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Richmond lock (part one)
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Richmond lock is one of the most attractive Thames crossings in Greater London, its sympathetic design enhanced by its idyllic setting. It is also clearly much loved by the local inhabitants, though their predecessors had to fight a prolonged and hard-fought battle to get it built.

As predicted by Thomas Telford in 1823, the removal of the old medieval London Bridge in 1832 caused huge changes to the tides on the Thames, even as far upstream as Richmond. The tidal flow was further affected by the replacement of the old bridges at Westminster and Blackfriars in the 1860s. At low tide the Thames between Richmond and Teddington was reduced to such a narrow and shallow stream that it could not be navigated, causing some boats to be grounded for up to ten hours. Even worse, the exposed mud became a foul-smelling slime. For many years the local inhabitants petitioned for something to be done, and in 1860 a proposal was put forward for a lock and weir at Isleworth, but the Thames Conservators turned it down, arguing that it would affect the flow of water further downstream. In 1871 the Conservators finally agreed that there was a problem and they commissioned a report, which recommended the dredging of the river. This was duly carried out but made little difference. In 1881 another proposal for a lock and weir was turned down by the Conservators, worried about the effect it would have on riverside interests in the lower reaches of the Thames. They carried out more dredging, but this only made matters worse, as the water level dropped even more.

Richmond lock (part one)

Richmond Lock from the Surrey side.

To publicise the problem, watermen played a cricket match on the riverbed one afternoon at Richmond!

The residents of Richmond and Twickenham now formed a joint committee to take matters forward and, after a Mr. Stoney came up with an acceptable design for a weir, they presented a Bill in Parliament for a lock and weir to be built downstream of the Richmond Railway Bridge. There was much opposition to the scheme in both Houses of Parliament, from the railway companies, a ferry operator and the Dukes of Devonshire and Northumberland, both landowners in the area. Expert witnesses were called for both sides, including the great engineers Sir Benjamin Baker for the Bill and Sir Joseph Bazalgette against it. After much debate the Bill was passed and Royal Assent given in 1890, so that construction was at last able to begin in 1892.

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