Kingston Bridge

Until Putney Bridge was opened in 1729, Kingston Bridge was the only crossing of the river between London Bridge and Staines Bridge.

According to 16th century antiquarian John Leland, the bridge existed in the centuries when Anglo-Saxon England existed (after Roman Britain and before 1066). He wrote “And yn the old tyme the commune saying ys that the bridge where the commun passage was over the Tamise was lower on the ryver then it is now. And when men began the new town in the Saxons tymes they toke from the very clive of Comeparke [cliff of Coombe Park] side to build on the Tamise side; and sette a new bridge hard by the same.” It is also claimed that the first Kingston Bridge was constructed in the 1190s.

In 1318 the bridge was described as being in a dangerous condition. The successive bridges contributed greatly to Kingston’s success as a medieval market town.

The bridge’s state of repair became increasingly problematic by the early 19th century. It had become increasingly dilapidated and its narrowness made passage difficult both for river and road traffic. Pressure mounted for it to be rebuilt but no agreement could be reached on who would be responsible or who would pay for it. The courts became involved in 1813 but were overtaken by events in January 1814, when part of the bridge collapsed due to a severe frost. The court ordered Kingston to repair the bridge from its own resources but a complete replacement was by that time clearly necessary.

In 1825 Kingston Corporation notified the City of London Corporation Navigation Committee that it intended to build a new bridge. An Act of Parliament was passed in the same year to authorise construction. The corporation planned to erect a cast-iron bridge, and an architectural competition was held with a prize of 100 guineas. The winner was John Burges Watson, with a design for a bridge of three equal arches. However, concerns over the rising cost of iron led to the abandonment of the scheme, and it was decided instead to build a stone bridge in the classical style to a design by Edward Lapidge, the County surveyor. The first stone was laid by the Earl of Liverpool at a ceremony on 7 November 1825 and the bridge was opened by the Duchess of Clarence (the future Queen Adelaide) on 17 July 1828.

The new bridge, about 100 feet upstream from its predecessor, was built of Portland stone: comprising five elliptical arches. The centre arch enclosed a 60-foot span, 19 feet in height, and the side arches 56 feet then 52 feet in span progressively from the centre. The abutments were terminated by towers or bastions, and the whole surmounted by a cornice and balustrade, with galleries projecting over the pier; which gave a bold relief to the general elevation. The length of the bridge was 382 feet by 27 feet in width.

Following a lengthy campaign which came to a conclusion in 1869, the bridge became free from tolls on 12 March 1870, and celebrations including a fireworks show were followed a few days later

Kingston Bridge (1831)with the burning of the toll gates on Hampton Green. The narrowness of the road became a problem and in 1911 the engineering firm Mott & Hay was contracted to widen the bridge on the downstream side. The work was undertaken between 1912 and 1914 with the carriageway increased from 25 feet to 55 feet. A new fa├žade of Portland Stone was designed to replicate the features of the original. The bridge was reopened in October 1914. It was widened again in 2000 to include two bicycle lanes, larger pavements and a bus lane.

 

The bridge was given protection as a Grade II* listed structure in 1951.



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