Grosvenor Bridge was the first railway bridge over the Thames in Central London, but the bulk of the existing structure is relatively new. The first bridge was built for the Victoria Station & Pimlico Railway. The design, by John Fowler, was considerably constrained by the need to avoid obstructing shipping. There had to be 22 feet clearance over high water at the centre of each span, resulting in steep gradients up to the bridge on both sides of the river. There had to be four 175 feet spans over the river, so that two of the piers could be in line with the towers of Chelsea Bridge, with the third in the centre of the river. In addition to the main arches, there were smaller iron plate spans over land at both ends. Each river span comprised six parallel wrought-iron arched girders, on concrete, brick and masonry piers. The bridge had a timber deck and carried a mixed-gauge double track railway. It was 930 feet long and 30 feet 9 inches wide.
The new station at Victoria opened on 1st October 1860 and was initially used only by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway. London, Chatham & Dover trains started running over Grosvenor Bridge in 1862, being joined by Great Western ones in 1863. The double-track bridge and steeply-graded approach via Stewarts Lane were clearly inadequate. Work on a second bridge, immediately downstream of the original one, began in 1865 and it opened for traffic on 20th December 1866. It was designed by Sir Charles Fox to be similar to the original one, but substantially wider. The decks of the two bridges were linked. With the broad gauge rails removed, the original bridge could carry three tracks, for use by London Brighton & South Coast Railway trains. The new bridge had two tracks for the London Chatham & Dover Railway and two mixed gauge tracks for the Great Western Railway. The high level approaches to the south side of the bridge, from Wandsworth Road and from Pouparts Junction, opened in 1867, reduced gradients from 1 in 50 to 1 in 120. However, nothing could be done to ease the climb out of Victoria.
The LBSCR quadrupled the line from Victoria to Three Bridges between 1895 and 1907. It is not surprising that the section from Victoria to Clapham Junction was among the last to be completed, because of the considerable difficulties and cost. A third river bridge was built immediately upstream of the original. This was similar in appearance to the earlier ones, but had steel arches instead of wrought-iron. It carried two tracks.
The bridge was substantially rebuilt between 1963 and 1967, to a design by Freeman Fox & Partners. The existing piers were enlarged in concrete, reducing the span to 164 feet, but the arches and deck were entirely replaced. Each of the four river spans now comprises ten steel box-section arches. Supported between each pair of arches is a steel trough span, carrying ballast and track. The bridge could, therefore, accommodate ten tracks, though currently there are only nine. The land spans were replaced by welded steel girders. The design of the bridge allowed progressive reconstruction, with minimum disruption to traffic.
See also the Railway Magazine article on the reconstruction of the bridge.
A British Railways film showing the reconstruction of the bridge can be viewed here.
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This page was last updated 26 October 2011