diamond geezer

 Thursday, January 12, 2023

The town of Richmond boasts four Thames bridges along a half mile stretch of river. This is dead useful for those planning a jogging or dogwalking loop, and particularly convenient because there are no other bridges for over two miles in either direction. Even English Heritage are impressed to the extent of listing the lot of them.
"The succession of bridges here is most significant with the engineering feats of three consecutive centuries represented, the C20 by Twickenham Bridge of 1933 by Maxwell Ayrton, the C19 by Richmond Railway Bridge and the Footbridge of 1891, and the C18 by the culmination of the sequence and the oldest Greater London river crossing, Richmond Bridge of 1777, by James Paine and Kenton Couse."
Richmond Bridge (1777)

If you wanted to cross the Thames hereabouts before the 18th century you had to use the ferry or else face a long detour to the bridge at Kingston or the ford at Brentford. A fixed crossing eventually became a necessity and Parliament aproved the building of a stone bridge to be paid for exclusively by tolls. Plans to construct it at the foot of Water Lane were thwarted when the landowner on the Twickenham side, the Dowager Duchess of Newcastle, refused permission so it had to be built on the site of the ferry instead. A humpbacked span in Portland stone soon emerged, the central arch higher than the others to allow shipping to pass through.



For the original shareholders it was a nice little earner, and only when the last of them died in 1859 were crossing charges (immediately) lifted. The next big challenge came in the 1930s with an increase in motorised traffic. The authorities resisted demolition and total replacement, opting instead to widen the bridge by demolishing the upstream side and rebuilding it stone by stone alongside lengthened piers. This cunning solution remains sufficient today and means that Richmond Bridge is technically the oldest bridge across the Thames anywhere between Abingdon and the North Sea.

It still looks magnificent whether you're up on the main span or admiring it from the riverside, perhaps with a hot drink on the terrace at the Tide Tables cafe. I tried to return to the precise spot where I took my most-liked-ever Flickr photograph last month, but an artist was already in place sketching the bridge in charcoal which just goes to show what a good spot it was. Today's photo was therefore taken on the western bank from the foot of the crumbling slipway (warning, parked vehicles may be partially submerged). Additional peculiarities worth seeking out include the massive milestone at the Surrey end, the foot tunnel which carries the Thames Path underneath and the splendid Victorian lamps which are still gas lit. The oldest bridge and still the best.

Richmond Railway Bridge (1848)



This bridge was needed when the London and South Western Railway decided they wanted to extend their line from Richmond to Windsor, and as such is one of the oldest railway bridges across the Thames. It crosses the edge of the Old Deer Park on a brick viaduct then launches across the river via three truss arches to land on the Twickenham side. The original was made of cast iron, which worried engineers when a similar bridge in Norbury collapsed so this one was duly rebuilt using steel in 1908, though retaining many of the original elements. Plaques facing the towpath approaches clearly state the name of the rebuilder - 'the Horseley and Co Ld / London and Tipton'. It's not a bad-looking bridge but perhaps suffers here from proximity to superior spans. My hunch is that the mustardy yellow paintwork is not the original colour.

Twickenham Bridge (1933)

This sleek crossing was built in the 1930s to help relieve traffic pressure on Richmond Bridge and was inserted downstream as part of the construction of the Chertsey Arterial Road, today the A316. Initial plans were for it to feature four 70-foot-high towers, but when the Daily Telegraph got wind of this intrusive abomination it spearheaded a NIMBY campaign and the end result was a much lower span. Again we have three arches but this time they're made from reinforced concrete, 45000 tons of the stuff, completed with a ribbed finish. HRH Edward, Prince of Wales, performed the opening ceremony.



The bridge is embellished with splendid Art Deco features, most notably the bronze lamp standards on the parapets. Elsewhere bronze has been used liberally to create decorative railings that span the bridge and also spiral down the stairwells in each corner, beguiling passers-by on the towpath to climb up for a classier view. The bridge was one of the first to incorporate internal hinges enabling the structure to adjust to changes in temperature, and these are shielded behind gorgeous wing-shaped bronze cover plates at the foot of each arch.

Although I'd previously walked under it (and also up one stairwell) I'd never walked across it, not until I made a special effort yesterday, so that's now every public crossing of the Thames crossed off.

Richmond Lock and Footbridge (1894)

This massive intervention is a lock first and a footbridge second. It's the lowest lock on the Thames and was built to try to stabilise water levels which previously tended to be overly shallow hereabouts, especially at low tide. The barrage which now blocks the river incorporates three mechanical sluice gates which are only raised for two hours either side of high tide. Outside these times boats have to pass through a lock instead and pay £10 for the privilege, with monies collected by the Port of London Authority who own the entire structure. It's a very Victorian solution and one that helps keep pleasurecraft upriver from coming into contact with awkward tidal flow.



The lock's designers also incorporated a footbridge, indeed two parallel crossings a few metres apart, not just as a convenience but also to allow spectators to get a closer look. A one penny toll was payable, or double that if you planned to linger. These days the turnstiles have gone and the elaborate tollbooths are empty, plus only one of the footbridges remains accessible. But the upper walkway still impresses - scaffolding excepted - with its elaborate cast iron balustrade, globe lamps and pastel green colour scheme.

I like how it's also still an integral part of the local neighbourhood, crossed by residents lugging their shopping home oblivious to any swirling and gushing underneath. Out in East London we'd love to have just one bridge across the Thames, let alone four as good as this.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan24  Feb24  Mar24  Apr24  May24  Jun24
Jan23  Feb23  Mar23  Apr23  May23  Jun23  Jul23  Aug23  Sep23  Oct23  Nov23  Dec23
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22  Dec22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
broken tv
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
the greenwich wire
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
London's waymarked walks
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain
London's most...

read the archive
Jun24  May24
Apr24  Mar24  Feb24  Jan24
Dec23  Nov23  Oct23  Sep23
Aug23  Jul23  Jun23  May23
Apr23  Mar23  Feb23  Jan23
Dec22  Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2023 2022
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv