Sword from the armoury of Tipu Sultan (1750-99)


Colossal marble foot

Sugar-crusted cherry cake

North Greenwich

Guy's Hospital Chapel

Muse casket from the Esquiline treasure

The Life Guards


Barons Court

The clipper ships and great tea races

William Hogarth (1697-1764), Gin Lane

Head from a statue of the Buddha

Southwark Bridge (part two)

Tufnell Park

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Hammersmith bridge (part five)Unlikely as it may seem, Hammersmith Bridge has been a regular target for terrorists of the Irish Republican Army. The first attempt was on 29 March 1939, when they planted two bombs on the bridge. Maurice Childs was walking over the bridge at one o’clock in the morning when he noticed a car stop in the middle of the bridge, then drive away. He noticed a suitcase lying on the suspension chains, which he threw into the river, where it exploded, causing only superficial damage to the bridge. A second bomb, which went off a few seconds later on the other side of the bridge, damaged the balustrade and some suspension rods and broke windows in nearby houses. Later that morning two Irishmen were arrested on Putney Bridge; they were tried, found guilty and sentenced to a long stretch in prison. The bridge was closed while repairs were carried out, including the installation of a massive brace on the upstream side, which can still be seen today. Childs was awarded the MBE for his bravery. In 1996 the IRA planted two more bombs on the south side of the bridge but, although the detonators went off, the devices failed to explode. A third attempt by the IRA to blow up the bridge in 2000 also failed, but the bridge was closed for five months for repairs.
Hammersmith bridge (part four)The Metropolitan Board of Works made sure no one was in any doubt about who was responsible for the bridge. Above each of the tower arches are the date 1887 and the monogram of the MBW, and the monogram is repeated on the capitals of the towers. On the anchorages at each end of the bridge are the royal coat of arms surrounded by the arms of the authorities within the MBW area. Moving clockwise from the City of London crest on the left are the County of Kent (horse), Guildford representing Surrey (castle), the City of Westminster (portcullis), Colchester representing Essex (cross and three crowns), and Middlesex (three swords).
Hammersmith bridge (part three)In 1845 the University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge was first rowed from Putney to Mortlake, and Hammersmith Bridge became a very popular vantage point, so much so that there were soon serious concerns about the strain this put on the bridge. Up to twelve thousand people would crowd on to the bridge, clambering all over the suspension chains, as well as the roadway, to get a good view! A famous painting from 1862 by Walter Greaves, now in Tate Britain, illustrates the mayhem on the bridge on Boat Race Day. From 1882 the bridge was completely closed during the race, and today the bridge is closed to pedestrians on the day.

Hammersmith bridge (part two)The bridge was officially opened on 8 October 1827, but without the presence of the Dukes of Clarence and Sussex, who had turned down the invitation on hearing that a peer of the realm had already been allowed to cross the bridge. Many other important people, including the Duke of Wellington, were also unable to attend, which was a great disappointment to the organisers. However, there was a celebration of sorts, complete with fireworks, and the bridge was declared open when Lord Ellenborough drove over it.
Hammersmith bridge (part one)Like so many of London’s bridges, that at Hammersmith was built on the site of an old ferry. In his Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain 1124—27 Daniel Defoe said that there was already talk about a bridge being erected here, but nothing came of the idea until 1817, when Ralph Dodd, a minor engineer who had worked with John Rennie, promoted a parliamentary bill to build one on the site.There was the usual opposition from the owners of Putney Bridge, who feared the competition, but the plans collapsed because Henry Hugh Hoare, the banker, refused to sell any of his land at Barn Elms for the approach roads. In 1824, when a new petition was made, Hoare agreed a price and, despite opposition from the owners of the toll bridges at Kew and Putney, the bridge was authorised in an Act of Parliament. The Duke of Sussex, the King’s brother, laid the foundation stone on 7 May 1825.
Barnes Railway bridgeBarnes was just a small village until the nineteenth century, when great changes were to turn it into a London suburb. First came the opening in 1827 of Hammersmith Bridge, whose southern approach roads run through the area, then the arrival of the railways, with Barnes station opening in 1846.
In 1847 an Act was passed allowing the London & Southwestern Railway to build a new line from Richmond to Datchet (only a short distance from its real goal, Windsor), as well as a loop line from Barnes to join the Datchet line at Hounslow. Barnes Railway Bridge was built to take the loop line across the Thames.
Cheswick bridgeThe earliest record of a ferry at Chiswick is from the seventeenth century, though there was probably one in use earlier than this, and it continued to operate until the 1930s, when the bridge was built.
Chiswick Bridge, along with Twickenham Bridge, was built as part of the Great Chertsey Road scheme, which created a major new route from Hammersmith to Chertsey, bypassing, among other places, Kingston and Richmond. The project had first been proposed in 1909, but nothing happened until 1927, after the scheme had been endorsed by the Royal Commission on Cross-River Traffic. The Ministry of Transport decided it was time something was done and offered to pay 75 per cent of the cost, with the Middlesex and Surrey county councils providing the rest of the funding. A Bill went before Parliament in 1927, and the following year it received the Royal Assent, with construction beginning in 1930.
Kew Railway BridgeIn 1864 the London & Southwestern Railway Company was given permission to extend its line from South Acton to Richmond and this bridge at Strand-on-the-Green was built to carry it, opening on 1 January 1869.The bridge was designed by W. R. Galbraith, and it was built by Brassey & Ogilvie. (Galbraith was later to design the Waterloo & City Line, now part of the Underground, which opened in 1898.) It is a fairly standard lattice-girder bridge, with five 115-foot spans, but its decoration is highly unusual. It has cylindrical cast-iron piers, each one decorated with four cast-iron columns with ornamental capitals and, at track level, there is a sort of tabernacle. The abutments are of brick with some fine sculpted stonework, and they each contain a pedestrian tunnel. The bridge was much criticised at the time, and it does loom rather large over the charming riverside enclave of Strand-on-the Green, but its decorative features make it one of the most attractive railway bridges in London.
Kew bridge (part two)The bridge was sold to the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) in 1873, when the tolls were finally dropped. The ceremony was attended by the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of the City, officials from the MBW and many local dignitaries, and the carriages processed to the bridge from Gunnersbury station along streets lined with large crowds. The bridge was decorated with banners and there were triumphal arches at each end. The Lord Mayor declared the bridge open by unlocking the tollgate, which was then carried around Brentford and Kew in procession on a brewer's dray. The day closed with a firework display.
Kew bridge (part one)A ferry is known to have operated from Brentford to Kew for many centuries, and it is even possible that its origin goes back to the Roman period. In 1659 a second ferry went into service near the site of the present Kew Bridge. It was run by Henry Tunstall and his son Robert and was originally set up to service the family's limekiln business. However, they soon went into competition with the Kew Ferry by accepting passengers, and before long the Tunstall family was operating both ferries.