Hammersmith Bridge is a suspension bridge crossing the River Thames in West London. It links the Southern part of Hammersmith in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham on the North bank of the river to Barnes in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, on the south bank.
The original bridge was the first suspension bridge over the River Thames and was designed by William Tierney Clark at a cost of £90,000. It opened on 6th October 1827 as a toll bridge with the toll house located on the Hammersmith side. By the 1870’s the bridge was no longer strong enough to support the weight of heavy traffic and in that same year over 11,000 spectators crowded on it to watch the annual Boat Race, which passes underneath it just before the half way point in the race. There were no plans to replace the bridge, until in 1882 a boat collided with it causing damage.
The bridge as we know it today is Grade II listed and was designed by civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette. It sits on the same site as the original bridge and was opened by the Prince of Wales on 11th June 1887. Much of the supporting structure is built of wrought iron, is 210m long and 13m wide and cost £82,117. Over the years, different establishments have had control over the bridge but in 1986 Hammersmith and Fulham were given the responsibility.
The bridge has long suffered structural problems and has been closed for lengthy periods over the years. It 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 the surface was changed to coated plywood panels. These panels were then replaced in 1987. In 1984 the Barnes side tower bearings had to be replaced due to heavy loads.
In Feb 1997 the bridge was closed to all traffic except busses, bicycles, motorbikes, emergency vehicles and pedestrians to allow further essential repairs. It re-opened in July 1998 to all road users, subject to a 7.5 tonne weight restriction. In 2000 following the 1996 bomb attack, the bridge received a complete paint job restoring it to its original colour and new lighting was installed.
The bridge was temporarily closed again in 2014 for further repairs and strengthening works but were delayed until 2016 over funding. Funding remains a major issue today.
In April 2019 the bridge was closed to all motor traffic after cracks were discovered in the bridge pedestals. The closure was extended in August 2020 to pedestrians and cyclists, also to river traffic and pedestrian routes under the bridge.
In Sept 2020 a task force was set up to investigate and to work towards reopening the bridge for pedestrians and cyclists. It was announced that the bridge would not likely be open to road traffic until at least 2027. In November 2020 engineers proposed a temporary double decked steel structure fitted within the existing bridge to allow the damaged parts to be repaired. This scheme would cost in the region of £100 million and there are plans that some of this cost could be funded through a £3 toll.
A ferry service has been approved for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the river, but its introduction will not be until the end of Summer 2021.
Early in 2021 it was announced that boats could once again transit under the bridge using a booking system through the Port of London Authority. However, this was to be limited to Sundays only. We urgently made changes to the scheduling of our London Ring and Thames trips.
The latest announcement in early April 2021 is that boats are able to pass under the bridge on any day, giving at least 72 hours notice.
Thank Goodness For That !!! Or is it “Watch This Space….!”