In part one at my look into the bridges of London over the River Thames that I’ve discovered during my walks across the capital, I took a trip from Tower Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge. Part two will continue my journey past Vauxhall Bridge beginning at Grosvenor Railway Bridge and heading down the Thames to Kew Bridge.
Grosvenor Railway Bridge
Opened in 1860 and named after politician Sir Richard Grosvenor, the railway bridge is located right beside Battersea Power Station, so if you’ve ever travelled into London Victoria, you’ve been over it! This is in fact the one bridge on my walks that I’ve yet to walk near or take a photo of, although, when I’ve taken photos of Chelsea Bridge or the Albert Bridge, you can see it in the background – it’s on my list to see in future walks though!
My walk from Clapham Common to the Albert Bridge back in 2017 saw me walk near Chelsea Bridge and get a great view of it from the Albert Bridge. In the 1840s there was a major development on the marshlands on the south bank of Thames into the new Battersea Park, which is where the idea of having a bridge was first proposed. The bridge, which was called Victoria Bridge, opened in 1858, but being a toll bridge it was unpopular and not used as much as the Albert Bridge. After it was acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1877, tolls were abolished in 1879.
After it became structurally unsound, it was renamed Chelsea Bridge to avoid the association with the Royal Family, as it could potential collapse. In 1926 it was proposed that the bridge be rebuilt, and during 1934 and 1937 it was demolished and replaced with the current structure we see today, which opened in 1937.
The design is smoothly satisfying and simplistic, no fanfare about it, it provides the lovely colouring and structure you enjoy to see on bridges. Also with Battersea Park beside it and Battersea Power Station behind it, there are plenty of iconic friends near it.
That same walk from Clapham Common concluded at the next bridge along the Thames, the Albert Bridge. Opened in 1873, it was designed by Rowland Mason Ordish. However, between 1884 and 1887, the bridge became structurally unsafe, which lead to Sir Joseph Bazalgette incorporating a suspension structure to it.
Further strengthening was added to the bridge in 1973 when two concrete piers were added to it, which gives it its odd hybrid of three different design styles. The bridge was given the nickname of ‘The Trembling Lady’ as it had the tenancy to vibrate when large numbers of people walked across it.
In 1992, the bold colouring of the bridge we see today was painted on it to make it more visible to ships. At night the bridge is illuminated with 4,000 bulbs to offer a beautiful light display across the Thames.
Personally, I really like the Albert Bridge, its extravagant design, colour and pointy tops gives it such presence along the Thames and when you go over it, you feel like you’re entering totally new surroundings. While at night when you either walk past it or go over Grosvenor Railway Bridge, its bright colours illuminate the river skyline beautifully to assure you the bridge is still very much there.
Also I love exploring Battersea Park, so whenever I think of the Albert Bridge, it brings back memories of great walks through the park.
My walk from Clapham Junction Station to Battersea Bridge in 2019 saw me discover three bridges – Battersea Bridge, Battersea Railway Bridge and Wandsworth Bridge.
The first of these was Battersea Bridge, which was designed by Henry Holland and only opened to pedestrians in 1771, and then to vehicle traffic in 1772 – this makes it one of the oldest bridges over the Thames in London, which is quite surprising as you don’t normally hear it get any attention when we talk about the bridges in London.
However, like many bridges in London it became quite dangerous, especially as ships and boats were colliding with it. The bridge was actually the last surviving wooden bridge on the Thames, and despite all its problems, it has inspired many artists including J. M. W. Turner, John Sell Cotman, and James McNeill Whistler to paint about it.
After the bridge was taken into public ownership, it was demolished in 1885. The Battersea Bridge we see today was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and opened in 1890.
When I was standing on the Albert Bridge back in 2017, I got a lovely view of Battersea Bridge, and its reflection glistening in the water. This bridge does have one of the most distinct colours, as the golden triangular shapes complement the green wonderfully well. The lamps give it a Royal glitz and wouldn’t look out of place within Buckingham Palace.
