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Wandsworth bridge (part one)
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The story of the two Wandsworth Bridges is not a happy one. Both were delayed in the building, either by financial difficulties or bureaucratic wrangles, and they were both blighted by inadequate approach roads. Also, most people would agree that neither bridge was more than a functional addition to London’s riverscape.

The need for a bridge to connect Fulham with Wandsworth was felt for many years, as the nearest crossings, except by boat, were the bridges at Putney and Battersea, which were 2 ½ miles apart. The Wandsworth Bridge Company obtained permission to build a bridge here with an Act in 1864 and hoped to make a good profit by charging tolls, in the expectation of a new terminus of the Hammersmith & City Railway being built on the north bank, though this never materialised. Financial problems also delayed the construction of the bridge, and there were problems over the design. The original plan was for Rowland Mason Ordish to design a suspension bridge similar to his plan for the Albert Bridge, which had been authorised in the same Act. When the company asked Ordish to design a cheaper bridge, he refused, so Julian Tolme was asked to design the bridge instead. His bridge was a more basic wrought-iron lattice-girder bridge, which was only 30 feet wide, even though the Metropolitan Board of Works had tried to insist on a width of 40 feet.


Wandsworth bridge (part one)

The present Wandsworth Bridge



It had five spans, supported by four pairs of wrought-iron piers filled with concrete, and there was minimal cast-iron decoration above each of the piers. As the Illustrated London News commented, ‘No attempt has been made to produce architectural effect, the structure being substantial rather than ornamental’. The bridge was opened on 27 September 1873 by Colonel Hogg MP, chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works.

The bridge was not a financial success, and more money was spent on repairs than was taken in tolls. It never carried the level of traffic hoped for by its owners, partly because of the poorly maintained approach roads, but also because it was not sturdy enough to carry heavy vehicles.


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