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Hammersmith Bridge - Closure

2021 July:
Hammersmith Bridge is to re-open to pedestrians and cyclists this weekend, after being shut for months over safety concerns.
The 134-year-old iron bridge was closed to vehicles in April 2019 and to walkers and cyclists in August 2020 after cracks were discovered in the pedestals to which the steel suspension ropes are attached.
Tens of thousands of people were affected by the closure, having to take a long detour via Barnes, Chiswick or Putney bridges.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader Stephen Cowan said the decision to reopen followed "a series of comprehensive safety investigations".
A temperature control system had also been installed to prevent further cracking in the pedestals.

Hammersmith Bridge is now CLOSED to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic.
It is unsafe for people to be beneath it.
We understand how inconvenient this will be to thousands of people on both sides of the river and are very sorry about that.
On Thursday 13 August [2020], specialist engineers concluded that the fractures they had been continuously monitoring in critical parts of the 19th Century suspension bridge structure had become a
The fractures had significantly increased in size due to the recent heatwave despite the range of measures they had taken to halt that from happening.
Engineers are working on plans to reopen the bridge to pedestrians and river traffic ASAP.
In 2014 H&F Council commissioned an ongoing comprehensive structural integrity review of the whole suspension bridge structure. It was the first review in many decades. It found years of unchecked corrosion throughout the bridge. In 2019 using the latest technology, it discovered dangerous micro-fractures in the cast iron pedestals that hold the suspension chains in place. Those fractures had the
POTENTIAL TO COLLAPSE THE BRIDGE - which 22,000 motor vehicles and thousands of pedestrians and cyclists travelled across each day.

Together with Transport for London (TfL), H&F Council employed world leading engineers who've worked on the Golden gate Bridge in California and oil rigs in the North Sea. They have been drawing up plans to fully renovate it.
They started by fully examining all aspects of its unique build and design. But as each part of the bridge's corroded Victorian machinery was revealed throughout this work, new problems continued to be discovered.
The engineers are now ready to proceed with the necessary restoration works.
So far our attempts to secure the necessary funding from Government HAVE BEEN UNSUCCESSFUL. Even the recent TfL bid to stabilise the bridge was rejected.
TfL and the Mayor of London have paid for much of the works so far. But TfL has lost 90 per cent of its revenue during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a direct result, its funding for the ongoing monitoring of the bridge and its full refurbishment is now at risk.
So, we're calling on the Government to fund the final phases of the restoration work. It is a 'shovel ready' scheme.
We remain determined that this beautiful bridge will be fit for purpose for generations to come and we'll continue to do everything within our power to deliver on that.
Hammersmith and Fullham Council.

My comment in 2020:
Amongst the many problems for thousands of people who cross the bridge there are also concerns for RIVER TRAFFIC and ROWING,
It seems likely that the BOAT RACE 2021, the GREAT RIVER RACE, and many other races, may not be able to go under the bridge.
The seriousness with which the possibility of collapse is being taken is shown by the positioning of large vessels above and below the bridge, thought to be a precaution against debris falling from the bridge.

Charts for University Boatrace Course

1758: A Description of The Thames, Binnell & Griffiths

HAMMERSMITH, about a Mile further, is a good Village, and well inhabited; but particularly remarkable for a Nunnery of English Roman-Catholick Ladies, which goes under the Name of a Boarding-School: By which Means, this Village is noted for Inhabitants of that Religion.


Hammersmith Suspension Bridge 1827 © MOTCO
Suspension Bridge at Hammersmith
Designed by & executed under the direction of
Wm Tierney Clark Esqre. opened in 1827.
Drawn by J.D. Harding. Engraved by George Cooke 1827.
London, Published by Longman & Co. Paternoster Row, J. and A. Arch, Cornhill & G. Cooke, Hackney.

