London River Thames Boat Services

1543: Lambeth Bridge. The following quotation from 'The History and Antiquities of the parish of Lambeth' by Thomas Allen, 1827, illustrates how careful historians have to be in interpreting words. There was NO LAMBETH BRIDGE in 1543! Or rather what is here illustrated is that 'bridge' is used in an archaic sense to mean any river crossing. (Bridge over the mud from shore to boat?) That it was by ferry and not fixed can be missed. (See also the modern word 'bridgehead' which does not necessarily imply any fixed structure) -

Anno 1543. Though in the instance next to be cited the same prince [ Henry VIII ] did not enter within the walls of the palace, yet his benevolent visit at Lambeth bridge to Archbishop Cranmer, the then most reverend owner of the house, deserves to be noticed.
The occurrence alluded to is, the king's designedly coming one evening in his barge, and the archbishop standing at the stairs to pay his duty, his majesty called him into the barge, in order to put him into a way to frustrate the malicious contrivances of Bishop Gardiner and others to accomplish his ruin.

The stairs were the steps down to the ferry landing.
For many centuries there was a horse ferry linking Lambeth and Westminster. There were only a few Thames ferries capable of taking a coach and horses. Thus "Horse Ferry Road"

The landing Stage at Lambeth Palace, Wencelaus Hollar 1607-1677

[See also this footnote in 'The New Monthly Magazine', 1839, refering to Westminster Bridge ] -

Till the erection of Westminster-bridge, the Ferry for horses was situated at the bottom of this lane. The bridge, spoken of in books as existing before this erection, was only a wooden platform, projecting some yards into the river, for the convenience of landing or embarking at the palace.

Lambeth Palace
Lambeth ~ The Archbishop of Canterbury's Palace

Lambeth Pier, Left bank, just above Lambeth Bridge

1633: The ferry sank with Archbishop Laud's belongings

1647: Lambeth Palace by Wencelaus Hollar -

1647, Lambeth Palace by Hollar (Wikipedia)

1656: The ferry sank with Oliver Cromwell's coach.

1664: Permission to build a bridge here was first sought from Parliament but was refused because of strong opposition from the Company of Watermen.

1665: Surrey Quarter Sessions Roll 13 Jul:

William Teroe waterman [and others] late of Lambeth have on diverse occasions since 19th May refused to watch or assist the constable in watching when summoned by Francis Adney parish constable.

Other Tearoe watermen were:
1664 - 1726: William Tearoe, son of William above, married Alice Bromhead.
1710? William Tearoe and Abraham Tearoe, sons of William and Alice Bromhead, and their brother: 1714 -1772: Nahor Tearoe
1750: William Steer Tearoe was the last of the Tearoe watermen, he was bound to his father Nahor 25 Oct 1764 and Made Free 10 Jan 1772.

1688: King James II threw the great seal of office into the river here as he fled from William of Orange. The idea was that without the seal William would be unable to govern.

1706: The Thames at Horseferry, by Jan Griffier -

1706: The Thames at Horseferry by Jan Griffier (Wikipedia)

1738: A Voyage up the Thames, Weddell -

... we found a quicker agitation of our ship, and the waves rolled with more noise and impetuosity; we were told not to be under any apprehension, for that in the calmest weather there was a roughness in that place, which was called Lambeth Reach: Upon this, Gloworm contracted his muscles, and peeping out, pulled in his head and said, he thought we were near the Archiepiscopal Palace ...

1750: The ferry closed when Westminster Bridge opened. The Archbishop of Canterbury (who owned the rights to the ferry) surrendered his rights after receiving compensation

1758: A Description of The Thames, Binnell & Griffiths

LAMBETH, which, excepting the Archbishop's Palace, and some few other Gentlemens Houses, is wholly inhabited by Watermen, &c.

Lambeth 1791, Belanger
A View of Lambeth Church with Westminster Bridge in the distance, Louis Belanger, 1791

Lambeth Palace 1792, Ireland
Lambeth Palace, 1792, Samuel Ireland. Westminster Bridge in the distance.

Lambeth Palace 1792, Ireland
Lambeth Palace, 1792, Samuel Ireland.

