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Hungerford Suspension Bridge, site of
Hungerford Rail Bridge, River Thames, London, UK
Hungerford Suspension Bridge, site of
associated engineer
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
date  1841 - 1st May 1845
UK era  Victorian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  TQ303803
ICE reference number  HEW 2201
photo  National Monuments Record
The site of Brunel's 1845 bow-string girder suspension footbridge, long since demolished. The design included two masonry towers and a pair of double wrought iron chains suspending a walkway. The bases of the suspension bridge’s towers have been retained and are now piers for the railway bridge constructed in its place (1864).
The construction of a footbridge to bring people to the rebuilt Hungerford Market on the north bank of the Thames was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1836, with an amending Act in 1843. Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) conceived the structure as a suspension bridge with its deck carried by twin double wrought iron chains strung between a pair of masonry towers.
The Italianate red brick towers were designed by city architect James Bunstone Bunning (1802-63). The resident engineer was Price Prichard Baly (1819-75), Brunel’s pupil from 1838, with masonry contractor Mr G. Chadwick and ironwork supplier Sandys, Carne & Vivian of Hayle in Cornwall.
The total length of the bridge was 412.2m between abutments. The main (central) span was 206.2m and the deck 4.3m wide. The footway arched upward from 8.7m at the piers to 9.75m above high water in the centre of the bridge.
The bridge was founded on two rectangular piers — Middlesex Pier, which lies adjacent to the north bank, and Surrey Pier, which lies three quarters of the way across towards the south bank. They were constructed directly onto the river bed, without piling, incorporating access for river boat passengers and rounded cutwaters. The piers supported square-section suspension towers, which rose to 17.7m above the deck, topped by pyramidal roofs. Arches pierced the towers on all four sides.
Each pair of suspension chains, hung one above the other and 3.65m apart across the deck, passed through wrought iron saddles in the tops of the towers. Each saddle, resting on 50 friction rollers above a thick iron plate, was able to move up to 457mm in each direction on its framework of iron and timber girders. The weight of the saddles and frames was transferred to the corner columns of the towers rather than through the arches.
The ends of the chains were anchored to iron girders inside tunnels at the abutments. The anchorages were strengthened with brickwork and concrete.
The deck was suspended by rods hung from the double chains. Each chain consisted of ten and eleven links alternately, increasing near the towers to eleven and twelve links alternately to carry the additional strain. The links were 7.3m long and 178mm by 25mm in cross section.
In 1841, the construction costs of Brunel’s bridge were estimated at £102,254, of which £63,000 was for masonry and £17,000 for ironwork. The bridge opened on 1st May 1845, but may also have been in use during April 1845. The final cost was around £110,000. Pedestrians paid a toll of one halfpenny (0.2p) to cross, and 86,254 people did so between noon and midnight on the first day.
However, the footbridge was not a financial success. Access was difficult on the south side, and the bridge attracted much aesthetic criticism, aimed mostly at the towers. In 1857, architect Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860) proposed a new road bridge in its place.
In 1859, the Charing Cross Railway Act authorised construction of a new railway bridge across the Thames to Charing Cross Station and the removal of the suspension bridge. By January 1863, Brunel's bridge was being demolished. In 1864, John Hawkshaw's (1811-91, knighted 1873) nine-span wrought iron lattice girder Charing Cross (Hungerford) Rail Bridge opened, with provision at the side for pedestrian traffic.
The two masonry piers of Brunel's bridge survived and are built into the structure of the rail bridge. Surrey Pier now forms an integral part of the 2003 Golden Jubilee (Hungerford) footbridge. The chains and ironwork of the old bridge, sold for £5,000, were used for the Clifton Suspension Bridge over the River Avon at Bristol, completed (1860-4) by a group of engineers as a memorial to Brunel.
Architect: James Bunstone Bunning
Resident engineer: Price Prichard Baly
Masonry: G. Chadwick
Ironwork: Sandys, Carne & Vivian, Hayle
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"Opening of the Hungerford Suspension Bridge", Illustrated London News, May 1845
https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk
www.british-history.ac.uk
www.gracesguide.co.uk
www.ice.org
www.victorianlondon.org
reference sources   CEH LondIKB
Location

Hungerford Suspension Bridge, site of