Spanning the Thames from Chelsea to Battersea, the stunning Albert Bridge is without doubt London's prettiest bridge.
In 1983 it was repainted in delicate ice cream colours and Albert Bridge adds great variety to the London river scene. At night the elegant floodlit structure is beautifully reflected in the swirling water below.
A 1864 Act of Parliament authorised the construction of a bridge but there were long delays before it was opened to traffic in 1873.Designed by Roland Mason Ordish, Albert Bridge was originally a cantilever bridge, with each half of the bridge being supported by bars radiating out from the top of its supporting towers.
The 710 ft long bridge was made up of two side spans of 155 ft and a centre of 400 ft. The roadway was 41 ft in width. Built in a grand Victorian manner, the bridge was finished with lanterns and topped by ornate pagodas giving it a vaguely oriental appearance.
The Albert Bridge Company were also made responsible for up-keep of Battersea Bridge but the company could not afford to maintain either with the revenue raised by toll charges. In 1878 both bridges were purchased by the Metropolitan Board of Works and in 1879 became toll-free.
In 1884 Sir Joseph Bazalgette strengthened and modernised Albert Bridge and his modifications made the structure more like a conventional suspension bridge. At the same time a 5 ton weight limit was imposed on vehicles. For the following 60 years the bridge was well maintained.
After World War II the Victorian bridge was too weak to bear the increased weight of modern traffic. When the London council announced that they intended to demolish Albert Bridge there was a huge outcry from the Chelsea conservationists, led by Sir John Betjeman. Fortunately the conservationists overcame the town planners and Albert Bridge was saved. As a result Albert Bridge is the only bridge in central London never to have been replaced.
In 1973 the bridge was reopened to light traffic after two concrete piers were constructed under the main span to give the bridge added support. In addition, a new lighter deck was laid and the weight limit reduced to 2 tons.
At each end of the bridge is a notice instructing the soldiers of nearby Chelsea Barracks to break step when marching over the bridge. It is thought that the vibrations caused by marching in step would damage the delicate structure.