1809: Parliament agreed a bridge but funds were not forthcoming

Lambeth Palace 1811
Lambeth Palace ~ The Archbishop of Canterbury's Home with Westminster Bridge in the distance, 1811

1827: But plans were firm enough to show the proposed new bridge on Cruchley's Map -

Proposed Lambeth Bridge 1827
Proposed Lambeth Bridge 1827.

1830: Tombleson -

Lambeth Palace,Tombleson 1830
Lambeth Palace,Tombleson 1830

1827: A bridge proposal recorded in The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Lambeth -

It is now proposed to erect a cast-iron Bridge, of seven arches, with stone piers and abutments, stretching from Church street, Lambeth, near the Archbishop's palace, (and where a ferry has existed for many years,) to the Horse-ferry road on the opposite shore; and from whence the road will lead directly through Pimlico, into the great Western road at Hyde park corner, and by Grosvenor place, Buckingham-house, Belgrave square, and all the adjacent parts of that improving and wealthy neighbourhood. From the Elephant and Castle, the point from which so many roads diverge, a considerable saving in distance will be effected by this new route, in preference to the road over the Vauxhall or Westminster bridges; a circumstance of itself sufficient (exclusive of all the local advantages) to establish the eligibility of this proposed undertaking. The practicability of the measure will be apparent to all who are conversant with the site; — on each side there are good open roads down to the very banks of the river, and no part of which will require to be raised more than four feet: consequently the enormous expences which other Companies have been put to, in the formation of their approaches, will be here avoided.

Lambeth Palace 1852, (NO Lambeth Bridge) with Vauxhall Bridge in the distance, Henry Pether

1862: Lambeth Suspension Bridge was built by P.W. Barlow and opened on 10th November 1862

Lambeth Suspension Bridge, 1862
Lambeth Suspension Bridge, 1862

Bridge finances -

[Lambeth Bridge] cost only £48,924 . The tolls were let for £2,600 for the first three years, then for £2,690 until 1867, after which the company collected them. Revenue less outgoings averaged £1,147 over the years 1869-77 . The dividend started at 9% but was down to 5% in 1866 and 2.5% by 1871, after which it rose to 3.75% in 1876 . Compensation from the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1879 was only £36.059. Thus, though the bridge initially appeared profitable, its financial performance tailed off considerably.

1879: The Illustrated London News, Saturday, May 31, 1879,: “Opening Thames Bridges Free of Toll: The Metropolitan Board of Works receiving the Prince and Princess of Wales at Lambeth Bridge”.

Lambeth Suspension Bridge free of toll 1879
Lambeth Suspension Bridge free of toll 1879

Lambeth Suspension Bridge
Lambeth Suspension Bridge

1885: Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames -

Lambeth Bridge is perhaps, on the whole, the ugliest ever built. It was also, when it was built, supposed to be the cheapest. It is a suspension bridge of three spans, and one great economy in its construction consists in the use of wire cables in place of the usual chains.

Lambeth Suspension Bridge
Lambeth Suspension Bridge
Collection of London Transport Museum

1887: Major repairs required.
1892: Decision to rebuild.


Lambeth Palace 1896
Lambeth Palace, 1896

1897: Lambeth Suspension Bridge, James Dredge -

Lambeth Suspension Bridge, James Dredge, 1897
Lambeth Suspension Bridge, James Dredge, 1897
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D230203a

1905: Weight restrictions imposed. A few years later vehicles were banned.

1929: the present bridge was constructed with five spans and polished granite facings. 776 feet long, 60 feet wide.
The five arches of the bridge, supported by granite-faced riverpiers, are faced with flat steel plating to disguise the steel skeleton that lies behind. It was painted red (the colour of the seating in the House of Lords), to complement the green colour of Westminster Bridge, (the colour of the seating in the House of Commons).
Originally, decoration was confined to the parapets and lamp standards, but to mark the opening of the bridge lattice-work pylons were added at either end. These obelisks are topped with pineapples, symbols of friendship and hospitality.
Architect: Reginald Blomfield. Engineer: George W. Humphreys. Contractor: Dorman, Long & Co. Ltd

1932: Lambeth Bridge opened by King George V and Queen Mary.

Lambeth Bridge
Opening of the New Lambeth Bridge, 1932

Lambeth Bridge
Lambeth Bridge

Lambeth Bridge © 2000 Doug Myers
Lambeth Bridge © 2000 Doug Myers

Millbank Millenium Pier, Right bank