Battersea Railway Bridge
The second bridge on that walk was Battersea Railway Bridge, which was designed by William Baker and opened in 1863. Carrying two railway tracks that lead to Imperial Wharf Station, it has been strengthened and refurbished twice – once in 1969 and again in 1992.
The criss-cross pattern stands out for me and looks really aesthetically pleasing. When you think of a railway bridge, you might just envision this kind of image. Also there’s something about a bridge in London that doesn’t have either car or pedestrian access that adds a nice quirk to it.
The final bridge in the trilogy was Wandsworth Bridge, which opened in 1873 in anticipation for the Hammersmith and City Railway terminus being built. However, the railway terminus was never built and drainage problems made it difficult for vehicles to cross, which ultimately made Wandsworth Bridge commercially unsuccessful. In 1926 a Royal Commission suggested that it should be replaced as it was too weak and narrow for buses.
Just over ten years later the bridge was demolished and replaced with a steel cantilever bridge designed by Sir Thomas Peirson Frank, which opened in 1940, and is the bridge we see today. When it was opened it was painted in dull shades of blue as a camouflage against air raids, and this colour has remained ever since.
The most noticeable aspect of Wandsworth Bridge is how perfectly the different shades of blue on the bridge, from the water and the sky combine so nicely – like a blue paint palette.
Fulham Railway Bridge
In 2018, I did a delightful walk from Putney Bridge to Barnes Green, which explored many of the bridges in South-West London. The first of these was Fulham Railway Bridge, which I could see from Putney Bridge and carries the District Line from Putney Bridge Station. Opened in 1889, it was designed by W.H. Thomas and William Jacomb. I actually love going over this bridge on the tube when I’ve been on the District Line, but it’s a beautifully designed structure when you look out at it from Putney Bridge.
Made out of wood, the first Putney Bridge opened in 1729 and was originally known as Fulham Bridge. Prior to the bridge, you’d need to get the ferry from one side to the other. When it was built it was the first bridge over the Thames since London Bridge. The bridge we see today was designed by civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette and opened in 1886 – and compared to its predecessor, it is made from stone.
Putney Bridge has the distinction of being the only bridge in Britain with churches on either side of it. On the south bank is St Mary’s Church, while on the north bank is All Saints’ Church.
The bridge does provide a stunning view across the Thames, with Bishop’s Park by the side of the river. Putney Bridge does remind me slightly of Richmond Bridge and the stone structure has that classical feel about it, like a famous landmark that’s steeped in history.
Past Craven Cottage – the home of Fulham Football Club – you get to Hammersmith Bridge. Like with many of London bridges, the structure we see today isn’t the original one. Designed by William Tierney Clark the first Hammersmith Bridge opened in 1827 and was the first suspension bridge over the Thames. By the 1870s the bridge was no longer strong enough to support the weight of the heavy traffic and in 1884 a temporary bridge was put up to allow more limited cross-river traffic while a replacement was constructed.
The current Hammersmith Bridge was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette with it being opened in 1887. The bridge has not been without its structural problems and has been closed on numerous occasions as a result of the weight and volume of traffic across it – something that we’ve seen in 2020 with its closure.
One of the unique aspects of Hammersmith Bridge is that it is the lowest bridge in London with a water clearance of just 12 feet at high tide, which makes it prone to flooding. The bridge was originally painted green before changing its colours to pale pink, however, in 2000 it reverted back to its original green colour, something I think makes it so eye-catching!
Hammersmith Bridge is incredibly distinctive and gives the impression of such grandeur and status – like it’s the King of London Bridges. When you think of a structure that combines architectural brilliance and historical significance, Hammersmith Bridge is right up there. The pubs located near the bridge, make it an attraction as you can be sipping on a pint, while basking in all its glory.
Barnes Railway Bridge
The final bridge that my walk from Putney Bridge to Barnes Green discovered was Barnes Railway Bridge, which is located next to Dukes Meadows and Barnes Bridge Railway Station. Opened in 1849, the original bridge was created to a design by civil engineer Joseph Locke.
Although, during the latter stages 19th Century concerns were raised over the suitability of cast iron bridges following the collapse of one, and this prompted the construction of the new Barnes Railway Bridge. The new bridge was designed by Edward Andrews and constructed by Head Wrightson on behalf of the London & South Western Railway, opening in 1895.
