Wandsworth Bridge

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Wandsworth Bridge
Wandsworth Bridge.JPG
Coordinates 51°27′54″N0°11′17″W / 51.46500°N 0.18806°W / 51.46500; -0.18806 Coordinates: 51°27′54″N0°11′17″W / 51.46500°N 0.18806°W / 51.46500; -0.18806
Carries A217 road
Crosses River Thames
Locale London, England
Preceded by Fulham Railway Bridge
Followed by Battersea Railway Bridge
Design Cantilever bridge
Material Steel
Total length 650 feet (200 m)
Width 60 feet (18 m)
No. of spans 3
Clearance below 39 feet (11.9 m) at lowest astronomical tide [1]
Designer Thomas Peirson Frank
Opened 26 September 1873 (first bridge)
25 September 1940 (second bridge)
Daily traffic 53,299 vehicles (2004) [2]

Wandsworth Bridge crosses the River Thames in west London. It carries the A217 road between the area of Battersea, near Wandsworth Town Station, in the London Borough of Wandsworth on the south of the river, and the areas of Sands End and Parsons Green, in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, on the north side.

River Thames river in southern England

The River Thames, known alternatively in parts as the Isis, is a river that flows through southern England including London. At 215 miles (346 km), it is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom, after the River Severn.

A217 road

The A217 is a road in Greater London and Surrey in the United Kingdom. It runs south, from Kings Road in Fulham, London, crosses the Thames at Wandsworth Bridge, then passes through Wandsworth, Tooting, Mitcham, Rosehill and Sutton Common in Sutton, then Cheam and, as a dual carriageway accordingly at times beset by illegal racing, the Belmont southern slope of Sutton. The road enters the North Downs part of Surrey in skirting past Banstead and through its late 19th century offspring villages particularly Burgh Heath and Kingswood, Surrey, crosses the M25 motorway at Junction 8, then after returning to single carriageways, passes through the castle town of Reigate and the substantial buffer zones of two rural villages and terminates at the main roads network forming Gatwick Airport's northern perimeter.

Battersea area of the London Borough of Wandsworth, England

Battersea is a district of south west London, England, within the London Borough of Wandsworth. It is located on the south bank of the River Thames, 2.9 miles (4.7 km) south west of Charing Cross.


The first bridge on the site was a toll bridge built by Julian Tolmé in 1873, in the expectation that the western terminus of the Hammersmith and City Railway would shortly be built on the north bank, leading to a sharp increase in the number of people wanting to cross the river at this point. The railway terminus was not built, and problems with drainage on the approach road made access to the bridge difficult for vehicles. Wandsworth Bridge was commercially unsuccessful, and in 1880 it was taken into public ownership and made toll-free. Tolmé's bridge was narrow and too weak to carry buses, and in 1926 a Royal Commission recommended its replacement.

Toll bridge

A toll bridge is a bridge where a monetary charge is required to pass over. Generally the private or public owner builder and maintainer of the bridge uses the toll to recoup their investment, in much the same way as a toll road.

Julian Horn Tolmé was a British civil engineer, and the builder of the first Wandsworth Bridge in 1873, which was a toll bridge.

In 1937 Tolmé's bridge was demolished. The present bridge, an unadorned steel cantilever bridge designed by Sir Thomas Peirson Frank, was opened in 1940. At the time of its opening it was painted in dull shades of blue as camouflage against air raids, a colour scheme it retains. Although Wandsworth Bridge is one of the busiest bridges in London, carrying over 50,000 vehicles daily, it has been described as "probably the least noteworthy bridge in London".

Cantilever bridge bridge built using cantilevers

A cantilever bridge is a bridge built using cantilevers, structures that project horizontally into space, supported on only one end. For small footbridges, the cantilevers may be simple beams; however, large cantilever bridges designed to handle road or rail traffic use trusses built from structural steel, or box girders built from prestressed concrete. The steel truss cantilever bridge was a major engineering breakthrough when first put into practice, as it can span distances of over 1,500 feet (460 m), and can be more easily constructed at difficult crossings by virtue of using little or no falsework.

Camouflage concealment through color or pattern

Camouflage is the use of any combination of materials, coloration, or illumination for concealment, either by making animals or objects hard to see (crypsis), or by disguising them as something else (mimesis). Examples include the leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier, and the leaf-mimic katydid's wings. A third approach, motion dazzle, confuses the observer with a conspicuous pattern, making the object visible but momentarily harder to locate. The majority of camouflage methods aim for crypsis, often through a general resemblance to the background, high contrast disruptive coloration, eliminating shadow, and countershading. In the open ocean, where there is no background, the principal methods of camouflage are transparency, silvering, and countershading, while the ability to produce light is among other things used for counter-illumination on the undersides of cephalopods such as squid. Some animals, such as chameleons and octopuses, are capable of actively changing their skin pattern and colours, whether for camouflage or for signalling. It is possible that some plants use camouflage to evade being eaten by herbivores.

