Friday, January 25, 2013

The Finest Bridge in Europe

Such was the opinion of famed Italian sculptor, Antonio Canova. He said that it was 'alone worth coming from Rome to London to see' the Strand (Waterloo) Bridge.
from Walks Through London  pub. 1817
London in 1815 was a city of 1.4 million people, possessed of few bridges in its most populous areas. Only Westminster, London and Blackfriars bridges, aided by the ubiquitous watermen aided crossing of the Thames. Something had to be done. In 1809 a Act was passed permitting the construction of the Strand Bridge, and authorizing the proprietors to raise 500,000 pounds for the purpose. In 1811, construction commenced.

from The Literary Panorama, Vol. X, 1811
The Strand Bridge eventually cost over a million pounds sterling. The engineer placed in charge of the project was John Rennie, a largely self-taught mechanical and civil engineer. His very successful career included factory and canal building as well as bridges, and the design and the engineering of the Strand bridge was widely acclaimed.

The foundations of the bridge were built using coffer-dams, considered a superior method of construction, and the superstructure was built of Craigleith and Derbyshire granite.
from Walks Through London 1817
 In the above picture, the viewer is standing on the Strand Bridge amidst the on-going construction. It is an unusual picture and the appeal of both the workmen and their labours and the view of London from the new bridge is delightful. The European Magazine of January 1816 describes the walkway that permits this view:

It has been well said that the accuracy of the work is as extraordinary as its beauty.
Charles Knight in his book of 1851 included an article on the 'Vauxhall, Waterloo, and Southwark Bridges' by one J. Saunders, which gives a complete picture of the building of the Strand Bridge. The quote above comes from this article. So also does the following explanation of the change in the bridge's name:
The opening of the newly named Waterloo Bridge took place on the 1817 anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Wednesday, June 18. The Literary Panorama brings the great occasion to life:
London was soon to add Vauxhall and Southwark Bridges to its list of river structures, but the Waterloo Bridge has long held a special place in the hearts of Londoners.

'Til next time,



Anne Gallagher said...

Oh gosh. I'm going to have to check my book. I think I made reference to a bridge that wasn't yet built. Oops. thanks for this article.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I used Ranelagh in one book when it was already closed--I think we all make those mistakes occasionally, even with the best of intentions and a lot of hard work.