bridges in London

Millions visit London every year for its magnificent landmarks. Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the British Museum and the London Eye are amongst the most visited attractions in the world. And right through the middle of London runs the River Thames – the second longest river in the UK, once carrying traffic from around the globe, and at 350km one of the two longest rivers in Britain.

London owes its existence to this river, and throughout history, engineers have accepted the task of creating its bridges as an opportunity to celebrate with historic designs. So today we celebrate this legacy with a rundown of the fascinating Bridges in London.

Map of London bridges over the Thames
Map of London bridges over the Thames

Tower Bridge

Probably the most famous London bridge located next to the Tower of London – another iconic London Landmark – the Tower Bridge bascule/suspension bridge that was built in 1894. It crosses the Thames River near the Tower of London, from which it got its name, and is a world-famous symbol of London. 

Its Neo-Gothic architecture and lifting central sections are what make the Tower Bridge such as a famous landmark in the city. It was the most sophisticated bascule bridge in the world when it opened. Due to its immense popularity, Tower Bridge is often called London Bridge, but this is entirely different around 860 meters away. 

The Most Famous bridge in London – The Tower Bridge

London Bridge

There have been several bridges carrying the name London Bridge, but the current crossing was opened in 1973, replacing an ancient stone-arched bridge. The current London Bridge was designed by Lord Holford and engineers Hay, Anderson, and Mott. It heavily features in documentaries, news, and films, depicting the throng of commuters voyaging to work from London Bridge Station. 

The bridge is 244 meters long and has two towers, each 65 meters high, built on piers. There is also London Bridge in Kale Havasu City in Arizona, United States. The Arizona bridge actually used to span the River Theme but was sold to Robert P. McCulloch, who transported across the Atlantic and constructed the current Lake Havasu City Bridge.

Cannon Street Railway Bridge

This street got its name from the contraction of the Middle English name ‘candelwrichstrete” which translates to ‘street of candle makers. Cannon Street is located in Ward of Candlewick, which is one of the 25 prehistoric subdivisions of London. The bridge crossing over the river is called Cannon Street Railway Bridge, which links the south side to the southeast side of London through the London Bridge station. 

Southwark Bridge

This arch bridge connects the district of Southwark and the City and is known for being the least traffic bridge crossing the Thames. Near by is Vintners’ Court, an office block from the 1990s featuring a classical façade of columns and pediment. The southern part of the Southwark bridge ends near the Tate Modern, the Globe Theater, the Clink Prison Museum, and the Ofcom and Financial Times buildings.

Below the Southwark bridge, you will find some ancient stairs used by Thames watermen to moor their boats as well as wait for clients. Also, below the bridge, but on the south, is a pedestrian tunnel.

Millennium Bridge

The Millennium Bridge is perhaps the newest addition to the list of bridges of London. Officially known as the London Millennium Footbridge, this suspension bridge spans the Thames, connecting Bankside with the City of London. The bridge is exclusively for pedestrians, having been first opened in June 2002.

Nicknamed the “Wobbly Bridge”, the Millennium Bridge was closed soon after it was opened due to the swaying motion is produced as a result of huge foot traffic. But after two years of repairs and modifications, it was opened in February 2002.

Bridges in London – Millennium Bridge view from Tate Gallery – one of the great and free museum in London

Blackfriars Railway Bridge

Opened in 1886, Blackfriars Railway Bridge is one of the oldest London bridges. It crosses the Thames River between the Millennium Bridge and the Blackfriars Bridge. The Blackfriars Bridge railway station is located at the southern end of the bridge.

In 1985, the old bridge was deemed too weak to support modern trains and thus was removed, but interestingly the supports were left.

Thameslink Programme is undertaking a project to extend the Blackfriars station across the Thames and is supported by the bridge piers.

