Hammersmith Bridge is a Victorian suspension bridge that crosses the River Thames between Hammersmith in Middlesex on the northern back and Barnes in Surrey to the south. It is a road bridge, 700 feet long.
The current bridge was designed by the noted civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette, and is the second permanent bridge on the site. It is Grade II* listed.
The construction of a bridge was first sanctioned by an Act of Parliament in 1824 and work on site began the following year. It was the first suspension bridge over the River Thames and was designed by William Tierney Clark.
Clark's bridge had a clear water-way of 688 fee; its suspension towers were 48 feet above the level of the roadway, where they were 22 feet thick. The roadway was slightly curved upwards, 16 feet above high water, and the extreme length from the back of the piers on shore was 822 feet, supporting 688 feet of roadway. There were eight chains, composed of wrought-iron bars, each five inches deep and one thick. Four of these had six bars in each chain; and four had only three, making thirty-six bars, which form a dip in the centre of about 29 feet. From these, vertical rods were suspended, which supported the roadway, formed of strong timbers covered with granite. The width of the carriageway was 20 feet, with two footways of five feet. The chains passed over the suspension towers, and were secured to the piers on each shore. The suspension towers were of stone, and designed as archways of the Tuscan order. The approaches were provided with octagonal lodges, or toll-houses, with appropriate lamps and parapet walls, terminating with stone pillars, surmounted with ornamental caps. Construction of the bridge cost some £80,000. It was operated as a toll bridge.
By the 1870s, the bridge was no longer strong enough to support the weight of heavy traffic and the owners were alarmed in 1870 when 11,000 to 12,000 people crowded onto the bridge to watch the University Boat Race, which passes underneath just before the halfway point of its 4¼-mile course. In 1884 a temporary bridge was put up to allow a more limited cross-river traffic while a replacement was built.
The current Hammersmith Bridge was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and rests on the same pier foundations constructed for Tierney Clark's original structure. The new bridge was built by Dixon, Appleby & Thorne and was opened by the Prince of Wales on 11 June 1887. With much of the supporting structure built of wrought iron, it is 700 feet long and 43 feet wide and cost £82,117 to build.
Structural soundness and repairs
Hammersmith Bridge has long suffered structural problems and has been closed for lengthy periods on several occasions, due to the weight and volume of road traffic now common in London, which the bridge was not originally designed to support.
The bridge was refurbished in 1973 with replacement steel trusses, improvements to the mid-span hangers and new deck expansion joints. New deck timbers were installed and surfacing was changed from wooden blocks to coated plywood panels. These panels were subsequently replaced in 1987.
In 1984 the Barnes-side tower bearings failed under a heavy load and had to be replaced.
In February 1997 the bridge was closed to all traffic except buses, bicycles, motorcycles, emergency vehicles and pedestrians to allow further essential repair works. Structural elements of the bridge had been found to be corroded or worn, in particular cross girders and deck surfacing, as well as some areas of masonry.
The bridge re-opened in July 1998 to all road users, subject to a 7½ ton weight restriction and with a priority measure in place for buses. Local bus flow was controlled by traffic lights, and routes were required to convert from double-decker buses to smaller single-deckers to reduce the load on the bridge.
As part of the renovations following a bomb attack in 2000, the bridge received a complete new paint job restoring it to the original colour scheme of 1887, and new lighting was installed.
The bridge was declared a Grade II* listed structure in 2008, providing protection to preserve its special character from unsympathetic development.
Coats of arms motif
At both the Hammersmith and Barnes ends of the bridge, there is a motif made up of seven coats of arms. These were painted in their "correct" heraldic colours in the past, but have now been painted in the standard colour scheme. The shield in the centre of the motif is the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom; the others are, clockwise from the left: the coat of arms of the City of London; the arms of Kent; the arms of Guildford; the original coat of arms of the City of Westminster; the arms of Colchester; and the arms of Middlesex (in its early form, without a crown, identical to those of Essex).
