In 1766 an Act of Parliament
was passed authorising Earl Spencer to construct a bridge
across the Thames at Battersea.
The earl, who operated a ferry
here, could not raise sufficient funds to span the river with
stone and as a result the bridge was build with timber.
The bridge had 19 spans and was built in 1771 - 72, but was
extremely unpopular because its narrow spans made navigation
very difficult. River traffic often collided with the
bridge and many people were drowned.
In 1795 four of the spans were
made into two by inserting iron girder sections. The
piers and wooden railings along the roadway had to be repaired
so frequently that soon little of the original fabric remained.
Between 1821 - 24 the wooden fences were replaced by 4 ft-high
The timber bridge was the subject
of a series of paintings by James Whistler.
The opening of the Victoria Bridge
in 1858 brought a drop in revenue for Battersea tollbridge
and when the bridge was purchased by the Metropolitan Board
of Works, they found it in need of replacement.
The Board's engineer, Sir Joseph
Bazalgette, designed a new five-span bridge. After a
temporary bridge was completed in 1885, work on the new bridge
in 1886. The wrought-iron and steel cantilever
bridge has five segmental spans. With two footpaths,
the bridge has a total width of 55 ft.