Blackfriars Bridge

Located between Blackfriars Railway Bridge and Waterloo Bridge is Blackfriars Bridge. It was first built by Robert Mylne, taking nine years to be built, and opened in 1769. At the time of opening, Blackfriars was the third bridge to cross the Thames in London, supplementing the primeval London Bridge and Westminster Bridge.

It was initially named ‘William Pitt Bridge’, after the then British Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder, but still bore the informal name Blackfriars, after the Blackfriars Monastery that once stood near the site.

Waterloo Bridge

This foot and road traffic bridge was named to commemorate the victory of the Dutch, British, and Prussians during the Battle of Waterloo

in 1815. The bridge’s strategic location provides views of the London Eye, the South Bank, the Canary Wharf, and the City of London.

The south end of the bridge is also where you will find the Waterloo Station, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, BFI Southbank, and the Royal National Theater. Its north end passes above the Victoria Embankment, where the main road links the streets of Aldwych and Strand.

Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges

The Hungerford Bridge lies between Westminster Bridge and Waterloo Bridge across the River Themes. It is a steel truss railway bridge fringed by two newly constructed cable-stayed footbridges named the Golden Jubilee Bridges. The first-ever bridge was opened in 1845 and linked the South Bank to Hungerford Market, thus where it got its name.

The two new 4-meter wide pedestrian bridges were completed in 2002 after battles between the engineers WSP Group and London Underground, which was unwilling to take the risks associated with the addition of the footbridges. The risks included interrupting the existing railway bridge and the danger of unearthing still unexploded World War II bombs underneath the Thames River.

Westminster Bridge 

One of the most iconic London Bridges, Westminster Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge running over the Thames, thus lining Lambeth on the east side to Westminster on the west bank of the river. The bridge is coated with shades of green, the same color scheme of the leather seats in the House of Commons, which is located near the bridge.

Before this bridge was constructed, the only way to cross the river was through Kingston Bridge or London Bridge. Regardless, when the first bridge was proposed in 1664, it received fierce opposition from the watermen who used to ferry people across the river throughout the day

Lambeth Bridge

This site of the Lambeth bridge has been used by people to cross the Thames for a long time before even Lambeth was built. People used horse ferry to cross from one bank of the river to another.

The most dominant color of the bridge is red, which is the color of the leather benches in the House of Lords, located at the south of the Palace of Westminster a few meters further.

On the east, of the bridge is the borough of Lambeth, where you will find Albert Embankment, Lambeth Palace, International Maritime Organization, and St. Thomas’s Hospital, while on the west is the City of Westminster.

Vauxhall Bridge

Opened in 1906, this steel and granite deck arch bridge is located in central London and crosses the Thames in a southeast to northwest direction. The bridge probably got its name because one of its ends is located in Vauxhall. The bridge plays an important role in London’s road system as it carries the Cycle Superhighway 5 and the A202 road across the River Thames. The bridge’s piers feature monumental bronze statues, which were designed by well-known architects Frederick Pomeroy, Alfred Drury, and George Frampton. Though the latter resigned from the project, the two remaining architects designed a combined eight statues.

Grosvenor Bridge

Alternatively known as Victoria Railway Bridge, It is a railway bridge originally built in 1860 but was widened in 1865 and 1907 as well as in the 1960s, where it was turned into a collection of ten parallel bridges. 

It was the first structer of its kind in central London and with an array of ten steel bridges; it is still the widest bridge which span the Thames. Grosvenor Bridge was named after the Grosvenor family, whose land the station was constructed on.

photo source Wikipedia

Chelsea Bridge

Located in west London, Chelsea Bridge connects Chelsea on the north bank to Battersea on the south bank. It was suggested in the 1840s as part of the significant development that was ongoing on the marshlands on the south banks of the river and was supposed to provide easy and convenient access from the north bank to the newly developed park on the other side. Despite its architectural characteristics, the bridge was not popular with the public, mostly because of the toll. As a result, the parliament decided to make it toll-free on Sundays, but it was still receiving stiff competition from the newly constructed Albert Bridge located few meters further.