Near midnight on 27 December 1919, Lieutenant Charles Campbell Wood, a South African serving as an airman in the Royal Air Force, dived from the upstream footway of the bridge into the Thames to rescue a drowning woman. Although Wood saved her life, he later died from tetanus as a consequence of his injuries. His act of bravery is commemorated by a plaque on the handrail.
At 4:30 am on 1 June 2000 the bridge was damaged by a bomb planted by the Real IRA underneath the Barnes span. The blast came four years after an attempted bombing by the Provisional IRA (with the largest Semtex bomb ever found in mainland Britain) but following two years of closure for repairs the bridge was reopened with further weight restrictions in place.
The IRA's first attempt to destroy Hammersmith Bridge was on Wednesday 29 March 1939. Maurice Childs, a women's hairdresser from nearby Chiswick, was walking home across the bridge at one o'clock in the morning when he noticed smoke and sparks coming from a suitcase that was lying on the walkway. He opened it to find a bomb and quickly threw the bag into the river. The resulting explosion sent up a 60-foot column of water. Moments later, a second device exploded causing some girders on the west side of the bridge to collapse and windows in nearby houses to shatter. Childs was later awarded an MBE for his quick-thinking. Eddie Connell and William Browne were subsequently jailed for 20 and 10 years respectively for their involvement in the attack.
| ("Wikimedia Commons" has material|
about Hammersmith Bridge)
- Hammersmith Bridge (1827) at Structurae
- Hammersmith Bridge (1887) at Structurae
- London Landscape TV episode (6 mins) about Hammersmith Bridge
- National Heritage List England no. 1079819: Hammersmith Bridge (Historic England)
- "William Tierney Clark". London Remembers. http://www.londonremembers.com/subjects/william-tierney-clark.
- Drewry, Charles Stewart (1832). A Memoir of Suspension Bridges: Comprising The History Of Their Origin And Progress. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green & Longman. pp. 82–88, and Endplates. https://books.google.com/books?id=Hw8LAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA82. Retrieved 13 June 2009.
- Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide
- Hammersmith Bridge
- London bridges get listed status (BBC News) accessed 26 November 2008
- "Hammersmith Bridge - Part Four". skydive.ru. http://www.skydive.ru/en/londons-bridges/265-hammersmith-bridge-part-four.html. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
- Dissident republicans suspected in Hammersmith bombing – The Guardian
- Diary of London resident Norah Margaret Morris
- "'The windows started shaking'". BBC News. 1 June 2000. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/772925.stm. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
- Cookson, Brian: 'Crossing the River' (Mainstream, 2006) ISBN 978-1-84018-976-6
- Davenport, Neil: 'Thames Bridges: From Dartford to the Source' (Silver Link Publishing, 2006) ISBN 978-1-85794-229-3
- Matthews, Peter: 'London's Bridges' (Shire, 2008) ISBN 978-0-7478-0679-0
- Ian Pay, Sampson Lloyd and Keith Waldegrave: 'London's Bridges: Crossing the Royal River' Artists' and Photographers' Press, 2009) ISBN 978-1-904332-90-9
- Quinn, Tom: London's Strangest Tales (Anova Books, 2008) ISBN 978-1-86105-976-5
- Roberts, Chris: 'Cross River Traffic' (Granta, 2005) ISBN 978-1-86207-800-0
- Smith, Denis: 'Civil Engineering Heritage London and the Thames Valley' (Thomas Telford, 2001) ISBN 978-0-7277-2876-0
- Tilly, Graham: 'Conservation of Bridges' (Taylor & Francis, 2002) ISBN 978-0-419-25910-7
|Bridges and crossings on the River Thames|
|Kew Railway Bridge||Chiswick Bridge||Barnes Bridge||Hammersmith Bridge||Putney Bridge||Fulham Railway Bridge||Wandsworth Bridge|