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Wandsworth bridge (part two)
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In 1880 the bridge was bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works and it was freed from tolls on 26 June of that year by the Prince and Princess of Wales, along with the bridges at Putney and Hammersmith.

The MBW had paid considerably less than the owners had demanded, owing to the poor state of the bridge. In 1891 the board imposed a weight limit of 5 tons, and from 1897 the bridge also carried a 10 mph speed limit. Because of the bridge’s narrowness and its inability to carry heavy traffic, it was soon little more than a footbridge, and by 1912 there were demands for it to be replaced. However, nothing happened until the Royal Commission of 1926 recommended its replacement, along with new Putney and Chelsea bridges. The MBW’s successor, the London County Council, agreed to finance a new bridge in 1928 but then decided that the widening of the much busier Putney Bridge should have priority. Despite much local pressure, the LCC took no further action at Wandsworth until 1935, when it approved a design by Sir Peirson Frank, the LCC architect. It was to be a three-span steel cantilever bridge, with granite facings to the piers and abutments. It would be 60 feet wide, allowing for two lanes of traffic in each direction, but could be widened later to 80 feet to carry six lanes, though this option has never been taken up.The cost was estimated to be £500,000, with a similar sum being spent on improving the approaches.

Wandsworth bridge (part two)

The first Wandsworth Bridge, in an engraving from the Illustrated London News

The temporary footbridge that had been used while Chelsea Bridge was being rebuilt was re-erected alongside the old bridge so that it could be demolished. Work started in 1937 and was expected to take about two years, but construction was delayed by the outbreak of war, which caused a shortage of steel. The bridge was eventually opened on 25 September 1940 by Charles Latham, Leader of the LCC.

Like its predecessor, the bridge is a plain, utilitarian structure, with minimal decoration, apart from the granite pylons at each corner, and painted in two shades of blue. Its low curve was intended to reflect the low riverbanks in the area. Despite the LCC’s plans to improve the southern approaches to the bridge, it was not until 1969, under its successor, the Greater London Council, that a new approach road linking the bridge to Tooting was finally opened. The busy roundabout on the south side, where Stanley Kubrick filmed a scene for A Clockwork Orange, is one of the results.

This is a rather bleak part of the river, with many industries still operating along its banks, including a cement works alongside the bridge itself. A number of prestigious residential developments have been going up on the Wandsworth side, and their riverside walks now allow public access to the riverbanks, making the bridge more visible than it has been for a long time. In 2007 planning permission was given for a colourful art installation to be added to the bridge, giving it a bit of character. Four 40-foot high cone-shaped glass and bronze sculptures are to be placed on the pylons, where they will change colour with the ebb and flow of the tide.

Wandsworth bridge (part two)

General view of Wandsworth Bridge, with the Battersea Reach development behind it

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