Blackfriars Bridge (part five)

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Kew bridge (part two)
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The bridge was sold to the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) in 1873, when the tolls were finally dropped. The ceremony was attended by the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of the City, officials from the MBW and many local dignitaries, and the carriages processed to the bridge from Gunnersbury station along streets lined with large crowds. The bridge was decorated with banners and there were triumphal arches at each end. The Lord Mayor declared the bridge open by unlocking the tollgate, which was then carried around Brentford and Kew in procession on a brewer's dray. The day closed with a firework display.

The bridge was later sold to the county councils of Surrey and Middlesex, who decided the bridge was inadequate for the increased traffic levels and would need to be widened or rebuilt. They asked the engineer Sir John Wolfe-Barry, who had recently built Tower Bridge, to report on the state of the bridge and he advised that, because of the need to underpin the piers, it would be cheaper to replace it. In 1898 an Act was passed and Sir John was commissioned to design the new bridge, along with his partner, Cuthbert Brereton, and it was built by Easton Gibb. In 1899 a temporary timber bridge was built and later that year demolition of the old bridge began.

The new bridge is 1,182 feet long, has three elliptical arches and a heavy balustrade, and is built with granite from Cornwall and Aberdeen. The bridge was opened on 20 May 1903 by Edward VII, who was accompanied by Queen Alexandra. A plaque on the downstream balustrade commemorates the occasion, and the inscription on the stone above it records it as having been laid by the King. He did so using a mallet and trowel whose handles were made from wood from the first bridge, as well as a spirit level in the form of the new bridge.

Kew bridge (part two)

A view of the second Kew Bridge in 1899 by J. Ogilvy.

The bridge was originally called the King Edward VII Bridge in the King's honour, but the name did not prove popular and it soon reverted to its original name.

At the official opening the King was presented with a number of gifts, including the silver mallet and trowel he had used, as well as a bronze axe, complete with part of its wooden haft, which had been found during the bridge's construction. A beautiful flint axe had also been excavated during work on the bridge and it too was presented to the King, set in a brass mount in the shape of the new bridge. In 1994 all these objects turned up at an auction and were bought by the Museum of London. They had apparently been found in a loft during a house clearance and, although the name of the family was never divulged, it is quite likely to have been passed down in the family of Cuthbert Brereton, the engineer, which suggests that the King had decided not to keep the gifts. Another souvenir of the occasion presented to the King was a chair made from the wooden piles of the first bridge. Photographs show it to have been a fine piece of workmanship, with its three cross-rails carved in the outline of each of the three bridges, but its present whereabouts are unknown.

Kew bridge (part two)

OPPOSITE:The second Kew Bridge, painted by James Webb, c. 1880. The water tower of the Grand function Waterworks Company, now part of the Kew Bridge Steam Museum, is actually farther away than it appears.

Electric lights were installed on the bridge in 1957, when Surrey County Council decided to take down the old triple gas lamps, but local residents protested about the decision, and so the old gas lamps were retained and now alternate with the newer lamp standards.

Kew bridge (part two)

The current Kew Bridge, the third on the site. The coats of arms of the Counties of Middlesex and Surrey above the piers are a declaration of joint ownership.

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