Strategic bombing military attacks by air aimed at destroying a countrys ability to make war and will to fight

Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in total war with the goal of defeating the enemy by destroying its morale or its economic ability to produce and transport materiel to the theatres of military operations, or both. It is a systematically organized and executed attack from the air which can utilize strategic bombers, long- or medium-range missiles, or nuclear-armed fighter-bomber aircraft to attack targets deemed vital to the enemy's war-making capability.


Although opposite each other across the River Thames, Fulham on the north bank and Wandsworth on the south bank were historically isolated from each other; the nearest crossing points were at Putney Bridge to the west and Battersea Bridge to the east, both over a mile from Wandsworth. The fast flowing but narrow River Wandle at Wandsworth was well-situated for driving watermills, leading to the rapid spread of industry in the area during the 19th century. [3] Nearby Battersea Railway Bridge opened in 1863, [4] but as the local population grew and London's built-up area began to encroach during the 19th century, pressure from local residents and businesses for a road bridge to be built increased. [5]

Fulham area of southwest London, England

Fulham is an affluent area of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham in South West London, England, 3.7 miles (6.0 km) south-west of Charing Cross. It lies on the north bank of the River Thames, between Hammersmith and Kensington and Chelsea, facing Wandsworth, Putney and the Barn Elms part of Barnes.

Wandsworth district of south-west London, England

Wandsworth Town is a district of south London within the London Borough of Wandsworth. It is situated 4.6 miles (7.4 km) southwest of Charing Cross. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.

Putney Bridge grade II listed road bridge in London Borough of Wandsworth, United kingdom

Putney Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames in west London, linking Putney on the south side with Fulham to the north. The bridge has medieval parish churches beside its abutments: St. Mary's Church, Putney is built on the south and All Saints Church, Fulham on the north bank. This close proximity of two churches by a major river is rare, another example being at Goring-on-Thames and Streatley, villages hemmed in by the Chiltern Hills. Before the first bridge was built in 1729, a ferry had shuttled between the two banks.

In 1864, it was expected that the newly formed Hammersmith and City Railway would build its western terminus on the north bank of the river between Chelsea and Fulham. [5] In 1864, in anticipation of the new railway line generating high demand for a river crossing, an Act of Parliament was passed granting permission to the Wandsworth Bridge Company to build a bridge, to be financed by tolls, [5] with the proviso that the bridge would be at least 40 feet (12 m) wide and cross the river with no more than three spans. [6] Rowland Mason Ordish designed an Ordish–Lefeuvre Principle bridge to comply with the Act's specifications, of a similar design to his nearby Albert Bridge. [5] Wandsworth Bridge and Albert Bridge were authorised on the same day, the last private tollbridges authorised in London. [7]

Rowland Mason Ordish was an English engineer. He is most noted for his design of the Winter Garden, Dublin (1865), for his detailed work on the single-span roof of London's St Pancras railway station, undertaken with William Henry Barlow (1868) and the Albert Bridge, a crossing of the River Thames in London, completed in 1873.

Albert Bridge, London Road bridge over the River Thames in West London

Albert Bridge is a road bridge over the Tideway of the River Thames connecting Chelsea in Central London on the north, left bank to Battersea in South/South-West London. Designed and built by Rowland Mason Ordish in 1873 as an Ordish–Lefeuvre system modified cable-stayed bridge, it proved to be structurally unsound, so between 1884 and 1887 Sir Joseph Bazalgette incorporated some of the design elements of a suspension bridge. In 1973 the Greater London Council added two concrete piers, which transformed the central span into a simple beam bridge. As a result, today the bridge is an unusual hybrid of three different design styles. It is an English Heritage Grade II* listed building.

1873 bridge

The first Wandsworth Bridge First Wandsworth Bridge.jpg
The first Wandsworth Bridge

The company was unable to finance the building of Ordish's design, [5] and in 1870 a new Act of Parliament was passed giving the company permission to build a bridge 30 feet (9.1 m) wide, crossing the river with five spans. [6] Ordish was asked to design a cheaper bridge to the new specifications but refused to change the design, so Julian Tolmé was appointed designer in his place. [5] Tolmé designed a starkly functional lattice truss bridge of wrought iron. [5] It cost £40,000 (about £3.3 million in 2018) to build, [6] [8] and consisted of five identical spans, supported by four pairs of concrete-filled iron piers; [9] each of the cylindrical piers was sunk 14 feet (4.3 m) into the riverbed. [6] The bridge was due to open in early 1873, but the workmen building it went on strike, and a third Act of Parliament was necessary to give the company time to resolve the dispute and complete the project. [6]

Lattice truss bridge

A lattice bridge is a form of truss bridge that uses a large number of small and closely spaced diagonal elements that form a lattice. Bridges of this type were patented in the 19th century by architect Ithiel Town, and are sometimes called Town lattice trusses.

