Chelsea Bridge, London

Linking Chelsea to Battersea in west London is the Chelsea Bridge over the River Thames. The current bridge is the second to occupy the location. The first bridge was constructed so that the marshlands on the south bank of the river could be developed into Battersea Park. In 1857, the bridge opened initially charging tolls to recoup the cost financed by the British Government. Just a short year later in 1858, the bridge was officially renamed under much pomp and circumstance to Victoria Bridge by Queen Victoria on her way to see the new Battersea Park.
Chelsea Bridge River Thames London
Shortly after opening, questions were raised about the structures safety. In 1861, an additional chain support was added to each side of the bridge; however the bridge still appeared unstable so a five ton weight limit was mandated. The first bridge gained such a reputation for being unsound that the government felt obligated to rename it to Chelsea Bridge, after the embankment on the southern side of the River Thames, so that it would not become associated with the Royal Family.

Footpaths on Chelsea Bridge River Thames LondonTwo factors led to a new bridge at the location. The first was the rise of the automobile which the old bridge was simply unable to accommodate. Secondly, the Battersea Park suffered severe decline during the Great Depression and as a consequence there was a huge push to revitalize the area. In order for the revitalization to take place a new bridge was needed. So work on the new bridge began in 1934. The dream team made up of architect Topham Forrest and architect E.P. Wheeler along with the well known London construction group Holloway Brothers were responsible for the new Chelsea Bridge making its debut in 1937.

The bridge quickly gained acclaim as being the first self-anchored suspension bridge in European. The structure was also solely made from materials gathered within the British Empire. The 64 foot wide bridge has 40 feet of roadway with two 12-foot wide footpaths that cantilever out from its sides. The cutting edge design with self anchors negates the need for abutments into the soft unstable London Clay deposited in the former glacial ford. The result was that the new bridge was much stronger. During the 1950s, the Chelsea Bridge was a popular spot for motorcyclist to hold hair raising races. Today, the bridge is a popular sight for visitors at night due to the myriad of colors from 937 LED lights.


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