen, the drummer for then rising rock band Def Leppard, roared over Cutthroat Bridge in his imported Chevrolet Corvette. This was the “Knight Rider” style model (although they used a Trans-Am in the show) and he was keen to show his girlfriend what it could do as they drove towards Sheffield where he had returned to see his family. Allen got into a “duel” with another car who seemed insulted at this flashy black mean machine attempting to overtake him, and kept slowing and swerving to block him. Seeing his chance a mile after the bridge, Allen gunned the Corvette around the Alfa Romeo but this was on a sharp bend and he lost control, hitting a wall and flying up into the air. Upon final impact Allen's arm had been crushed badly while his girlfriend had been luckier, escaping with no long lasting injuries. Luckily for the pair the first people on the scene were actually an off-duty police officer and nurse who were able to render effective first aid and get help fast but Allen's arm had to be amputated.
His arm was sewn back on but tragically had to be removed within a couple of weeks due to his system rejecting it. Def Leppard stood by him and he went on to become the most famous one-armed musician in the world, and with the aid of a specially adapted drum kit – and a shift in the band's musical arrangements and production – Rick Allen did not let the accident hold him back.
The area around Cutthroat Bridge boasts some fantastic walks with beautiful views and interesting locations including Hordron Edge stone circle and Bamford Edge cliffs, then the dams at ladybower reservoir. A highly recommended day out for the walkers but drive carefully along that road – and try to resist shuddering if you cross Cutthroat Bridge...
Cutthroat Bridge from the trackway
The Ladybower Brook babbles its way across the landscape
Cutthroat Bridge with its many boulders, scene of two gruesome murders
The bend where Rick Allen made his fateful manoeuvre
The "new" side of Cutthroat Bridge with the main road passing over
The wreck of Rick Allen's Corvette