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Chelsea bridge (part two)
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Not long after it had opened, doubts were expressed about the safety of the bridge and, on the recommendation of John Hawkshaw and Edwin Clark, the structure was strengthened in 1863 by the addition of an extra chain on each side. In 1877 the bridge became the responsibility of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and it was freed from tolls on 24 May 1879 by the Prince ofWales, on the same day as Lambeth, Vauxhall, Albert and Battersea Bridges.

By the early decades of the twentieth century, the bridge was proving to be inadequate for the increasing amount of traffic using it. In addition, some of the ornamental decoration had started to work loose and some parts had fallen off. Discussions about rebuilding the bridge were held by its new owners, the London County Council, in the early 1930s, and plans were drawn up for a new six-lane bridge. Because of the economic climate, the Government was unable to help fund such an expensive scheme but agreed to underwrite 60 per cent of the cost of a four-lane crossing instead. The scheme would provide much-needed employment at a time when many people were out of work. The final decision to rebuild was taken by the LCC in 1933, and demolition of Page's bridge began in 1935.

The new bridge was designed by G.Topham Forrest, the LCC architect, and E. И Wheeler, and cost £365,000 to build. It is 64 feet wide, with a main carriageway of 40 feet and two footpaths 12 feet wide, cantilevered out on each side. It is a steel suspension bridge, but with granite piers and abutments. It is, unusually, a self-anchored suspension bridge, a type where extra stress is absorbed by the stiffening girders, which takes some of the pressure off the anchorages at the abutments. This meant that the suspension cables could not be installed until the roadway was in place. The roadway was built in sections and floated into position on barges, and the spring tides were used to facilitate the job of lifting the sections into place.


Chelsea bridge (part two)

Chelsea Bridge in 2007, soon after it received a fresh coat of paint.



The design is utilitarian, a reflection of the period in which it was built, and its main decoration consists of the golden galleons and coats of arms on the lamp
standards at each end of the bridge.The LCC crest takes pride of place on the outside of the posts on both sides of the bridge. On the inner sides are the crests of the three old Metropolitan Boroughs served by the bridge. On the south side is that of Battersea, with the dove of peace. On the north side are the coats of arms of Chelsea and Westminster, the former with the winged bull, lion, boar and stag, all in splendid gold on a red background, the latter with a portcullis and Tudor roses. Note the unusual design of the lamps on the main part of the bridge, which have been cleverly integrated into the main structure.

The bridge was finished five months ahead of schedule and was opened on 6 May 1937 by the Prime Minister of Canada, W. L. Mackenzie King, who was in London for the Coronation of George VI. He may also have been invited because the roadway was lined with Douglas fir from British Columbia.
From the 1950s the bridge became a meeting place for motorcyclists every Friday night, when they would put their motorcycles through their paces and race each other across the bridge into the early hours of the morning. In 1970 there was a confrontation on the bridge between two rival gangs, in which a 'Hell's Angel' was shot with a sawn-off shotgun.'Bikers' continue to meet on the bridge and carry out their stunts as before, but their activities are now somewhat curtailed, after complaints about the noise from residents in the new luxury flats overlooking the bridge.

The bridge has been redecorated in a rather elegant red and white colour scheme, with the balustrades a fetching purple. The whole structure is attractively illuminated at night, with fairy lights along the towers and suspension chains, and dramatically floodlit from below, complementing the neighbouring Albert Bridge.

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