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Westminster bridge (part six)As early as 1872 there were proposals to run horse-drawn trams over Westminster Bridge and along the new Embankment, though there was much opposition to the scheme, which was seen by some as being an underhand way of getting trams into the West End, whose richer inhabitants, who had their own carriages, considered the working-class trams to be a nuisance. Several attempts to get Parliamentary approval for the plan were made by the London Tramways Company and the London County Council, which took over responsibility for most of the tram network in 1899. Opposition also came from the City of Westminster and various omnibus companies, who were concerned about the competition, and there were also concerns about the tram service causing congestion on the bridge and its approaches. Approval was finally granted in 1906, allowing a circular route, which included Blackfriars Bridge, and was linked to the northern tram network via the Kingsway subway. The first part of the route, across Westminster Bridge and along the Embankment to a terminus on the north side of Blackfriars Bridge, opened in December 1906.
Westminster bridge (part five)In 1846 a Select Committee recommended that the bridge be replaced, but discussions continued for years about what type of bridge it should be and whether the new bridge should be on the same site or further downstream. In the meantime the bridge continued to be patched up, and it soon became a laughing stock, an editorial in The Times referring to it as 'a ruin one century old; too old to be safe, too young to be picturesque, and threatening any day to fall into the bed of the river'. There were also many complaints from those living and working in Lambeth, as the bridge was regularly closed to traffic while repairs were carried out, which forced them to take a detour to get to work, and it also affected trade in the shops of Westminster Bridge Road.
Westminster bridge (part four)The finished bridge was considered to be a triumph and it attracted many artists to paint it, including Samuel Scott and William Marlow. But the most famous images of old Westminster Bridge were painted by Canaletto, who first arrived in London in 1746, probably attracted by the favourable early reports about the bridge. Because of the War of the Austrian Succession, English people were unable to travel in Europe, so the Venetian artist decided to come to the home of his greatest patrons, several of whom were among the bridge commissioners. Soon after his arrival he painted the first of many views of the new bridge, making the London river scene look very much like the Grand Canal in Venice. At this time the bridge was still incomplete, and Canaletto's bridge varies in several aspects from the finished structure.
Westminster bridge (part three)In early 1747 the scientist William Watson spent a number of weeks using the bridge for one of his experiments to measure the speed of electricity. He stretched a wire from a Leyden jar across the bridge, with men at each end holding the wire and touching the water, so the current could travel across the bridge and back through the Thames.

Westminster bridge (part two)Various designs for a stone bridge had been submitted, but the commissioners favoured the cheaper option of a timber bridge. In 1738 a contract for building the stone piers only was given to the young Swiss engineer Charles Labelye, thus leaving open the option of whether the superstructure was to be of stone or wood. Instead of using the traditional method of driving wooden piles into the riverbed, Labelye proposed using prefabricated boat-shaped caissons to support the piers. As we shall see, this was to cause a number of serious problems later on. The piles needed to protect the work were driven into the clay by a special machine invented by a Swiss watchmaker called James Valoue. Instead of using manpower, it used three horses, which walked round a windlass to lift a heavy weight, which was then released on to the pile. This saved an enormous amount of time, and by the end of October the caissons were in place and work could start on building the first two piers.
Westminster bridge (part one)Today it seems extraordinary that London had to wait until the middle of the eighteenth century for a second bridge over the Thames, even though the city had by then spread westwards well beyond its old medieval boundaries. Indeed, until Putney Bridge was opened in 1729 there was no bridge between London Bridge and Kingston. This was due to the combination of the vested interests of the City, which received the lucrative toll revenue from London Bridge, and the watermen, who had a monopoly on boat services across as well as up and down the Thames. The Archbishop of Canterbury added his own protest, as he owned the rights to the Lambeth horse ferry, which brought in considerable income over the years.
Lambeth bridge (part three)In 1927 work began on improving the approaches on both sides of the river, including the removal of some old wharves on the Westminster shore.The southern approach was to be about 80 feet further upstream, so that the new bridge did not pass too close to Lambeth Palace.
Lambeth bridge (part two)The bridge opened on 10 November 1862, the birthday of the Prince of Wales, and tor the first week it was toll-free. The bridge's construction had cost less than £50,000, so it was expected to be a financial success, but it was not universally admired. Dickens called it 'on the whole, the ugliest ever built', and The Times admitted that 'it was not a handsome structure'. Unfortunately there were also rumours going around that the bridge was unsafe and many people refused to use it.The toll revenue was therefore well below expectations, and much of it came from pedestrians.The Metropolitan Board of Works bought the bridge in 1879 for £36,000, though the bridge company had demanded £100,000. On 24 May 1879 it was freed from tolls by the Prince and Princess of Wales, along with four other bridges, in a popular act which saw the streets thronged with spectators.
Lambeth bridge (part one)Lambeth bridge was built on the site of a horse ferry owned by the Archbishops of Canterbury, whose London home was Lambeth Palace, situated on the banks of the Thames almost opposite the Palace of Westminster. The ferry had operated under licence since at least the early sixteenth century and was one of the few places on the river where one could cross with a coach and horses. It was not always a safe crossing, and Archbishop Laud lost most of his possessions when the ferry sank in 1633 while he was moving into the palace. Both James I and Oliver Cromwell ended up in the Thames when the ferry and their coaches sank.
Vauxhall bridge (part three)Alfred Drury was selected as the principal sculptor, to be assisted by George Frampton and Frederick Pomeroy, but Frampton dropped out through pressures of work and the sculpture was carried out jointly by Drury and Pomeroy. Each of the monumental statues weighs about 2 tons, and they were installed in the autumn of 1907. Looking downstream are Drury's representations of Science (holding a globe), the Fine Arts, Local Government and Education. On the upstream side are Pomeroy's figures of Pottery, Engineering (holding a steam engine), Architecture (with a model of St Paul's Cathedral) and Agriculture. Vauxhall Bridge is still the only one of London's Thames bridges to be decorated with sculpture.