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Hungerford bridge (part three)
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By the time the bridge opened, the Victoria Embankment was being built as part of Bazalgette's great new sewage system, incorporating the Metropolitan District Railway as well as water and gas pipes. Hawkshaw had made allowances for the fact that the embankment would reach as far as Brunei's northern pier, especially as it was not possible to delay work on the bridge until the start of this major construction project.Today the pier stands hard against the footpath, evidence of the huge amount of land reclaimed for the Victoria Embankment. In 1882-8 the bridge was widened on the upstream side by Francis Brady, then the engineer for the South Eastern Railway. To do this, he widened Brunei's brick piers and added a further row of cast-iron piers, but the footway on that side was not replaced. In 1979 all the iron was replaced with steel in a major rebuilding scheme.

From the first, the bridge was considered to be an eyesore, even though Monet painted it many times and managed to make it look excitingly modern, albeit through a thick London fog.After the death of EdwardVII in 1910, one of the many proposals for a suitable memorial to him was for a new road bridge at Charing Cross to replace the railway bridge, with Charing Cross station being resited on the south bank of the Thames. In 1916, and again in 1917, the railway company applied to Parliament for permission to strengthen the bridge to take the new, heavier trains, but the option was not taken up because of the introduction of electrification. This was a great relief for the many supporters of a new bridge, who included the architects Sir Aston Webb and Herbert Baker. However, the discussions and negotiations for the road bridge, which involved Parliament and the London County Council as well as a number of organisations, such as the Royal Institute of British Architects and the London Society, were to drag on for many years.


Hungerford bridge (part three)

Hungerford Bridge in the twenty-first century, with the pair of Golden Jubilee Bridges attached to it.



Many grand proposals were put forward, including one for a bridge that would double as a war memorial, with a 235-foot Tower ofVictory on the site of Charing Cross station.There was even a design for a bridge with houses and shops down both sides, rather like old London Bridge, which would have been a useful source of revenue. Although many famous architects spoke out in favour of a new bridge, there were also those who defended the railway bridge, reminding people of the convenience of being able to arrive in the heart of London, rather than ending one's train journey at Waterloo and having to makes one's own way across the river. In 1924 George Bernard Shaw entered the fray with a letter to The Times. Of the railway bridge he admitted that 'its appearance has never cost me a tear or a sleepless night', yet pointed out, with his usual dry humour, that 'the necessity for another first-rate bridge at Charing Cross is so obvious that anyone who does not see it must be dismissed as in a condition of hypnotic obsession with the existing Hungerford footbridge and its attached railway'.

By the time the Royal Commission on Cross-River Traffic in London considered the problem in 1926, as part of a much wider look at London's bridges, the future of an ailing Waterloo Bridge had been added to the equation. If a road bridge were to be built at Charing Cross, this would take pressure off Rennie's Waterloo Bridge and allow it to berepaired.

Various options were considered, and the Commision's report recommended that a steel double-decker road and rail bridge be built to replace the Hungerford Bridge. This would mean moving Charing Cross station to a site slightly to the east but also allow Waterloo Bridge to be widened, rather than demolished.
The Government asked for the proposal to be looked at by a committee of engineers, who rejected it and offered a cheaper alternative plan, recommending Charing Cross station be moved to the south bank of the Thames, a suggestion first put forward nearly twenty years earlier. During the next few years the Government held negotiations with the London County Council and the railway company, and a number of new schemes, or modifications of old ones, were put forward, all of which were the subject of heated debate among professional bodies such as the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Town Planning Institute. The government claimed that the scheme was of national importance, and that the work would create new jobs at a time of high unemployment, but the main problems related to the siting of the approaches and the new station, as well as the potential traffic problems. In 1930 the LLC presented a Bill to Parliament, which received a second reading, but at the committee stage the LCC's plan was rejected, though the committee still believed the construction of the bridge to be an important improvement.

The LCC revised the scheme again and were planning to promote a new Bill in Parliament, but the Transport Minister, Herbert Morrison, announced that the Government was unable to provide money from the Road Fund to cover the promised 75 percent of the cost of building the new bridge and restoring Waterloo Bridge. The grandiose Charing Cross Bridge scheme was finally dead and, although several attempts were made to resurrect the scheme in the next few years, even after the Second World War, it was never to be. Despite so much agreement on the nature of the problem, the many interested parties were finally unable to find a solution. The fate of Waterloo Bridge was also sealed by the decision, but that is another story, told in the next chapter.




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