Putney Bridge is world-famous
as the starting point of the annual Oxford and Cambridge University
For hundreds of years there was
no bridge between London Bridge and Kingston Bridge and the
only way to cross the Thames was by ferry. Although
the ferry owners and City Corporation were firmly opposed,
Sir Robert Walpole and his successors successfully petitioned
Parliament for a bridge, and in 1726 an Act authorised the
construction of a bridge, provided the ferry owners were fully
Work began in March 1729 and
it was opened in November of the same year. The curving
timber bridge was supported by 26 arches. Toll-houses
stood at either end.
The bridge was the subject of
one of J W M Turner's famous riverscapes but like all timber
structure the bridge needed a considerable maintenance.
When three central sections were damaged by a barge in 1870,
there was an ideal opportunity to create a wider central span.
In 1871 -2 two piers were removed
and replaced by a 70 ft iron girder. Putney Bridge was purchased
by the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) in 1879 and, within
a few months, the new owners proposed to construct a new bridge.
The new structure was built upstream
on the site of the former aqueduct. Designed by Sir Joseph
Bazalgette, the present bridge is 700 ft in length and 43
ft wide and constructed from concrete and granite. Work began
in 1882 and the bridge was opened by the Prince and Princess
of Wales in 1886.