River Thames, Fulham to Putney, London, UK
Sir Joseph William Bazalgette
date 15th April 1882 - 29th May 1886, 1909, 1931 - 1934
era Victorian |
category Bridge |
ICE reference number HEW 2344
Putney Bridge is one of London's busiest Thames crossings and is near the starting point for the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race, the hotly contested rowing race held each spring. The present bridge is the second on the site and was designed by Sir Jospeph Bazalgette, engineer of London's famous sewer system.
The first Putney Bridge — Old Putney Bridge — opened to traffic in 1729 was only the second Thames bridge in London. It was constructed in timber and a toll was charged. On each bank at this point is a church. On the Fulham side, All Saints dates from 1154, and at the Putney end St Mary’s was originally a 13th century foundation. Both were rebuilt in Victorian times.
Bazalgette's masonry replacement bridge was constructed under an enabling Act of Parliament passed in 1881. Work began the following year. The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) placed a commemorative stone in the bridge's south west abutment on 12th July 1884 — and would perform the opening ceremony two years later.
The 13.4m wide 5.5m high bridge has five segmental granite arches. The stone was imported from Aberdeen and Cornwall. The river is some 213m wide where the bridge crosses and the largest (central) span is 42.7m. The plain solid parapets have cast iron lamp standards with three lights placed centrally above each arch and single lights at either end of the bridge.
The four piers have plain buttresses above cutwaters, with refuges at road level. They were built inside cofferdams, the timber piles of which were driven by steam-powered pile drivers invented by James Nasmyth, who first used the technique on Newcastle's High Level Bridge in 1849.
Putney Bridge is close to the site of an aqueduct owned by the Chelsea Waterworks Company. It was built in 1856 and carried water mains in an iron trough supported on eight piers each of four cylindrical iron piles. To continue the water supply when the aqueduct was demolished, the mains were incorporated into the new bridge's superstructure beneath the footway.
The bridge was widened in 1909 to accommodate a tramway and by 1926 it was the busiest London bridge west of Westminster. Further widening was deemed necessary, a project that meant digging up part of All Saints churchyard and moving 15 graves.
The second widening increased the bridge’s width to 22.6m, and mirrored the original construction with granite arches and concrete piers. The method used was to support the blocks of the new arches on steel girders, the ends of which rested on watertight iron sand boxes founded on timber piles driven into the river bed. The blocks were lowered 25mm by releasing sand gradually and evenly from the boxes, meshing them into contiguous arches in their final positions.
Putney Bridge became a Grade II listed structure on 7th April 1983.
Contractor: John Waddell
Contactor (widening 1931-4): Dorman Long & Co
Site agent for Dorman Long: Guy Anson Maunsell
"Crossing the River" by Brian Cookson, Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh, 2006
"The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis" by Stephen Halliday, The History Press, Stroud, 2009
"Widening Putney Bridge" in The Engineer, Vol.154, p.280
London, September 1932
"Obituary: Guy Anson Maunsell" in ICE Proceedings, Vol.22, Issue 3, pp.347-348, London, July 1962