1) Used to describe masons who built a bridge and also took on an obligation to maintain the structure for a number of years afterwards.
Examples of both the verb and the noun are found in seventeenth-century bridge accounts. In 1673, the constables of Sowerby and Warley, that is the two townships which shared responsibility for Sowerby Bridge, petitioned the Justices of Peace, asking for a surveyor to be appointed so that they might waite upon with such workemen as may undertake the worke. Two years later, the two masons who rebuilt Ilkley Bridge were referred to as the undertakers of the work. The contracts in such cases obliged masons to maintain the bridges for a number of years afterwards and that was often to their disadvantage, as the following extract makes clear: Michael Taileforth and the Rest of the Masons who built Coniston Bridge in 1684 and gave bond to uphold the same for the space of seven yeares, which said bridge being very much ruined by an extraordinary violent flood and two of the years are to expire … wee think they ought to have Ł100 given them … to be bound and uphould the same seven years longer .Later, the word acquired a more particular meaning and the ‘undertaker’ became an official appointment. In 1712, there was an agreement between the Justices of Peace for the West Riding and four named masons for putting into repair all the Riding Bridges. Further to that they were to keep them so for eleaven yeares … and to leave them in good repairs at the ende of the terme. They were to be paid a sum of Ł350 p.a. by the Treasurer. Joseph Pape, the mason who had built Esholt Hall in 1706 was one of those named and soon after his appointment, in 1717, he was referred to as the Undertaker of Bridges. In 1715, the Wapentake Bridges were sett of to certaine undertakers.Some families, like the Carrs and the Ettys, were involved in bridge maintenance over a long period, which suggests that the various offices were looked on as attractive appointments. That seems to be confirmed by a letter written to the Justices in 1743:Wee, Jonathan Jennings of Skipton and Peter Chippindale of Eastbye, masons, desire to be further heard touching our proposal for undertaking the repair of the West Riding Bridges. If the worshipfull Bench would please to divide them wee had rather only propose for those within the wapontake of Staincliffe and Yewcross but if they resolve to let the whole Riding in one Bargain wee have six sons all brought up in the mason trade which wee could disperse into separate parts of the Riding to keep the Bridges in better condition.