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Chelsea Bridge Photo

 Bridge Incidents:

Amongst the heraldic designs on the bridge are the crest of Middlesex and other counties around London along with (on the south side) a series of doves holding olive branches. The latter is particularly appropriate as bikers now meet just under it peacefully every Friday evening and have done for decades. Things were not always so tranquil as on October 17, 1970 two loose alliances of hells angels (the Essex and Chelsea Nomads versus the Road Rats, Nightingales, Windsor Angels and Jokers), had a violent confrontation on the bridge. This resulted in the shooting and death of one of the Nomads and brought the feuding to an end, at least on Chelsea Bridge.

Chelsea Bridge Photo

Writing in the Lady's Realm in 1904 Vincent Bayes described Chelsea as being 'miasmic, sunless, foggy and pestilential'. Local artist Whistler was more direct, 'dank, dank, dank' was how he summarised it.

All photos of Chelsea Bridge copyright Paul Wright to see more of Paul's work go here


Chelsea Bridge

The first Chelsea (or Victoria, as it was once known) Suspension Bridge was completed in 1858 after seven years' work. The old bridge was an ornate gothic beauty in wrought iron and built so that people from the north shore could enjoy the new Battersea Park and set an example to the peasants to the south. That's overstating the case but both the bridge, one of only two paid for directly from public funds, and the park it towers over were part of a social engineering program to gentrify the badlands of this part of Battersea. The area was formerly host to ad hoc encampments, squatters, illegal racing and other sporting events. These centred around a pub known as the Red House which was described in a newspaper article as, 'a place out of hell that surpassed Sodom and Gomorrah in abomination'. The park and bridge were planned together as otherwise the bridge might just have provided a handy means for the roués of Chelsea to visit the vice dens of old Battersea. The charging of tolls (to defray construction costs) and the fact that it was only lit on nights that Queen Victoria slept in London meant that it wasn't used as heavily as initially predicted, although the bridge was always free to cross on Sundays and public holidays.

The current crossing is a 107 metre long (25 wide) self-anchoring steel suspension bridge was officially opened in 1937 by the Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, as the Canadians had supplied most of the timber used in the bridge's construction. It was built out from either shore with large central sections, with a combined span of 91 metres, ready to be put into place lying on barges in the Thames. When the shore sections were ready, the middle parts were towed upstream underneath the bridge on a high tide, then as the water receded allowed it to drop onto jacks that had been specially built to receive them. They were then hoisted into place and fixed to the rest of the bridge with the roadway suspended using thirty-seven galvanised steel wires. This plain, yet robust, design was overseen by London County Council architect G. Topham Forrest and the work completed by E. P. Wheeler.

Chelsea Bridge Photo

Reviews of Cross River Traffic here