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Albert Bridge
River Thames, Chelsea, London
associated engineer
Roland Mason Ordish
date  1870 - 3rd December 1873
era  Victorian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  TQ272776
ICE reference number  HEW 205
Perhaps the most unusual bridge across the Thames, since its form is unusual — it's a hybrid cable-stayed bridge. Its designer, Roland Mason Ordish, specialised in iron structures. His other work in London includes the domed roof of the Royal Albert Hall.
British engineers began to use iron cables to support bridges in the early 19th century. They experimented with a variety of forms. These included what are now called suspension bridges, where the load of the deck is carried by hangers suspended from the main catenary chains, and cable-stayed bridges, where the deck is suspended from inclined hangers. Albert Bridge represents a combination of both these systems.
Early on, it was realised that suspended bridges needed a method of structural bracing to provide rigidity against the movement created by vehicles, wind, etc. (the live load). In 1857, Ordish patented a system that used a combination of stays and catenary cables to provide the necessary rigidity.
As modified for Albert Bridge, his system features two main parabolic cables. These support the weight of the stays, a proportion of the dead and live loads (through hangers set at 6.1m intervals), together with the whole load of the central 12.2m section of the bridge. A series of inclined stays take the remainder of the load. Loads were calculated so that the design prevented any change in proportion between the load supported at the peak of the cables and that at each of the suspension points.
The bridge sits on cylindrical foundations, which support the highly decorated iron towers from which the cables hang. The main span measures 137.2m and the overall length of the bridge is 216.7m. The principal cables were originally parallel wire steel rope and the stays flat wrought iron bars.
The construction of the bridge was enabled by an Act of Parliament in 1864, though work did not commence until 1870. The bridge's owner, the Albert Bridge Company, also built the adjacent Battersea Bridge, and both were set up as toll bridges. Both were later purchased by the Metropolitan Board of Works. In 1884, while in the Board's care, Albert Bridge was strengthened by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. He replaced the the wire cables, which were already rusting, with steel link chains.
For most of its life, the bridge operated with a 5 ton load limit. By the late 1960s this had been reduced to a 2 ton limit. In 1972-73, extensive strengthening repairs were carried out by the Greater London Council. This work included the replacement of the bridge deck and the addition of additional river piers and a transverse girder, both of which now support the bridge at mid span. Despite this, the overall appearance of the bridge remains unaltered.
Ironwork: Andrew Handyside & Co
reference sources   CEH Lond
Location

Albert Bridge