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Introduction (part three)
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The opposition won the day this time, but one of the arguments had a certain irony. Mr. Boscawen alleged that, if the members approved a bridge at Putney, someone else would suggest building a bridge at Westminster, Hammersmith and many other sites, and that could not be allowed. Unsurprisingly, all the sites he listed now have their own bridge. It took several more attempts to get approval from Parliament for the bridge, which was not built until 1729.

There were similar arguments against the building of Westminster Bridge. When permission was finally granted, the watermen and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who owned the Lambeth horse ferry, were granted compensation for loss of business. Such delaying tactics could not stop the inevitable march of progress and Blackfriars Bridge, which was built by the City of London, opened in 1769. The new bridges opened up land routes to the south and also attracted developers who began to create new suburbs south of the river. Road transport was now on the increase with the improvement in the road system, which was another threat to the watermen's livelihood, and soon new bridges were being built further upstream at Battersea, Richmond and Kew.

The nineteenth century was the most important period of bridge construction in London, as the city continued to expand at an enormous rate, swallowing up the surrounding villages and making them part of the growing urban sprawl. At the beginning of the century three bridges opened within three years, at Vauxhall, Waterloo and Southwark. Vauxhall Bridge was successful in creating a new road connection to Greenwich via Camberwell, with new housing developments being built along the way. Waterloo Bridge, however, was not a great success as it had to compete with two neighbouring free bridges, and Southwark was relatively under¬used because of its inadequate approach roads. It was not long before Rennie's new bridge replaced the old and rather dilapidated London Bridge, which had survived long past its effectiveness. Only a few years later, the first suspension bridge was built to connect Hammersmith with Barnes, and Kingston finally replaced its wooden medieval bridge.

In the second half of the century five bridges were replaced, including Westminster and Blackfriars, as the original bridges were proving inadequate to cope with the increasing traffic and were beginning to deteriorate. During this time four new bridges were built, culminating in the opening of Tower Bridge in 1894, which was constructed partly to serve the growing population to the east of the City.

This period also saw the arrival of the railways. The first railway bridges in the London area were built at Richmond and Barnes in 1848-9, and in 1859 the construction of the Grosvenor Bridge brought the first trains across the river into central London. The authorities were very reluctant to allow the train operators to encroach on the centre of the city, but the powerful railway lobby could not be resisted for long and in 1864 Brunei's elegant Hungerford pedestrian bridge was replaced by a bridge taking trains into Charing Cross, with Blackfriars Railway Bridge opening in the same year, and in 1866 the Alexandra (Cannon Street) Railway Bridge brought the first commuters right into the heart of the City. As the Illustrated London News commented disapprovingly in 1863,'... locomotives are to be allowed to career about and under the thoroughfares of London pretty much at the discretion of engineers and directors'.


Introduction (part three)

London seen through an arch of Westminster Bridge 1746-7 by Canaletto. One of the artist's more daring images, with a panorama of London seen through an unfinished arch of the new bridge, complete with a workman's bucket.



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