Westminster Bridge – Thames Tour, Bradshaw’s Handbook, no.113

After Hungerford Bridge Mr Bradshaw directs us to ‘..[pass] the mansions in Whitehall Gardens, among which that of the late Sir Robert Peel is prominently distinguishable, [and] to next pass under the arches of Westminster Bridge..’

Westminster Bridge & the Houses of Parliament
Westminster Bridge & the Houses of Parliament

Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) lived at no.4 Whitehall Gardens and you can read about the house here. He was twice Prime Minister and as Home Secretary introduced the Metropolitan Police, the ‘Peelers’.

Sir Robert Peel's home in Whitehall Gardens (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol13/pt2/pp198-203)
Sir Robert Peel’s home in Whitehall Gardens (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol13/pt2/pp198-203)

The gardens along the Embankment, including Whitehall Gardens, were created from 1864 when the Embankment was built by Sir Joseph BazalgetteThe real purpose of the works was to create a new sewer for London, hidden below the gardens and the new road. Whitehall Gardens was laid out by George Vulliamy in 1875

Whitehall Gardens
Whitehall Gardens today
The Old Whitehall Steps down to the Thames, the Queen Mary Steps
The Old Whitehall Steps down to the Thames, the Queen Mary Steps, & the 16C retaining wall

A bridge at Westminster was first suggested in 1664 but opposed by the Corporation of London (who owned and took revenue from London Bridge) and the Watermen (who took a living from the Horseferry and from transporting people up and down the river). At this time the nearest bridge over the Thames was at Kingston. Then a wooden bridge was built at Putney in 1729 and the new bridge at Westminster was finally approved in 1736. London was expanding, particularly south of the river, and more easy, quick passage over the river was necessary. The Corporation responded and new bridges proliferated: Blackfriars (1769), Kew (1759), Battersea (1753) and Richmond (1777).

Westminster Bridge no.1 was designed by Labelye, a young Swiss engineer and money for the project was raised by selling Lottery tickets! Labelye, however, was inexperienced. Work started in 1739, but the stone bridge already needed repair in 1746 and was finally completed in 1750.

Westminster Bridge c.1750 (Wikimedia)
Westminster Bridge c.1750 (Wikimedia)
Westminster Bridge by Joseph Farrington, 1759 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Westminster_Bridge_by_Joseph_Farrington,_1789.JPG)
Westminster Bridge designed by Charles Labelye, 1759 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Westminster_Bridge_by_Joseph_Farrington,_1789.JPG)

By the mid-1800s the bridge was subsiding and Westminster Bridge no.2, designed by Thomas Pageopened in 1862. This is the foot and traffic bridge we use today, painted green like the benches in the House of Commons.

Westminster Bridge
Westminster Bridge
The lights on Westminster Bridge
The lights on Westminster Bridge
Westminster Bridge
Westminster Bridge

I noticed this rather curious construction – could it be part of the original bridge of 1759? Look closely at the engraving at the top of this post, and the ‘turrets’.

Westminster Bridge

From this point Mr Bradshaw directs us to note the Coade Lionthe statue of Queen Boudicathe new Houses of Parliament, Lambeth Palace, and the new Penitentiary (which no longer exists on Millbank).

The Coade Lion from the old Red Lion Brewery on the South Bank
The Coade Lion from the old Red Lion Brewery on the South Bank
Queen Boudicca at Westminster Bridge
Queen Boudica at Westminster Bridge
The Houses of Parliament & Westminster Bridge from the Embankment
The Houses of Parliament & Westminster Bridge from the Embankment
The Gateway into Lambeth Palace
The Gateway into Lambeth Palace

You may be interested in
The Bridges of London
Westminster Bridge no.1
Vulliamy on the Embankment

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