My look back at the bridges across the Thames in London that I’ve explored on my walks has reached the final part. In part 1 I went from Tower Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge, while in part 2 I discovered Grosvenor Railway Bridge to Kew Bridge. I’ll now complete the journey by going from Richmond Lock and Footbridge all the way to Hampton Court Bridge via Teddington and Kingston.
Richmond Lock and Footbridge
Back in 2019 my walk from Richmond Green to Wimbledon Common saw me discover four bridges in quite a short space of time. The first of these was the magnificent Richmond Lock and Footbridge, which opened in 1894. The bridge is a lock, with a rising and falling low-tide barrage integrating controlled sluices paired with pedestrian bridges. The Grade II listed structure is the furthest downstream of the 45 Thames locks and the one and only operated by the Port of London Authority.
It connects the promenade at Richmond with the neighbouring district of St. Margarets on the west bank. At high tide the sluice gates are raised and partly hidden behind metal arches forming twin footbridges. The lock bridge was built to maintain the lowest-lying head of water of the 45 navigable reaches of the Thames above the rest of the Tideway. Below the structure for a few miles, at low tide, the navigable channel is narrow and restricts access for vessels with the greatest draft. The next major point of mooring below the lock is at Brentford Dock.
As I mentioned in part 2, this bridge is in my top three bridges across the Thames in London. I absolutely love its design as it’s quite unique and quirky given that it combines elements of a bridge, lock and walkway. Of all the bridges I’ve discovered in London, I’d say this one took my breath away more, just because of the awe-inspiring structural excellence of it. While you stand on top of it, there’s a really eerily feel about it as the air whispers past your ears.
Compared to Richmond Bridge, this bridge is quite unknown, which could explain that while I was there, no one else was on it either. The views either side of the bridge are also marvellous and on a clear day – which I was lucky enough to enjoy – you do sometimes forget you’re in London. Also the complicated mechanisms of a lock are perfectly demonstrated when you’re walking over it, one can only imagine how the system works!
It’s only when you reminisce and look back at the different bridges in London, do you realise just how they all have such distinctive characteristics.
The next bridge along the Thames that discovered on my walk from Richmond Green to Wimbledon Common was Twickenham Bridge, which opened in 1933 and carries both cars and pedestrians across it. The bridge was constructed for the new Chertsey Arterial Road, which connects the Old Deer Park on the south bank of the river and St. Margarets on the north bank. The name of the bridge derives from the fact it’s on the road to the town Twickenham, which is approximately 3km upstream from the bridge.
The bridge’s architect was Maxwell Ayrton, while Alfred Dryland was the head engineer. The bridge incorporates three permanent hinges enabling the structure to adjust to changes in temperature, and was the first reinforced concrete bridge structure in the UK to use such an innovation. The arch springing, as well as the arch crowns, have decorative bronze cover plates. One notable and historic element of the bridge is that in 1992 the first Gatso speed camera in the UK was placed there.
Like with Waterloo Bridge, I’m not a huge fan of this bridge, as the concrete structure is pretty dull and plain, and when you think of Richmond Lock and Footbridge, Richmond Railway Bridge and Richmond Bridge – which are in the vicinity of the area – it’s quite the contrast in the way it looks. If you thought of a road bridge that wouldn’t look out of place on a motorway, Twickenham Bridge fits that description!
Richmond Railway Bridge
Right next to Twickenham Bridge is Richmond Railway Bridge. After the railway came to Richmond in 1846, the line was extended to Windsor, which meant a bridge was required to cross over the Thames. The original bridge was designed by Joseph Locke and J.E. Errington, opening in 1848. The bridge’s design and structure were similar to Barnes Bridge, which also used three 100 foot cast iron girders supported on a stone-faced land arches with two stone-faced river piers.
The bridge was rebuilt in 1908 after concerns were raised about its structural integrity. Further developments occurred in 1984 with its main bridge girders and decking being replaced. In 2008 the bridge was declared a Grade II listed structure to preserve it.
The striking yellow colour is so distinctive and while it reflects into the water, it provides the perfect photo opportunity. Many of London’s bridges do have bold colours which makes them stand out to boats, ships and people. When you see Twickenham Bridge in the background, it’s like that bridge is the grey skies and rainy weather, whereas Richmond Railway Bridge is the ray of sunshine! The design of Richmond Railway Bridge is stunning as it stretches along the river and reminds me of a grand viaduct structure.