Hammersmith Bridge, 1828, Daniel Turner

This bridge, the first of its kind thrown over the river Thames, is certainly superior in solidity and appearance to the Brighton Pier, which is built upon the same principle. The architectural beauty of the masonry is a great improvement to the hitherto clumsy masses of stone introduced into other erections of a similar description, and the whole edifice forms a highly ornamental feature to the river Thames.
The want of such a convenient communication was long felt, the only previous connexion of the Surrey with the great western and northern roads being Putney and Kew bridges; the deficiency is now, however, supplied, and a direct road established, whereby a considerable saving in time, distance, and expence is effected. The line of road on the Surrey side of the bridge leads directly to Barnes common, whence roads branch off to all the south and south-western parts of the kingdom.
The distance from London to Richmond, by Hyde Park corner, is also considerably shortened, and an easier communication is made to Kingston, through which lies the great road to Portsmouth.
The first meeting respecting the building of this bridge took place in the month of February 1824, when a plan of it was submitted by W. T. Clark, Esq, engineer to the West Middlesex Water Works Company; and at this meeting sixteen hundred shares at £50 each were subscribed.
In the month of July the committee of management made their report, in which it appeared, that they had, with permission of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's, negotiated with Mr. Hoare, the proprietor of the Barn-Elms estate on the Surrey side, it being leasehold, and held under the Dean and Chapter, consisting, of a mansion, grounds, and farms, and containing 455 acres, 1 rod, 18 poles; the other property belonging to Mr. Hoare, being copyhold and freehold, consisting of about fifty acres. The sum asked was £40,190., exclusive of fixtures; and the house and the timber on the estate were required to be taken at a valuation. The sum given was £35,000 for the estate; and the purchase of a copyhold meadow containing 6 acres, 3 rods, 10 poles, for the sum of £700, which, together with the amount of fixtures and timber, was paid in July 1825.
The Royal assent to the Bill was given July 9th, 1824; by the Act £10,000 were required by the Corporation of London to be invested in the 3 per cents consols, in the name of the trustees appointed by the Act, which, together with all dividends, were to be returned.
The following persons were appointed to the various stations appertaining to the affairs of the bridge: Messrs. Blake and Co. solicitors; Mr. W. T. Clark, engineer; Mr. W. Leonard, surveyor; Mr. R. Holl, secretary.
By the Act, the Company were empowered to raise the sum of £80,000 in £50. shares, to be considered as personal estate. The Committee were also empowered to raise a further sum, not exceeding £20,000 by subscription among themselves, or among new subscribers, or by mortgage, or by granting annuities, such annuitants not to be considered proprietors.
On the 7th of May 1825, the foundation stone of the north tower was laid by His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, with masonic ceremony. The coffer dam being fitted up as an amphitheatre in which the stone was suspended. At four o'clock the Royal Duke arrived, the officers of the Grand Lodge assembled at the Latymer School Room, and the Lodge was opened by the master and officers of the Caveat Lodge, No. 231. The procession then walked from the School-room to the Broadway, down Angel lane in Masonic order. On arriving at the entrance, the procession divided and took their station right and left, and the Duke passed to the platform.

The ceremony of laying the stone commenced after three cheers had been given to his Royal Highness. The grand treasurer delivered to him a bottle containing the coins of the reigning sovereign; also a brass plate, to be placed over the cavity, with the following inscription:
"This foundation stone of a Bridge of Suspension over the river Thames, from the Hamlet of Hammersmith, in the County of Middlesex, to Barnes, in the County of Surrey, was laid with due masonic ceremony, by His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, Most Worshipful Grand Master, on Saturday, May the 7th, 1825.
W. T. Clark, Esq. Engineer ; George, William, and Stephen Bird, and Capt. Brown, Royal Marines, Contractors.
Mr. Robert Holl, Past Grand Secretary, Clerk and Secretary."
On the stone being lowered, the Duke scattered the corn, and said, "As I have poured the corn, the oil, and the wine, emblems of wealth, plenty, and comfort, so may the bridge tend to communicate prosperity and wealth from one end of the island to the other, God bless the King."
The procession then returned nearly in the same order, and His Royal Highness dined with a numerous company at the Coffee house.
The work proceeded rapidly, and after the masonry was finished to a certain height, two massive chains were fixed from the hold down piers and attached to the buttresses, which formed the supporting chain, and on which a platform of wood was erected for the workmen. On this platform the main chains were drawn up and fixed together with bolts.
The bridge was opened to the public on the 6th of October, 1827.
The suspension towers are of stone, and designed as archways of the Tuscan order; the part below the road way to low water is boldly rusticated. The towers are 48 feet above the level of the road way, 22 feet thick, and 14 feet wide. The road way is slightly curved upwards, and is about 18 feet above high water mark. The width of the carriage way is 20 feet, with foot ways 5 feet wide, guarded by a light wooden fence. The chains which support the bridge are 8 in number, composed of wrought iron bars, 5 inches deep and 1 inch thick, 4 of these have 6 bars in each chain, and 4 have only 3 bars in each, making a total of 36 bars, which make a diss or curvature in the centre of about 29 feet; from the vertical rods is suspended the platform which supports the road-way, formed of timber, covered with chalk and flints. The chains pass over rollers fixed in frames on the suspension towers, and are secured to the hold-down piers on each side by bolts.
The approaches on each side are provided with octagonal lodges, or toll houses, with appropriate lamps and parapet wall, terminated with stone pillars, surmounted with ornamented caps. A communication to the works of the hold-down piers is provided under the toll houses on each shore to facilitate the repairs of the iron work. The extreme length to the back of the piers on shore is 822 feet 8 inches, supporting 688 feet of road way, being 135 feet more than the Menai Bridge, which is built on the same principle, over the Bangor Ferry, in Wales. The dimensions are as follows:
the extent of water way between the suspension towers rising from the river 400 feet 3 inches;
the distance between them and the river on shore 142 feet 11 inches;
the distance on the Surrey side is 145 feet 6 inches.
The road way on the Surrey side was formed from the soil brought from the excavation made for the St. Catharine Docks. The weight of the iron used in this bridge is about 350 tons, and was principally manufactured at Gospel Oak, near Birmingham.
The actual cost was £45,341-10s-9d. In June 1828, the annual meeting of the Shareholders was held at the Crown and Anchor: the engineer's report stated, that no part of the chains, or the bridge, had been injured by the traffic which had gone over it. A dividend of 20s per share was declared on the profits and surplus capital.