An aspect that makes Barnes Railway Bridge unique is that it’s only one of four bridges in London which combines pedestrian and rail use, with the others being Hungerford Bridge & Golden Jubilee Bridges and Fulham Railway Bridge. It’s actually quite a cool experience walking alongside the railway, with the trains rushing to and from London.
Like with all the views from London’s bridges, this one doesn’t disappoint and with the houses next to the river it really does have the feel of a seaside town, and you’d expect to see some coloured changing huts or deck chairs.
When you look at Barnes Railway Bridge it doesn’t jump out at you as a pretty structure, but its arched design is quirky and doesn’t conform with how the other bridges in London look, so for those reasons it has a kind of uniqueness about it.
The walk along the picturesque stretch of water brings you to Chiswick Bridge, which in 2019 I explored on my walk to Kew Green. Opened in 1933, the reinforced concrete deck arch bridge was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and Alfred Dryland.
After the populations of Chiswick and Mortlake grew in the 19th century and with increased car ownership, the A316 was constructed, which meant the new road required two bridges to be built at Twickenham and Chiswick. In addition, to Chiswick Bridge opening, Twickenham Bridge was built as well as the rebuilding of Hampton Court Bridge.
One distinct and unusual feature of Chiswick Bridge is only three of its five arches span across the river, with the other two passing over the towpath. The bridge is also famous for being the finishing point in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race.
Chiswick Bridge has elegance, charm and style, compared to Barnes Railway Bridge, there’s an extreme juxtaposition between both of them on their appearance. The breathtaking view of the trees and natural wonders from the bridge enhances my thoughts that Chiswick Bridge is a beautiful structure.
Kew Railway Bridge
The second bridge I walked past from Chiswick Bridge to Kew Green was Kew Railway Bridge, which opened in 1869. The five wrought iron lattice girder bridge was designed by W. R. Galbraith and built by Brassy & Ogilvie for the London and South Western Railway. The bridge was part of an extension of the railway from Acton Junction to Richmond.
Given Grade II listed structure protection in 1983, it carries London Overground trains between Richmond and Stratford, and District Line London Underground trains from Richmond and Upminster.
One of my favourite walks to do in London is to go from Clapham Junction all the way to Kew Bridge, and when doing this walk back in December 2019 I was able to capture I’d say one of my favourite shots, which was while the sun was setting near Kew Railway Bridge!
It might surprise you if I admitted that this bridge is actually in my top three bridges in London along with Richmond Bridge and Richmond Lock and Footbridge – which I’ll explore in more detail next week! The compressed, box-like structure with its impressive Victorian presence and green criss-cross design has always grabbed my attention.
If you’ve ever been to Kew Gardens, you might’ve walked over Kew Bridge! The first bridge on the site was built by Robert Tunstall of Brentford who previously owned the ferry which was located on the river in Kew. This bridge was opened in 1759. The original bridge was constructed with two stone arches at each end and seven timber arches in between, which was costly to maintain and consequently ‘only‘ lasted 30 years. In 1782, the bridge gained consent to be replaced with a new structure which was designed by James Paine – opening in 1789.
By the 1890s the second bridge wasn’t able to cope with the weight of the traffic and engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry was invited to assess the bridge. He suggested to build a new bridge, rather than modify it. Designed by Sir John Wolfe-Berry and Cuthbert A. Brereton, the third bridge was opened in 1903.
Like with the other stone bridges it looks truly stunning along the river and with the water flowing underneath it, you feel at ease in peace and tranquility. The views from the bridge don’t disappoint and with every turn your eyes are in for a treat.
Well that’s part two of my look into the bridges of London complete, hope you’ve enjoyed taking a trip along the Thames with me and seeing just how different all these bridges are – each with their own characteristics. Join me next time for the final part where I’ll be heading from Richmond all the way to Hampton via Teddington and Kingston.
If you have any memories of the bridges in London or you have a favourite bridge, please share them in the comments section, I’d love to hear from you!
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