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Battersea bridge (part two)The bridge was bought in 1873 by its competitor, the Albert Bridge Company, and its architect, R. M. Ordish, strengthened the foundations with concrete.
In 1879 it was bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works, who freed it from toll later the same year. During the previous thirty years there had been many calls for the dilapidated old bridge to be demolished, and an inspection now showed that it was in such a poor state that it would have to be replaced. From 1883 it was reduced to being a footbridge, and in 1885, after a temporary bridge had been built alongside it, it was demolished to make way for a new iron bridge designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. In June 1887 Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, laid the foundation stone in the southern abutment.
Battersea bridge (part one)A horse ferry had operated here since at least the sixteenth century, but the last owner, John, Earl Spencer, decided that more money could be made from a bridge. In 1766 Spencer obtained an Act of Parliament for a stone bridge, but he could not persuade enough people to invest in it, so a wooden one was built instead. It was designed by the young Henry Holland, who was later to become a celebrated country-house architect, and built between 1771 and 1772 by John Phillips, whose uncle,Thomas, had built the bridge at Putney half a century earlier.
Battersea railway bridgeBattersea railway bridge is often referred to as the Cremorne Bridge, after the popular nineteenth-century pleasure gardens in nearby Chelsea. It is one of London s lesser-known crossings, because of its long distance from a major road, and it is little known to rail travellers too, because the rail services using it are infrequent. The bridge was built as part of the West London Extension Railway, a co-operative scheme created to connect rail routes south of the Thames with those on the north side. The West London Railway already ran from Willesden to Addison Road, Kensington, and the new line would continue south, over the river and on to Clapham. Authorisation was granted in 1859 and the bridge opened on 2 March 1863, the same day as Clapham Junction station.
Wandsworth bridge (part two)In 1880 the bridge was bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works and it was freed from tolls on 26 June of that year by the Prince and Princess of Wales, along with the bridges at Putney and Hammersmith.
The MBW had paid considerably less than the owners had demanded, owing to the poor state of the bridge. In 1891 the board imposed a weight limit of 5 tons, and from 1897 the bridge also carried a 10 mph speed limit. Because of the bridge’s narrowness and its inability to carry heavy traffic, it was soon little more than a footbridge, and by 1912 there were demands for it to be replaced.
Wandsworth bridge (part one)The story of the two Wandsworth Bridges is not a happy one. Both were delayed in the building, either by financial difficulties or bureaucratic wrangles, and they were both blighted by inadequate approach roads. Also, most people would agree that neither bridge was more than a functional addition to London’s riverscape.
Pytney railway bridgeWhen Putney Bridge railway station opened on the north bank of the river in April 1880, it was connected by a footway to a pier for pleasure steamers, but an Act of 1886 gave the London & South Western Railway Company permission to build a bridge across the river to take a new branch line to Wimbledon. It was designed by the LSWR engineer William Jacomb, who had worked as Brunel’s assistant on the Great Eastern. He died soon after work began in 1887 and construction continued under the supervision of W. R. Galbraith and О. M. Prouse. The first trains crossed it on 3 June 1889. The crossing consists of eight spans of wrought-iron lattice girders, including one land span on the south side and two on the north bank. The abutments are made of brick and Portland stone and the river piers consist of pairs of cast-iron columns. There is a pedestrian footbridge attached to the downstream side.

Pytney bridge (part four)The proposal was put forward again in 1921, but again nothing happened, but in 1929 the London County Council (LCC) finally agreed to widen the bridge by 30 feet, and the work was carried out from 1931 to 1933. The stonework on the downstream side was removed, the piers and roadway widened and the original stonework replaced, so that the bridge retained its appearance. The old stonework was cleaned to blend in with the new, but the join can clearly be seen on the underside of the arches. The original three-branched gas lamps were replaced and are still among the finest on any of the London bridges. They are of cast iron, and at the base of each one is a reminder that the bridge was built by the MBW, a roundel with the coats of arms of the areas under their jurisdiction. Underneath the two central lamps on both sides are parish boundary plaques, marked ‘PP/FP 1886’, also preserved in the widening. Because of the widening of the approaches, the two parish churches at each end of the bridge had to lose part of their graveyards, with the LCC having to pay for the reburial of the bodies removed. The widened bridge was opened on 23 August 1933, with no ceremony. By contrast, in 1995, after the bridge was closed for six months for repairs, its reopening was celebrated with a street party and fireworks.
Pytney bridge (part three)In 1879 the bridge passed into the hands of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and the following year it was freed from toll in a ceremony performed by the Prince and Princess of Wales. The bridge, however, was not destined to last much longer. It had for many years been quite inadequate for both road and river traffic, and one letter to The Times in 1862 about what its writer called ‘that wooden zig-zag’ pointed out that he knew ‘a far more respectable structure erected by savages over a gully in the backwoods of Australia’! In 1863 a new bridge had been discussed in the House of Lords and, in 1880 the MBW decided it was time to take action.
Pytney bridge (part two)Work on the bridge, to be known as Fulham Bridge, began in March 1729, and it was opened to traffic on 29 November of the same year, although the Prince of Wales had already crossed it a week earlier. The bridge was 786 feet long and 23 feet wide, including a footpath 4 feet wide on the downstream side. It had twenty-six spans of varying widths, from 14 to 32 feet, the large central one being known as Walpole’s Lock in honour of the Prime Minister. The piers were protected by triangular structures, which also held refuges for pedestrians. To connect the two High Streets without crossing the river at an angle, which would have been expensive and dangerous, the bridge curved round in front of Putney church.

Pytney bridge (part one)There was probably a ferry from Putney to Fulham at least as early as the thirteenth century. As well as a cross-river service, there was also a long-distance ferry taking people into London, as Putney was an important stage on the way to the capital from the south-west. Crossing the river here by ferry could often be dangerous, especially in bad weather, and in 1633 the boat capsized while transporting some of Archbishop Laud’s staff across.The importance of the crossing is also shown by the fact that in November 1642, in the early days of the Civil War, the Earl of Essex built a ‘bridge of boats’ a little downriver of the present bridge to prevent the Royalist forces getting into London. Small vessels were used as piers to support the pontoons, and there were wooden forts at each end. The structure remained in place until 1648, by which time the King had withdrawn with his troops to Oxford.