Photo source Wikipedia

Albert Bridge

Located near Chelsea Bridge, Albert Bridge (named after husband of Queen Victoria – Prince Albert) is commonly referred to as ‘the trembling lady’ because of its swaying movement. The road bridge crosses over the Tideway of the Thames and links Chelsea on the north, left bank to Battersea on the south.

The first bridge was designed and built by Rowland Mason Ordish in 1873 but later, between 1884 and 1887, Sir. Joseph Bazalgette included some design features of a suspension bridge. The two concrete piers were added by the Greater London Council in 1973, thus transforming the central span into a simple beam bridge.

Battersea Bridge

This five-span arch bridge with granite piers and cast-iron girders is located on a sharp bend in the Thames and provides access from Chelsea to Battersea on the south. Initially, the bridge was a toll bridge after it was commissioned by John Earl Spencer, who had acquired the rights to run the ferry.

Although the bridge was originally planned to feature stone, the cost associated with the construction and raw material meant they had to opt for a cheaper wooden bridge, which was designed by Henry Holland and opened in 1771. 

The current bridge was built in 185 after the ownership of the structure was taken into the public. It was designed by Sir. Joseph Bazalgette and built by John Mowlem & Co. 

Battersea Bridge is the narrowest road bridge over the Thames and the least busy of Thames bridges.

Battersea Railway Bridge

It has many names – Cremorne Bridge, Chelsea River Bridge, and Battersea New Bridge. Its linking Battersea with Fulham. It was designed initially by William Baker and was opened to the public in March 1963. It features two railway tracks with 37 meters lattice girder arches on stone piers. 

Wandsworth Bridge

Spanning 200 meters and stretching 18 meters wide, Wandsworth Bridge carries the A217 road across the Thames between Battersea in London Borough of Wandsworth and Sands End and Parsons Green in Hammersmith and Fulham. As with most Thames bridges, the first Wandsworth Bridge was a toll bridge, which was built in 1873 by Julian Tolme. The current one was opened in 1940 and was designed by Sir Thomas Peirson Frank. 

The bridge’s current dull tone of blue was to camouflage it against air raids, having been constructed during the course of World War II. 

Fulham Railway Bridge

Located close to Putney Bridge and Wandsworth Bridge, Fulham Railway Bridge carries the London Underground District line between East Putney station on the south and Putney Bridge station on the north. The bridge was originally called Putney Railway Bridge by its design engineers William Jacomb and W.H. Thomas and even today it has no official name. It is also sometimes referred to as “The Iron Bridge”. 

Putney Bridge

This Grade II bridge crosses the Thames in the west of London, linking Putney on the south bank with Fulham to the north. It has some ancient churches besides its bulwarks. The current format of the bridge is three lanes southbound and one lane northbound. Before the first bridge was constructed, a ferry used to carry passengers between the two sides of the river.

Hammersmith Bridge

This is a suspension bridge that links the southern edge of Hammersmith on the north bank of the Thames and Barnes on the south bank of the river in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.

It has been previously attacked by Irish republicans and in 2019; it was closed until further notice to all motor traffic after cracks were found in the pedestals. The bridge is still closed today (2021) and it is now closed to all users including cyclists and walkers.

Barnes Railway Bridge

Span the Thames in a northwest to southeast direction, this grade II listed railway bridge carries Hounslow Loop Line across the river between Chiswick stations and Barnes Bridge. The bridge can also be used by pedestrians and is one of only three bridges of London that combine rail and pedestrian use, along with Fulham Railway Bridge and Hungerford Bridge, and Golden Jubilee Bridges. 

The original bridge was designed by civil engineer Joseph Locke and was constructed in 1849. It featured two pairs of cast iron arch span and resembled the original Richmond Railway Bridge. 

Chiswick Bridge

Chiswick Bridge is one of the three road bridges opened in the 1930s in a bid to relieve traffic congestion in the western parts of London. It was built on the site of a former ferry and links Chiswick on the north bank and Mortlake on the south bank via the A316 road.