Wrought iron iron alloy with a very low carbon content

Wrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon content in contrast to cast iron. It is a semi-fused mass of iron with fibrous slag inclusions, which gives it a "grain" resembling wood that is visible when it is etched or bent to the point of failure. Wrought iron is tough, malleable, ductile, corrosion-resistant and easily welded. Before the development of effective methods of steelmaking and the availability of large quantities of steel, wrought iron was the most common form of malleable iron. It was given the name wrought because it was hammered, rolled or otherwise worked while hot enough to expel molten slag. The modern functional equivalent of wrought iron is mild or low carbon steel. Neither wrought iron nor mild steel contain enough carbon to be hardenable by heating and quenching.

Pier (architecture) architectural upright support for a structure or superstructure

A pier, in architecture, is an upright support for a structure or superstructure such as an arch or bridge. Sections of structural walls between openings (bays) can function as piers.

Wandsworth Bridge was formally opened in a small ceremony on 26 September 1873, and a celebratory buffet was provided at the nearby Spread Eagle pub. [10] [11] A utilitarian structure made of mismatched materials purchased for cheapness, the new bridge elicited unenthusiastic responses; [10] the Illustrated London News remarked at the time of its opening that "No attempt has been made to produce architectural effect, the structure being substantial rather than ornamental". [12] A 12 d toll was charged on pedestrians, [13] and carts were charged 6d. [14]

In 1867 the formerly independent Hammersmith and City Railway was absorbed by the Metropolitan Railway and the Great Western Railway, and was operated from then on by Metropolitan Railway trains. The plan for a terminus in Fulham was abandoned, and the line instead turned west at Hammersmith to run over London and South Western Railway tracks to Richmond. [15] Although Wandsworth Town railway station, near the southern end of the bridge, had provided direct connections to central London since 1846, [16] the lack of rail connections opening on the north bank meant the area on the Fulham side remained undeveloped, and bridge usage was low. Tolmé's design was not sturdy enough to carry heavy vehicles, [9] and drainage problems on the approach road to the north discouraged vehicles from using Wandsworth Bridge. [14]

Public ownership

The abolition of bridge tolls, 1880. Clockwise from top, the images show: the address being read at the opening of Wandsworth Bridge; a race to be the first across Putney Bridge; the toll gates from Putney Bridge being thrown into the river; the Prince and Princess of Wales leaving Hammersmith Bridge; the bridge-keeper's daughter with the Princess of Wales at Putney Bridge. Wandsworth, Putney and Hammersmith bridge opening.jpg
The abolition of bridge tolls, 1880. Clockwise from top, the images show: the address being read at the opening of Wandsworth Bridge; a race to be the first across Putney Bridge; the toll gates from Putney Bridge being thrown into the river; the Prince and Princess of Wales leaving Hammersmith Bridge; the bridge-keeper's daughter with the Princess of Wales at Putney Bridge.

Wandsworth Bridge never raised enough toll revenue to cover the costs of repairs and maintenance. In 1877 the Metropolis Toll Bridges Act was passed, and in 1880 Wandsworth Bridge, along with other London bridges, was taken into the public ownership of the Metropolitan Board of Works. [9] Despite having run at a loss throughout its lifetime, the Board of Works paid £53,313 (about £4.6 million in 2018) for the bridge, [8] [13] a substantial premium on its £40,000 construction cost. On 26 June 1880 Edward, Prince of Wales, and Alexandra, Princess of Wales, presided over a ceremony abolishing tolls over the three bridges. [9]

By the time it was taken into public ownership, the bridge was in very poor condition. In 1891 a weight limit of 5 tons was introduced, and in 1897 a 10 mph (16 km/h) speed limit was imposed. With its narrowness and weight restrictions, by this point it was effectively a footbridge. [9] As narrowness and weight restrictions meant that it was unable to carry buses, [17] in 1926 a Royal Commission recommended its replacement and the London County Council agreed to finance a new bridge on the site. In 1928 it was decided instead to give priority to widening the much busier Putney Bridge, and the replacement of Wandsworth Bridge was delayed. [18]

