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Hammersmith bridge (part three)
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In 1845 the University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge was first rowed from Putney to Mortlake, and Hammersmith Bridge became a very popular vantage point, so much so that there were soon serious concerns about the strain this put on the bridge. Up to twelve thousand people would crowd on to the bridge, clambering all over the suspension chains, as well as the roadway, to get a good view! A famous painting from 1862 by Walter Greaves, now in Tate Britain, illustrates the mayhem on the bridge on Boat Race Day. From 1882 the bridge was completely closed during the race, and today the bridge is closed to pedestrians on the day.

In 1880 the bridge was bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) for £ 12,500, and on 26 June the Prince and Princess of Wales freed it from tolls, along with Putney and Wandsworth Bridges. Some strengthening work was carried out on the bridge, but the decision was soon taken to replace it with a wider structure, as it was unable to cope with the increased numbers of vehicles using it. To save money, the MBW decided to keep the old foundations but replace the superstructure. It was originally proposed that a ferry service would operate during the construction of the new bridge, but after complaints from local interests that this would prove to be inadequate, the MBW applied for powers to build a temporary bridge. This was erected in 1884, and much of it was re-used later in building the Teddington footbridge. The upper part of the bridge was then dismantled, and the pier on the Surrey side was strengthened before work could be started on the new bridge.


Hammersmith bridge (part three)

The Prince and Princess of Wales arriving at Hammersmith Bridge to free it from tolls. Note the ‘Free for Ever’ banner on the tower.



The replacement bridge was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the great engineer best-known for building London’s new sewers and the Victoria Embankment. Also a suspension bridge, it is only a few feet wider than Clark’s bridge, though much more ornate, with highly decorated towers, with what Nikolaus Pevsner called “Frenchy pavilion tops and elephantine ornament”. The towers and abutments are made of wrought iron, with cast-iron cladding. The roadway is 29 feet wide, narrowing to 21 feet between the towers, but the footway is cantilevered out from the main structure, allowing pedestrians an uninterrupted crossing.





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