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Albert bridge (part two)
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The bridge is 710 feet long, with a 400-foot central span, and the roadway is 41 feet wide. The four cast-iron piers that support the towers were the largest ever made at the time, and were cast in Battersea and floated down the river. The 66-foot high towers are made up of a central column surrounded by eight octagonal cylinders and topped with decorative pinnacles. Each pair of towers has decorative cross-bracing to give them more stability. Eight steel rods hanging from each of the towers support the roadway. Unlike the suspension bridges at Hammersmith and Chelsea, the towers are placed outside the parapets so that they do not take up any of the space of the roadway or footpaths. At each end of the bridge were two small tollbooths with a bar between them to stop people crossing without paying. The booths are still there today, and each has a sign reminding soldiers that‘All troops must break step when marching over this bridge’, as failing to do so would create the same effect that closed the Millennium Bridge in 2000, causing structural damage to the bridge.

Albert bridge (part two)

One of the tollbooths of the Albert Bridge, still bearing a notice to soldiers asking them to break step to avoid damaging the structure.

The bridge did not remain in private hands for long. In 1879 the bridge was bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works and on 24 May that year was freed from tolls by the Prince and Princess of Wales. In 1884 Bazalgette, the MBW’s chief engineer, carried out an inspection of the bridge and found signs of corrosion; over the next three years the cables were replaced with steel chains, the structure was strengthened and a new timber deck was laid. Despite this, a 5-ton weight limit was imposed, and this allowed the bridge to survive until after the Second World War. In 1957 the London County Council proposed replacing the bridge with a more modern structure, but there was much local resistance to the plans, and many letters of protest were written to The Times, including one from the poet John Betjeman. In the face of such opposition, the planners withdrew their scheme, but this only postponed the threat.

In 1964 an experimental traffic scheme was tried, which was to last until 1990. A ‘tidal flow’ system was put into operation so that during the morning rush hour only northbound traffic used it, with only southbound traffic crossing it during the evening rush hour.

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