First Hammersmith Bridge
See Marlow for the only surviving British Bridge by William Tierney Clark.

1827: Metropolitans Improvements -

Hammersmith Suspension Bridge 1827
Hammersmith Suspension Bridge, 1827

1828: -

Hammersmith Suspension Bridge 1828 © MOTCO
Suspension Bridge, Hammersmith. W. Westall A.R.A. delt. J. Baily sculpt.
Published 1828 by R.Ackermann, 96 Strand, London.

1829: A Tour on the Banks of the Thames, A Pedestrian -

Hammersmith presents itself to our view, situated on the west side of the great western road, and stretching down from thence to the river, over which a suspension bridge of iron has been erected, which has been, and still continues to be, deservedly admired by all who have made it their business or their pleasure (and they are numerous) to visit and inspect it.
It is of light construction, and beautiful in appearance, reflecting infinite credit alike on its original projector, and on the engineer under whose direction it was constructed, for the beauty of its execution; more especially as the work was completed considerably below the estimate and within the time stipulated - a thing of such rare occurrence, that when it does happen, its remembrance should not be lost for want of being mentioned.

1831: First Hammersmith Bridge -

Hammersmith Bridge, Whittock, 1831
Hammersmith Bridge, Whittock, 1831

1836: -

Hammersmith Bridge, Tombleson, 1836
First Hammersmith Bridge, Tombleson, 1836

Cambridge ahead of Oxford at Hammersmith Bridge, 1866

1870: The boatrace going under the old Hammersmith Bridge -

Boatrace at First Hammersmith Bridge, 1870
1870: The boatrace going under the old Hammersmith Bridge

1880: "The Expedition of the Ark". A note of William Morris and friends boating from Hammersmth to Kelmscott.
The full note plus the river parts of "News from Nowhere", 1890 are here.

Description of an expedition by boat from Kelmscott House Upper Mall Hammersmith to Kelmscott Manor Lechlade Oxfordshire with critical notes.
Started on Tuesday August 10. 1880 at 3 oc: p.m in a small houseboat called the Ark belonging to Salter of Oxford and a rowing boat belonging to Biffen called the Albert.
The Ark was rowed by two of Biffens men + and the Alfred by William Morris & Cornell Price as far as Kew
Footnote: + "Biffens men": one a boy, the other a bad case of chronic poisoning, his eyes were gogglesome (WM) probably because of gin

1881: The Championship of the Thames - with Hammersmith Bridge in the background -

Championship of the Thames, 1881
Championship of the Thames, 1881, Hanlan v Laycock

1885: First Hammersmith Bridge, Henry Taunt -

First Hammersmith Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1885
First Hammersmith Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1885
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT2348

The replacement of the bridge was in 1885-6. A temporary obstruction here caused difficulties for the boatrace - which was probably only poetic justice because it may well have been overloading by the 11,000 - 12,000 spectators during previous boat races that damaged it in the first place!

1868: Every Saturday boat race report -

Hammersmith Bridge is impassable and almost invisible, every available inch of standing or hanging room, from the pavement to the chains, close covered with expectant sight-seers, till the roadway sinks, under the pressure, eighteen inches below its orthodox level, and makes us fear a repetition, on a colossal scale, of the great Yarmouth catastrophe of twenty-five years ago.

