Lambeth Bridge stands on the
site on an ancient landing stage that was in use as far back
as the 13th century. This landing stage was used to
receive the monarch on state occasions and was also the meeting
place of Henry VIII and Cranmer and Elizabeth I and Archbishop
Today Lambeth Bridge is approached
from the north by Horseferry Road, a reminder that this was
a river crossing before the construction of Lambeth Bridge.
The dangerous horse-ferry, which operated between Lambeth
and Millbank, was under the control of the Archbishop of Canterbury,
whose London residence is at Lambeth Palace. After Westminster
Bridge was completed in 1750 the Archbishop surrendered his
lease but received compensation for loss of revenue.
As the population of Lambeth
grew, there was a need for a new bridge to serve the
locality. Although an Act was passed in 1809 authorising
a bridge at Lambeth, insufficient funds to build the structure
meant that the bill eventually lapsed.
In 1860 the Lambeth Bridge company
finally succeeding in obtaining another Act and sufficient
funds to build a bridge. Designed by P.W. Barlow and
opened in 1862, the new suspension bridge from Church Street,
Lambeth, to Market Street, later renamed Horseferry Road in
Westminster, had three massive iron arches.
The bridge originally charged
a toll but in 1879 these were abolished. By this time
the bridge had rusted and had become unsafe and in 1887 major
repairs had to be carried out. The decision to rebuild
the bridge was taken five years later but nothing was done
and in 1905 a weight restriction was imposed on vehicles ,
while gates were erected at either end to regulate the number
of pedestrians. A few years later the bridge was forbidden
to vehicles altogether.
After a temporary footbridge
was put across the river, work finally started on the new
bridge in 1929. The new five-span bridge, designed by
George Humphreys, was made of steel and reinforced concrete,
with polished granite facings.
Lambeth Bridge is 60 ft wide
and 776 ft long, with a central span of 165 ft.
Originally, decoration was confined
to the parapets and lamp standards, but to mark the opening
of the bridge by King George V and Queen Mary in 1932, lattice-work
pylons were added at either end. These obelisks are
topped with pineapples, symbols of friendship and hospitality.
To celebrate its proximity to
the Houses of Parliament, Lambeth Bridge is painted predominately
red for the Lord's benches, Westminster Bridge is painted
green for the Common's benches.