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Hampton Court Bridge (part one)
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Hampton Court Bridge qualifies as the furthest upstream Thames bridge in Greater London because its northern half is in the London Borough of Richmond-on-Thames, the boundary with Surrey running across the centre of it. The current bridge is the fourth one on the site.


Hampton Court Bridge (part one)

Anonymous print of the first, Chinese-style, bridge at Hampton Court, probably inspired by a drawing by Canaletto. A drive over the humps of the bridge must have been most uncomfortable.


Hampton was a village of minor importance until Thomas Wolsey, who was later to become a cardinal and Lord Chancellor of England, acquired the manor in 1514 and built himself a grand palace there. There are no records of a ferry operating there until 1536, by which time Wolsey had fallen from favour and Henry VIII was making the palace even more magnificent. By the middle of the eighteenth century the ferry was operated by James Clarke, who decided that, with the increase in traffic, it was time to build a bridge, which would be a more financially rewarding enterprise. A Parliamentary Bill was passed in 1750 and work began in 1752. Designed and built by Samuel Stevens and Benjamin Ludgator, the wooden bridge opened on 13 December 1753. It was a decidedly unusual construction, with a picturesque Chinese appearance, not unlike the well-known 'Willow pattern' design. It had seven arches, and there were curious 'pagodas' on each side of the central span. Its obvious charm attracted several artists to draw or paint it, including Canaletto, but people crossing the bridge found the humps made the ride very uncomfortable, and the toll was higher than for the ferry. It was not a particularly strong construction, needing regular repairs, and it lasted only twenty-five years.

Anonymous print of the first, Chinese-style, bridge at Hampton Court, probably inspired by a drawing by Canaletto. A drive over the humps of the bridge must have been most uncomfortable.

Its replacement, built by a Mr. White of Weybridge, was erected on the same alignment and using the same abutments. It was also built of wood but was quite unlike the first bridge, resembling rather the first bridges at Putney and Battersea. It had ten arches, and there was a tollhouse on the Middlesex side. It opened in 1778 and was a financial success, especially when there was a race meeting at nearby Hurst Park. Even though it was a sturdier structure than the first bridge, it was much criticized, as the arches were rather narrow, creating an obstruction for river traffic.


Hampton Court Bridge (part one)

Engraving of the third, iron, bridge at Hampton Court which opened in 1865.



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