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Vauxhall bridge (part one)
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In the early thirteenth century Falkes de Breaute, a mercenary from Gascony and friend of King John, built himself a manor house close to the river near the present MI6 building. Known as Fulkes' Hall, it gave its name to the area now known as Vauxhall, which in turn gave its name to a famous pleasure garden, the Russian word for a railway station and, of course, a bridge.

The first Vauxhall Bridge was the first cast-iron bridge to be built over the Thames. It was also, unusually, built as part of a town-planning scheme, rather than in response to growing congestion in the area. By constructing a new route from Hyde Park Corner through Kennington and on to Greenwich, it was hoped to open up the south side of the river to development. At the time there was little there but the famous Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, which had been operating since the seventeenth century.

An Act was passed in 1809 authorising the building of the bridge, but the scheme was under-financed and went through three architects before it was finally built. John Rennie was originally commissioned to build a stone bridge of seven arches, and the foundation stone of the Middlesex abutment was laid on 9 May 1811 by Lord Dundas, representing the Prince Regent, after whom the bridge was to be named. Money was soon a problem and the company decided to build a cheaper iron bridge instead, and so Rennie designed a bridge of eleven spans that could be built for half the price of the stone bridge.


Vauxhall bridge (part one)

The first Vauxhall Bridge in an engraving by I. C. Varrall, published in the guidebook Walks Through London in 1817. The massive building on the right is the Millbank Penitentiary, which was demolished in 1903.'Tate Britain now occupies the site.


Surprisingly, the company rejected his design and asked J. Grellier to build one of nine arches to the design of Samuel Bentham, the brother of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. However, the Thames Conservators were not happy about the way the piers were being constructed and had the work inspected by James Walker, one of the most important civil engineers of the time. The second scheme was also abandoned and Walker was now invited to build a bridge of nine cast-iron arches with stone piers. The bridge finally opened on 4 June 1816 as the Regent Bridge, though its name was soon changed to Vauxhall Bridge.

The receipts from tolls were not always as great as had been hoped and, after the cost of repairs was taken into account, the dividend paid to the shareholders was often quite low. Income increased considerably after 1838, when Nine Elms station was made the terminus of the London & South Western Railway, but fell away again after the station was closed when a line via Vauxhall took services to the new terminus at Waterloo station, which opened in 1848. (A Russian delegation was so impressed by the new Vauxhall station that the word voksal entered the Russian language as the word for railway station.)

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