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‘Battersea Bridge, a wretched impediment of wood, has about eighty years of existence to answer for as an obstacle in the way of our river navigation..’, says Mr Bradshaw. The bridge, also known as Chelsea Bridge, nevertheless lasted from 1771-1885.
The river bends sharply at this point and since at least the 15C a ferry operated between the north bank (Chelsea) and the south bank (Battersea). John, Earl Spencer, (probably the 1st Earl) acquired the rights to operate this ferry and decided to build a bridge, no doubt believing that this would be more lucrative. A stone bridge was intended but not enough money was raised and it was instead designed in wood by Henry Holland, opening in 1771. The bridge was dangerous and unpopular but was used for another century, and was famously painted by Whistler.
Downriver the Albert Bridge opened in 1873 and the company was compelled by Parliament to buy Battersea Bridge at the same time. In 1877 the Metropolis Toll Bridges Act allowed the Metropolitan Board of Works to buy all the bridges between Hammersmith and Waterloo and lift the tolls. In 1879 the Board bought Battersea and Albert Bridges. At this point Sir Joseph Bazalgette inspected the Bridges and found that Battersea Bridge could not be safely repaired. By 1883 the bridge was in such a poor condition it was restricted to pedestrians, and in 1885 it was demolished. (Excellent post here on Whistler and The Thames, which includes the photograph below.
Battersea Bridge no.2 was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and built in 1887-90. It is a five-span arch bridge built on granite piers. This was the first bridge to operate trams in London.
In August I took a boat trip upriver, from Westminster to Hampton Court on a gloriously hot day, passing underneath Battersea Bridge.
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