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Pytney bridge (part three)
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In 1879 the bridge passed into the hands of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and the following year it was freed from toll in a ceremony performed by the Prince and Princess of Wales. The bridge, however, was not destined to last much longer. It had for many years been quite inadequate for both road and river traffic, and one letter to The Times in 1862 about what its writer called ‘that wooden zig-zag’ pointed out that he knew ‘a far more respectable structure erected by savages over a gully in the backwoods of Australia’! In 1863 a new bridge had been discussed in the House of Lords and, in 1880 the MBW decided it was time to take action.


Pytney bridge (part three)

Etching of Old Putney Bridge by Ned Swain, made in 1884, shortly before its demolition. It hardly seems strong enough to bear the weight of the omnibus seen crossing it.



They chose a new site, slightly upstream of the old bridge, on the line of an aqueduct built in 1854 by the Chelsea Waterworks Company, whose pipes were to be laid under the surface of the new bridge. This meant that the new bridge, now officially called Putney Bridge, would be directly in line with Putney High Street. The chosen design was by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, chief engineer of the MBW. It was a fairly traditional design, 700 feet long and 44 feet wide, consisting of five segmental arches of concrete faced with Cornish granite, and would cost £250,000 to build. Bazalgette’s son, Edward, acted as Assistant Engineer on the project, and they are both commemorated on a stone on the upstream side of the northern abutment.

On a wet and miserable day in July 1884 the Prince of Wales, accompanied by the Princess and their three daughters, laid the foundation stone for the new bridge on the west side of the south abutment, where it can still be seen. The Prince and Princess made their third visit to Putney on 29 May 1886 to open the new bridge, with the old bridge, now a ‘picturesque relic’, awaiting its imminent demise. There was great interest in both Putney and Fulham, and crowds of people thronged both sides of the river, waiting to cross the new bridge when the ceremony was over.


Pytney bridge (part three)

The Prince and Princess of Wales laying the memorial stone of the present Putney Bridge.



In January 1909 the first trams crossed the bridge, with tracks down both sides, leaving less room for regular vehicles. By 1914 the bridge was already proving inadequate for the increasing volume of traffic, but the First World War put a stop to proposals to widen it.



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