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The following farcical situation occurred in 2003 near Wandsworth Bridge on one of the expensive new developments. A group of art students sketching the river from the foot path in front of a new block were asked to move on because a resident complained. It's true that art students can be a little loud and obvious but these were on a public path facing away from the posh flats. Nonetheless a resident felt it his right to ask for them (via an embarrassed concierge) to move on because they were somehow spoiling the view he had expensively paid for.
Geoffrey Thomas writing in Thames Crossings kindly says that it 'adds variety to London's bridges' but only in the sense that a box of chocolates is not complete without those orange fondue confections that no one likes to eat.
Wandsworth Bridge Photos copyright Andrew Buurman
The current Wandsworth Bridge, completed in 1940 by Sir T Peirson Frank, replaces an earlier iron lattice bridge of 1873 built by J H Tolme. Julian Tolme's bridge had four iron based piers backed up by brick abutments. These supported iron girders on which was laid a ten metre wide wooden deck. It was opened in 1873 by Colonel Hogg. It is very hard to find anyone who has a good word for it, terms such as fright and eyesore being most heavily used as the bridge was ungainly and the mixture of materials did not compliment each other.
Its appearance was not the only problem, as the company that built the bridge had agreed to compensate the owners of nearby bridges for projected loss of trade, yet failed to raise much money themselves. This was because the local council on the north side (Fulham) did not adequately maintain (or even drain) the roads that led to the bridge. The result of this was to severely reduce the vehicle traffic across the bridge which was the largest income generator because carts paid six pence to cross, whereas pedestrians only half a penny. Even worse for the investors, who hoped for compensation when the Metropolitan Board of Works purchased the bridge in 1878, the amount of recompense was based on the poor toll revenues received.
The replacement cantilevered bridge balanced on two piers is 197 metres long and 18 across after widening in the 1970s. Local residents hoping for a beautiful new crossing must have been very disappointed. The concrete piers have been roughly cladded with granite and the same stonework is used on the corner pylons but there are no other concessions to glamour. The bridge is more streamlined that its predecessor but still a solid utilitarian crossing that would not look out of place crossing the Mersey near Warrington. It also has a vaguely military air about it which is perhaps appropriate as it was constructed in the build up to World War II when steel was at a premium and the decision to paint it dull greyish blues made sense in terms of camouflage from the Luftwaffe.