Albert Memorial Bridge

the Albert Memorial Bridge connects Battersea and Chelsea over the Thames and is pretty spectacular by night. it was designed and built in 1873, but the principals used in constructing the bridge proved it structurally unsound and, beginning in 1884, modifications were made over the course of three years to stabilise it. further reinforcements were introduced in 1973 (after a proposal to turn the entire bridge into a landscaped park with pedestrian access over the river failed), which makes the existing bridge a hybrid of three architectural styles.

the first bridge on the sight dates from 1771, when a wooden bridge connected industrial Chelsea with the rich farming village of Battersea. despite campaigns to demolish the bridge, even after the Victoria (now Chelsea) Bridge was completed downriver, the wooden bridge remained well into the 19th century, growing increasingly unstable, unpopular, and unsafe, while (not surprisingly) the Victoria Bridge became more congested. to rectify the congestion, Prince Albert recommended the construction of a toll bridge between the two existing bridges; predictably, the operators of the decrepit Battersea Bridge opposed the new bridge as it might diminish their custom (one wonders whether they recognized the connection between the derelict quality of their bridge and a decline in customers …), but a compromise (whereby the owners of the new Albert Bridge would purchase the Battersea Bridge upon completion of the former) authorization to begin construction on the new structure came in 1864. the man selected to design it, Rowland Mason Ordish, also designed the Royal Albert Hall, St. Pancras railway station, the Crystal Palace, and Holborn Viaduct. delays in completing the Chelsea Embankment blocked the project, however; in the intervening six years, Ordish designed the Franz Josef Bridge in Prague (said to be a model for the Albert Memorial), and the bridge owners were required to obtain another Act of Parliament before finally beginning construction in 1870. predicted to last about a year and come in under 70,000 GBP, naturally the project ran three times longer than expected and nearly three times more expensive.

in part because of the original agreement with the owners of the Battersea Bridge, the new Albert Bridge opened already deep in the hole and, consequently, never proved financially successful. the expense of paying off the rickety wooden bridge owners drained many of the resources intended for improving the traffic approach on either side of the new Albert Bridge, making it more difficult to access even as it struggled to compete with the Victoria Bridge, which remained more popular as it allowed for closer access to the center of London. after operating as a toll bridge for 7 years, the Metropolis Toll Bridges Act allowed the City to purchase both the Albert and Battersea Bridges for a paltry sum and remove the tolls. the tollbooths remain at either end of the bridge, however, and are the only ones remaining on bridges in London.

as with the Millennium Bridge (and probably any other pedestrian-use-heavy bridge) the Albert Bridge also has trouble with vibrations when large numbers of people cross at one time. these concerns prompted the placement of signs at the entrance warning troops from the Chelasea Barracks (actually closer to the Victoria/Chelsea Bridge, and which were vacated in 2006) to break step when crossing.

though it was painted uniform colors for the first century of use, in the late 20th century, a new pink, blue, and green color scheme was selected in an effort to make it more visible in foggy weather. additionally, some 4,000 lights were added to illuminate the structure, effectively turning it into a recognizable landmark of west London. along with the Tower Bridge, the Albert Bridge is the only Thames London bridge never to be replaced, and in 1975 was given protection as a “listed structure” (which prevents modification without “consultation). however, because of changing use patterns, increased weight of vehicles, and the fact that it wasn’t designed to carry automobiles in the volume it now sees, the bridge continues to deteriorate. in order to refurbish and strengthen the structure, the Bridge was closed in February of this year.

a decent entry on Wikipedia

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Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.