In 1885 it was therefore decided that the crew which were on the Surrey station should go through the Surrey arch while the other crew should use the main arch. This gave a very great advantage to the winner of the toss, choosing the Surrey station, for not only would the total distance travelled be substantially less, but the Middlesex crew would need to make two fairly tight turns to negotiate the main arch causing rudder drag. There were various estimates of the benefit to the winner of the toss, but the popular view was about 1½ to perhaps as much as 2 lengths.
In 1886 it was agreed to try to use the one 50 foot wide arch for both boats. However since the general opinion seemed to be that the chances of threading it with the boats level was low, it was agreed that if there was a clash the race would be restarted above the bridge, and in that case a second finish above the usual finish would be used. To rub in the general opinion about coxes the umpire's launch would carry a spare full set of blades for each boat.
Thus encouraged the coxes set to work. Oxford won the toss and chose Surrey. Cambridge led off the start and were about ½ length up. But then Oxford came back and the lead changed hands. Cambridge then came back on them - and (who would believe it?) the crews were level as they came to the narrow arch at Hammersmith!
Both coxes managed it perfectly. The situation was sketched -

The two Boat Race eights threading the Hammersmith Bridge, 1886

Bridge finances -

[Hammersmith Bridge] cost £85,000, the cost including the construction of three and a quarter miles of approach road. £80,000 was raised in 1824 from the issue of 1600 £50 shares and in 1880 the sum distributed among the shareholders (almost the same as the compensation provided by the Metropolitan Board of Works, because the reserve fund and arbitration and other terminal costs were equal) was £112,400. Since a complete dividend record is available for the intervening years, an internal rate of return can be calculated. It was only 2.51% and for most of the time until the 1870s the £50 shares were worth less than £35, a poor investment.

1885: Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames -

A suspension bridge, with carriage road, spans the river at this point, and was for many years a favourite and cheap grand stand on the University Boat-race day. Regard for the public safety has induced the authorities to close it during the race. It is now (1885) being rebuilt.

1887: Opening of the current elegantly styled bridge
688 feet long, 33 feet wide Two river-towers of wrought iron clad in highly ornamental cast iron support steel suspension chains from which the narrow carriageway is hung. The footways are cantilevered out from the main structure.
Engineer: Joseph Bazalgette. Contractor: Messrs Dixon, Appleby and Thorne

1890: Current Hammersmith Bridge, Henry Taunt -

Current Hammersmith Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1890
Current Hammersmith Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1890
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT00339

[ NB The first bridge had the very square stone pillars, and the iron more ornate supports belong to the second (and current) suspension bridge. ]

Hammersmith Bridge

Lewis Carroll at Hammersmith Bridge
Lewis Carroll at Hammersmith Bridge

1890: "News from Nowhere" by William Morris, a fictional story of going from Hammersmith to Kelmscott in an idealistic socialist world set in the first half of the 21st century.
See William Morris's river trips on this site (which leaves out most of the politics and interweaves the notes of his actual trip in 1880).
Hammersmith Bridge is the first river feature mentioned. Note this is fiction!

The soap-works with their smoke-vomiting chimneys were gone; the engineer's works gone; the lead-works gone; and no sound of rivetting and hammering came down the west wind from Thorneycroft's.
Then the bridge!
I had perhaps dreamed of such a bridge, but never seen such an one out of an illuminated manuscript; for not even the Ponte Vecchio at Florence came anywhere near it.
It was of stone arches, splendidly solid, and as graceful as they were strong; high enough also to let ordinary river traffic through easily.
Over the parapet showed quaint and fanciful little buildings, which I supposed to be booths or shops, beset with painted and gilded vanes and spirelets.
The stone was a little weathered, but showed no marks of the grimy sootiness which I was used to on every London building more than a year old.
In short, to me a wonder of a bridge.
The sculler noted my eager astonished look, and said, as if in answer to my thoughts -
"Yes, it is a pretty bridge, isn't it? Even the up-stream bridges, which are so much smaller, are scarcely daintier, and the down-stream ones are scarcely more dignified and stately.
" I found myself saying, almost against my will, "How old is it?"
"Oh, not very old," he said; "it was built or at least opened, in 2003.
There used to be a rather plain timber bridge before then."

Hammersmith Bridge,1960, Francis Frith
Hammersmith Bridge,1960, Francis Frith

Hammersmith Bridge,1960, Frank Runacres
Hammersmith Bridge,1960, Frank Runacres

2000: The single footpath was replaced by two new suspension footbridges designed by Lifshutz Davidson. These new landmarks provide good views of the Thames towards Westminster.
Hammersmith is one of the most attractive of London's bridges. This is especially true at night after a new lighting scheme was installed. The bridge is too narrow for modern traffic and is now subject to a weight limit of 7.5 tons. A priority traffic system for buses is also now in operation.

Hammersmith Bridge © 2005 Doug Myers
Hammersmith Bridge © 2005 Doug Myers

Hammersmith Bridge PLA
Hammersmith Bridge (PLA)

2020: HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE CLOSED, see top of page