One of my favourite bridges is Richmond Bridge, which my walk from Richmond Green to Wimbledon Common also explored. Opened in 1777 as a replacement for a ferry crossing – which connected Richmond town centre on the east bank with its neighbouring district of East Twickenham to the west – it was designed by James Paine and Kenton Couse. A grade I listed structure, the bridge was widened and slightly flattened between 1937 and 1940, but otherwise still conforms to its original design.
Today, it’s the oldest surviving Thames bridge in London and you can’t help but be taken in by its splendour. The historical significance of it really comes through in its stone structure and it’s the ideal vantage point to see across Richmond’s pretty waterfront.
Richmond is always such a pleasure to visit, it has that village and countryside feel like you’ve escaped to the Lake District. Its bridge provides the class, elegance, style and history that we associate with Richmond. The view is beautiful across the riverside with the boats flowing slowly and the sight of glorious greenery and glistening waters.
Teddington Lock Footbridges
In 2019 I did one of my favourite walks along the Thames when I went from Ham Common to Hampton Court Bridge and discovered five more bridges! The first two of these were based in Teddington Lock, which had two separate bridges built between 1887 and 1889.
They replaced the ferry which operated there. The eastern bridge is an iron girder bridge crossing the lock cut and linking the island to Ham on the Surrey bank.
While, the western bridge consists of a suspension bridge crossing the weir stream and linking the island to Teddington.
When I did this walk it was actually the first time I’d visited Teddington Lock and was blown away by just how picturesque and quintessentially British it was – like you’d stepped into the Henley Regatta. The views from both bridges are delightful as you look out on both the lock and the boats. Out of the two, I prefer the suspension bridge as it looks quite quirky and unique with its design, plus the colours match the water and the sky nicely.
Kingston Railway Bridge
A walk down the Thames brought me to Kingston, which has two bridges. The first of these is Kingston Railway Bridge, which was originally a cast-iron bridge designed by J.E. Errington in 1863. This was replaced with the bridge we see today, which was designed by J.W. Jacomb Hood and opened in 1907.
I wouldn’t say the bridge stands out for me, it’s more functional than spectacular, as if it was designed just to carry the railway line, not add any value to the riverside views. This is a shame as it’s a wonderful walk along this stretch of the river in Kingston!
By contrast, just a few minutes upstream is the beautiful Kingston Bridge, which opened in 1828 to a design from Edward Lapidge. Until Putney Bridge was opened in 1729, Kingston Bridge was the only crossing of the river between London Bridge and Staines Bridge. According to 16th century antiquarian John Leland, the bridge existed in the centuries when Anglo-Saxon England existed. However, it’s also claimed that the first Kingston Bridge was constructed in the 1190s.
It does remind me slightly of Richmond Bridge and Putney Bridge with the stunning stone structure and royal gracefulness. With Hampton Court Park on one side and a vibrant hospitality sector with pubs and restaurants on the other, the bridge is sandwiched in-between a place that offers its visitors a real treat.
Hampton Court Bridge
The walk from Ham Common concluded at Hampton Court Bridge, which is the most upstream of all the bridges in London that cross over the Thames and is the final one on my journey.
Located next to the magnificent Hampton Court Palace, it was first constructed by Samuel Stevens and Benjamin Ludgator, opening in 1753. However, in 1778 it was replaced with a sturdier eleven-arch wooden bridge, although in 1840 it had become dilapidated. This prompted a third bridge to be built on the site in 1865, which was designed by E.T. Murray and commissioned by the bridge’s owner Thomas Allen. This new bridge consisted of wrought iron lattice girders, although it was heavily criticised, so much so it was called “inartistic” by one Historic Gazetteer.
The modern bridge we see today opened in 1933 and was designed by W.P. Robinson and Sir Edward Lutyens to reflect the style of parts of Hampton Court Palace.
Hampton Court Bridge’s lovely design and brickwork has such charm and splendour about it. With the view of a historical gem in Hampton Court Palace, I couldn’t think of a better finale to the bridges in London than this – quite the fitting end.
Hope you’ve enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane with me, not just along the River Thames exploring the final set of bridges in London, but sharing some of the photos and memories I had from those walks. I’ll be looking back at some more memorable moments from all my walks next time!
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