At Chelsea Bridge the Thames was apparently so shallow that it could be forded, and some say that Caesar’s troops crossed here. When the first bridge was built workmen found Celtic and Roman remains, and the Battersea Shield, but I can’t find any further information about a ford, nor about dredging in current times, which would surely be necessary if the river is so shallow.
‘…Chelsea New Bridge, which forms so beautiful an ornament to this part of the river, connects Chelsea with Battersea Park…’, says Mr Bradshaw. Victoria Bridge (Chelsea Bridge no.1) was proposed in the 1840s – London south of the river was starting to expand and a link with the north, and the City, was needed. A new bridge also fitted into plans to transform the marshes around the Red House into Battersea Park. The bridge, however, was delayed by the construction of the Chelsea Embankment and only opened in 1857. It was a suspension bridge and a toll bridge (to recoup the building cost). The charge was unpopular and so the toll was soon lifted, on Sundays, to allow people to use Battersea Park freely – the Park was officially opened by Queen Victoria in 1858. Tolls were abolished altogether in 1879 when the bridge was acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works.
There were very soon concerns about the safety of Victoria Bridge and so the name was changed to Chelsea Bridge not to embarrass the Royal Family!
The bridge was very narrow and deteriorated over time. It was also increasingly unsuitable for motorised traffic and so finally demolished in 1934. The rebuilt bridge reopened in 1937. Chelsea Bridge no.2 is a self-anchored suspension bridge and built entirely of materials sourced from the British Empire.
The ornamental lampposts on Chelsea Bridge are all surmounted with a galleon (why?) and the outwards faces show the LCC crown, St George’s Cross, and lines representing the sea, and on the inward facing side are the coats of arms of Battersea, Chelsea, and Westminster.