Reginald Blunt’s evaluation of Battersea Bridge in 1900
‘The horse ferry – Royal property, apparently – existed here from the 15th century (and probably much earlier) till 1766, when it was replaced by the delightfully quaint old wooden Battersea Bridge, which Turner, De Wint, Whistler, and a host of other artists have loved to sketch, but which, alas! grew gradually insecure in spite of much tinkering and propping, was closed to wheel traffic in 1883, and was demolished a few years later (1887) for the erection of the present iron structure, to the delight of the busses and barges, and to the keen regret of all lovers of the picturesque.
Photographs taken from and around Battersea Bridge in 1900 (public domain images)
This wooden bridge was built in 1771 at an ultimate cost of £20,000. Projecting triangular recesses were added over the nineteen pile piers at intervals to widen the narrow footway, and for the convenience of those “who resorted to the bridge for the benefit of the air and the pleasure of viewing the scenery from it.”
The present Bridge (opened in 1891) is a well-designed and substantial construction of cast-iron arch work on stone piers.’
Chelsea Official Guide (Third Edition) by Charles White 1951
‘Old Battersea Bridge … by Henry Holland, dated from 1772 and replaced an ancient ferry that belonged to Earl Spencer through purchase of the manor of Battersea from the St. John family in 1763. The earl obtained the Act and the bridge was erected and managed by a syndicate. The present bridge – like the Thames embankments – is by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the Board of Works engineer.’
Second World War
If the Luftwaffe ever wanted to bomb and destroy Battersea Bridge, and for that matter any of the bridges over the Thames connecting with Chelsea and providing the bomb run to the Battersea and Lots Road power stations they did not do a particularly good job.
Only one incendiary bomb landed on Battersea Bridge Wednesday 11th September 1940 by Cheyne Walk and there is no record of it causing any damage at all.
Images in the slideshow at the top of this feature
1.Looking at Battersea Bridge from The Albert Bridge and including Cadogan Pier. By Tim Crook June 8th 2022.
2.Early 20th century postcard of Battersea Bridge and a tram travelling over it. Johns 3515 public domain.
3. Looking at Battersea Bridge from the Chelsea Embankment and including more of the Cadogan Pier. By Tim Crook June 8th 2022
4.Battersea Bridge in 1885, an oil painting by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836–1893) public domain.
5.Battersea Bridge photograph by Fin Fahy 21st January 2006. CC BY-SA 2.5
6.Old Battersea Bridge by Walter Greaves (1846–1930), an oil painting created in 1874, public domain. See: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/greaves-old-battersea-bridge-n04598
7.The Thames curves sharply at Battersea Bridge by Iridescent 17th May 2009, CC BY-SA 3.0
8.The New Battersea Bridge by Iridescent 17th May 2009, CC BY-SA 3.0
9.Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Old Battersea Bridge, by James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) oil painting created circa 1872–75. Public domain. See: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/whistler-nocturne-blue-and-gold-old-battersea-bridge-n01959
10.Battersea Bridge from boats moored off Chelsea Embankment. Circa late 1930s. Chelsea Borough Council Official Guide 1946.
A contemporary Google street view on Battersea Bridge looking towards Chelsea and the junction with Beaufort Street and Cheyne Walk
Special thanks to Karen White and Chris Pain whose families lived in Chelsea during World War Two and Malachy John McCauley, also brought up in Chelsea, who have very kindly encouraged and assisted my research. Special thanks to Marja Giejgo for editorial assistance. Research and archive facilities from Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council library services, The Imperial War Museum and National Archives at Kew.