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Vauxhall bridge (part two)Takings were also high on days when Vauxhall Gardens put on their popular balloon ascents, as crowds thronged the neighbouring streets, as well as the bridge itself, to witness the fearless 'aeronauts' (as The Times called them) taking to the air. (In the 1990s a tethered balloon operated from Spring Gardens, on the site of Vauxhall Gardens, offering panoramic views over London, but it closed in 2001, unable to compete with the London Eye.) Vauxhall Bridge was a good viewpoint for a rather more bizarre kind of entertainment in September 1844, when spectators could witness Mr Barry, a clown from Astley's Theatre, sail from there to Westminster Bridge in a washtub pulled by a pair of geese.
Vauxhall bridge (part one)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.
Grosvenor railway bridgeThe Grosvenor Railway Bridge, which is also known as the Victoria Bridge, was the first railway bridge to be built over the Thames in central London. In July 1858 authorisation was given for a new railway line to be built from Battersea to a new terminus at Victoria Street, passing along the bed of the disused Grosvenor Canal (which gave its name to the bridge). The bridge was designed by John Fowler for the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway and consisted of five wrought-iron spans carrying two tracks of mixed gauge; this allowed the line to be used by the Great Western Railway, which was the only company to use the broad gauge. Work started on 9 June 1859 and the bridge opened exactly a year later.
Chelsea bridge (part two)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.
Chelsea bridge (part one)By the middle of the nineteenth century Battersea was becoming a busy new suburb and improved communications with Chelsea were becoming essential to its further development. In 1846 an Act was passed to build a new bridge on the site of an ancient ford, and the engineer chosen was Thomas Page, who later built the new bridge at Westminster. Page prepared several designs, including a seven-span stone bridge and a five-arched cast-iron one, but his design for a suspension bridge was the one chosen by the Metropolitan Improvement Commission. Unusually, the cost of construction was to be borne by the Government, and there were debates in Parliament as to whether the Government should own a toll-paying bridge.
Albert bridge (part three)By the early 1970s the bridge was again showing signs of weakness, and a 2-ton weight limit was imposed. Some blamed the tidal flow system for encouraging too much traffic to use the bridge. The Greater London Council claimed that the bridge needed urgent strengthening and they were given permission to add two central piers in the middle of the river, though they still insisted the bridge would need to be demolished within fifteen years.
Albert bridge (part two)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.
Albert bridge (part one)The elegant and delicate-looking Albert Bridge is one of London’s best-loved bridges, especially at night, when it is lit up like a Christmas tree, but, despite its popularity, it is extremely lucky to have survived into the twenty-first century, as it has been threatened with replacement on more than one occasion.
Sir Joseph Bazalgette (1819-1891)Born into a family of French origin, Bazalgette studied engineering with an Irish civil engineer, before setting up as a consulting engineer in Westminster. In 1849 he became assistant surveyor to the second Metropolitan Commission of Sewers, which had been working towards a system of intercepting sewers for London. He later became their engineer, and he kept the post when the commission was replaced by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1856 and remained their engineer until the Board was replaced by the London County Council in 1889.
Battersea bridge (part three)Like its predecessor, the new bridge has caused problems for boats navigating its much wider arches. It has been hit by passing barges on a number of occasions, often necessitating the bridge’s closure for several months while structural repairs were carried out. One such incident occurred in September 2005, when a barge crashed into the northern arch, causing serious structural damage. While the bridge was closed for repairs, severe congestion was caused as traffic was diverted across other bridges.