1940 bridge

In 1935, the Ministry of Transport agreed to finance 60 percent of the projected £503,000 (about £32 million in 2018) cost of a replacement bridge, [8] [18] and the London County Council approved a new design, by Sir Thomas Peirson Frank, for a three-span steel cantilever bridge 60 feet (18 m) in width, allowing two lanes of traffic in each direction, and designed to allow widening to 80 feet (24 m) if necessary. [9] [19] The design featured distinctive low curves, intended to reflect the low riverbanks in the area. [20] The design was presented to the Royal Fine Art Commission for approval, with a covering note stating that "in the design of the bridge a severe simplicity of treatment has been carried out, expressed in a technique essentially related to the material proposed for its construction". Although the Commission expressed concern that the bridge might be too narrow, the design was approved. [21] The work was put out for tender, with a stipulation that all materials used in the construction of the new bridge should be of British origin or manufacture. [21]

The contract for the new bridge was awarded to Messrs Holloway Brothers (London), and work began in 1937. [21] A temporary footbridge that had been used during the redevelopment of Chelsea Bridge between 1935 and 1937 was re-erected alongside Wandsworth Bridge, and the existing bridge demolished. The new bridge was expected to be complete in 1939; however, a shortage of steel in the buildup to the Second World War delayed its opening until 25 September 1940. [20] The steel panels cladding the bridge were painted in varying shades of blue to camouflage it from German and Italian air raids, a colour scheme it retains today. [17] Although it is one of London's busiest bridges, carrying over 50,000 vehicles per day, [2] its drab colour scheme and minimalist design have led to it being described as "probably the least noteworthy bridge in London". [22]

Later developments

The current Wandsworth Bridge WandsworthBridge.jpg
The current Wandsworth Bridge

Historically, the southern approach roads had been in poor condition and confusing to use. In 1969 the Greater London Council built the A214 road, a three-lane dual carriageway linking the southern end of Wandsworth Bridge to Tooting. [20] At the immediate southern end of the bridge is a large roundabout adjacent to Wandsworth Town railway station, where Bridgend Road (A217), York Road (A3205), Swandon Way (A217) and Trinity Road (A214) meet. The roundabout is a noted example of 1960s modernist design, [23] and served as the setting for parts of A Clockwork Orange in 1971. [20] [23] In 2007 approval was granted for a series of 40-foot (12 m) glass cone-shaped "flames" designed by architect Steven Lenczner, which would change colour with the tides, to be added to the bridge deck. [22] The cost, estimated at £800,000, would be raised by private sponsorship. The "flames" were to be raised above the sightlines of drivers to avoid causing a distraction. [24] [lower-alpha 1]

Wandsworth Bridge now marks the boundary above which a lower speed limit on the Thames is enforced. [26] A 12 knots (22 km/h) speed limit is now in force downstream from Wandsworth to Margaretness but because of the number of rowers using the upper reaches of the river, all of the tidal Thames upstream of Wandsworth Bridge is subject to a strictly enforced speed limit of 8 knots (15 km/h). [26] [27]

See also

Notes and references


  1. As of December 2015 the "flames" are yet to be built, and Steven Lenczner's firm is still "seeking a commercial sponsor for this project". [25]

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  3. Cookson 2006 , p. 111
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  10. 1 2 Roberts 2005 , p. 139
  11. "Metroplitan News". Illustrated London News (1779). 4 October 1873. p. 307. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  12. Illustrated London News, 26 September 1873, quoted Matthews 2008 , p. 61.
  13. 1 2 "The Freeing of the Bridges". The Times. 28 June 1880. p. 12.
  14. 1 2 Pay, Lloyd & Waldegrave 2009 , p. 83
  15. Demuth 2003 , p. 6
  16. Hornby 2000 , p. 84
  17. 1 2 Roberts 2005 , p. 140
  18. 1 2 Cookson 2006 , p. 113
  19. Davenport 2006 , p. 75
  20. 1 2 3 4 Matthews 2008 , p. 62
  21. 1 2 3 Cookson 2006 , p. 114
  22. 1 2 Westbrook, Andrew (2 July 2007), "Bright idea to make a landmark of Wandsworth Bridge", Wimbledon Guardian, London, retrieved 30 April 2009
  23. 1 2 "Fast Forward: The loafer's guide to popular culture", The Observer, London, 13 February 2000, retrieved 30 April 2009
  24. Barney, Katherine (2007-06-26), "Wandsworth Bridge set to go up in 'flames'", Evening Standard, London, retrieved 30 April 2009
  25. Lenczner, Stephen. "Wandsworth Bridge". London: Steven Lenczner Architects. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  26. 1 2 Roberts 2005 , p. 143
  27. Port of London Thames Byelaws 2012 Archived 5 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine .