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Hammersmith bridge (part one)
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Like so many of London’s bridges, that at Hammersmith was built on the site of an old ferry. In his Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain 1124—27 Daniel Defoe said that there was already talk about a bridge being erected here, but nothing came of the idea until 1817, when Ralph Dodd, a minor engineer who had worked with John Rennie, promoted a parliamentary bill to build one on the site.There was the usual opposition from the owners of Putney Bridge, who feared the competition, but the plans collapsed because Henry Hugh Hoare, the banker, refused to sell any of his land at Barn Elms for the approach roads. In 1824, when a new petition was made, Hoare agreed a price and, despite opposition from the owners of the toll bridges at Kew and Putney, the bridge was authorised in an Act of Parliament. The Duke of Sussex, the King’s brother, laid the foundation stone on 7 May 1825.

Hammersmith Bridge was the first suspension bridge to be built over the Thames. This was a completely novel type of bridge for carrying vehicles, and its designer, William Tierney Clark, proposed it only four years after thе first such bridge in Britain had been built over theиTweed. The design was well received, as it would save money, costing only £50,000. As most of the structure was supported from above, only two piers were required, so that the cost of building multiple masonry arches, along with their foundations, would be avoided.

Hammersmith bridge (part one)

The first Hammersmith Bridge, in an engraving of 1827 by George Cooke.

The building of the bridge was a considerable engineering achievement, as the river here is nearly 700 feet wide and the central span was to be 422 feet wide. The towers were originally to be quite tapered and were referred to as pyramids, but Clark replaced this idea with monumental Tuscan arches, a motif he was to use again. The roadway was 20 feet wide, which narrowed to 14 feet to go through the arches, and was suspended from four double rows of chains. An eccentricity of the bridge was that the footpath finished at the towers, forcing pedestrians at that point to walk in the main roadway with the vehicles. At each end of the bridge were two octagonal tollhouses, manned by liveried tollkeepers. The tolls were cheaper than at Putney and Kew, and there were exemptions for soldiers on duty, mail coaches and those on royal business, who simply called out ‘King’ or ‘Queen’ on their way through, a dispensation regularly abused.

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