The bridge is famous for being close to the end of The Championship Course, the stretch of the river used for the annual Boat Race between the Cambridge University Boat Club and the Oxford University Boat Club. And btw  Chiswick is Old English means ‘cheese farm’!

Kew Railway Bridge

This Grade II structure was designed by W.R Galbraith and constructed by Brassey &Ogilvie after it was commissioned by the London and South Western Railway. It was first opened in 1869 and features five wrought iron lattice girder stretching 35 meters each. The bridge carries two electrified railway tracks, owned by Network Rail and used by London Overground for North London line passenger trains linking Stratford and Richmond. 

These same tracks are used by District line trains operating between Richmond and Upminster.

Kew Bridge

Kew Bridge links Kew Green in Kew on the south bank of the Thames and Brentford on the north bank. It is located in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and the London Borough of Hounslow. The current bridge was opened by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandria in 1903, under the name King Edward VII Bridge. It was designed by Cuthbert A Brereton and Jon Wolfe-Barry. 

Richmond Lock and Footbridge

This lock bridge is located in southwest London and the furthest downstream of the 45 Thames locks. It is the only lock bridge owned by the Port of London Authority. It was opened in 1894.

It was built to maintain the lowest-lying head of water of the 45 navigable reaches of the Thames River above the rest of the Tideway.

Twickenham Bridge

Built-in 1933, Twickenham Bridge is part of the Chertsey Arterial Road and it links the Old Deer Park district in Richmond on the south bank of the Thames to St, Margarets on the north bank. It got its name courtesy of the fact that carries the road leading to Twickenham.

Richmond Railway Bridge

Richmond Railway Viaduct is located immediately upstream of Twickenham Bridge and carries the National Rail service, which is run by South Western Railway on the Waterloo to Reading Line 

The originally it was designed by J. E. Errington and Joseph Locke, including its 30-meter cast-iron girders. However, the bridge was rebuilt in 1908 due to fear of its structural integrity. This time it was designed by J W Jacomb-Hood of the London & South Western Railway.

Richmond Bridge

This bridge was constructed between 1774 and 1777 on the site of a former ferry crossing. Linking Richmond town center and East Twickenham, Richmond Bridge was funded by a tontine scheme. The south and north banks of the river at the bridge are commonly referred to as “Surrey” (Richmond) and “Middlesex” (Twickenham) respectively.

While it underwent some repairs between 1937 and 1940, the bridge still maintains its original design. 

As the eighth Thames bridge to be constructed in Greater London, Richmond is the oldest surviving of the Thames bridges in London.

Teddington Lock Footbridges

The Teddington Lock Footbridges are a pair of footbridges crossing of the Thames just upstream of Teddington Lock. The two bridges were constructed from 1887 to 1889 and were funded by the locals. 

An island separates the two bridges. The western crossing features a suspension bridge while the eastern bridge is an iron girder bridge linking the island to Ham. 

Kingston Railway Bridge

Kingston Railway Bridge carries the Kingston Loop Line train from London Waterloo station, diverging from the main lines at Richmond and New Malden. It was constructed in 1907 to replace a cast-iron bridge. 

Kingston Bridge

Kingston Bridge was the only crossing between Staines Bridge and London Bridge until 1729 when Putney Bridge was opened. According to collector John Leland, the Kingston Bridge was around even during the period of Anglo-Saxon England, but it changed and has been widened a number of times throughout its history.

Hampton Court Bridge

Built on the location of the ferry crossing, the Hampton Court Bridge crosses the Thames at the most upstream location of all the bridges on the river. It is also where the Thames Path crosses the river. 

The Dartford Crossing 

Commonly known as the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, the Dartford Crossing was opened in November of 1963, beginning with its western tunnel, while the eastern tunnel was added in 1980 and the bridge 1991. Its construction was interrupted by World War II and resumed later in the 1950s. 

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