Lambeth Bridge
LAMBETH BRIDGE from Millbank in 1896, looking towards Lambeth Palace. The new bridge was built upstream of the old. All these old houses and wharves were swept away in the 1920s and 1930s in the building of I.C.I.'s Thames House and the 1929 re- building of Lambeth Bridge.

Modern Day Views from Lambeth Bridge

There had been a horse ferry linking the Lambeth and Westminster banks of the Thames for centuries. There were only a few Thames ferries capable of taking a coach and horses. The ferry sank on many occasions notably in 1633 with Archbishop Laud's belongings, and in 1656 with Oliver Cromwell's coach. Permission to build a bridge here was first sought from Parliament in 1664 but was refused because of strong opposition from the Company of Watermen. Mary of Modena used the ferry when escaping to France with the baby Prince James in 1688. The building of Westminster Bridge in 1750 caused the ferry to close.

Lambeth Bridge Opening

It was only in 1862 that the first Lambeth Bridge built and as common it was a toll bridge. It was of a suspension type strengthened by a lattice structure and designed by P.W. Barlow. There were three spans each of 268 ft. It became toll free in 1877.

The present five-span steel-arch bridge was built in 1929-32 to a design by Sir George Humphreys with Sir Reginald Blomfield acting as architectural consultant. It was fabricated by Dorman Long, Middlesbrough and is 776ft long and weighs 4,620 tons.

Barlow, Peter William (1809-1885)
Peter Barlow
Peter William Barlow (1809-1885)

From 1836 Barlow was the resident civil engineer under Sir William Cubitt on parts of London and Dover Railway before taking over responsibility for the whole line in 1840. He worked on several railways in Ireland in the 1850s and investigated construction of long span bridges before becoming the engineer for Lambeth Bridge (1860-2).

While sinking the cast iron cylinders in the Thames for Lambeth Bridge he realised that if the cylinders were turned horizontally they could be used for tunneling under the river. (A basic tunneling shield had been invented by Marc Isambard Brunel but was unwieldy, this concept was modified by Barlow who suggested using a smaller circular shield.) He wrote a paper on London Traffic problems advocating the use of cylindrical shields for excavating and then lining the hole with cast iron segments. Barlow was granted the authority to build a subway between Tower Hill and Bermondsey.

It was Barlow's assistant James Henry Greathead that further developed the shield into an iron cylinder about 8 feet in diameter with a door at the front to allow the miners access to the clay work face. The miners used hand tools to dig away the clay in front of the shield. The shield was then driven forward by screw-jacks which pressed against the iron linings, later the screw jacks were replaced by hydraulic jacks. The Greathead Shield was used to great effect on the City & South London Railway (see the entries for the Northern Line and Kennington Station) and has been the basis of the modern tunnel boring machines.