Above: Vauxhall Bridge shown on Stanford’s map of 1878.
Vauxhall Bridge is an interesting subject because there are several aspects of it that are unusual. The bridge was built 1811-16 of cast iron, designed by J Walker with nine equal-size arches. It was the first bridge built over the Thames from this material. When it was opened it was called Regent’s Bridge but its proximity to Vauxhall Gardens led to a change in the name.
Vauxhall Bridge was built on the site of the Sunday Vauxhall Gardens Ferry. This ferry plied between Vauxhall and Millbank and compensation had to be paid to the watermen who ran it.
The map at the top shows the original bridge and it should be noted that it was a toll-bridge. On the map (at the western end of the bridge) can be seen the word ‘Tollhouse’ below a black rectangle which represents the small building. No toll-house is shown at the eastern end but the word ’Toll’ is shown on the map. It was usual to have toll-houses at each end of a bridge to ensure that traffic (and pedestrians) were charged before crossing the bridge. The reason why the tolls appearing on the map are of interest is because within a year or so of the map being published tolls for bridges in London were abolished completely. The tolls for Vauxhall Bridge were abolished when it was taken over by the Metropolitan Board of Works 1879. This map was probably the last one to show tolls on it for Vauxhall Bridge. It perhaps should be pointed out that all the bridges crossing the Thames started out as toll-bridges. A fee was charged for both those driving a horse and cart as well as pedestrians. Local people seldom walked across the bridge where they lived because of having to pay the toll.
By 1900 the old bridge had become quite hazardous and a new one was built 1900-06. The engineer was Sir Maurice FitzMaurice and W E Riley was the architect. The new bridge consisted of five graceful arches and therefore four piers in the Thames. The piers were decorated with eight bronze female statues by Alfred Drury and F W Pomeroy. They represent the arts and science but they can only be seen easily from boats on the Thames. One of the figures represents architecture and holds, appropriately, a replica of St Paul’s Cathedral in her hands.
Above: The female figure holding a model of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Vauxhall Bridge was the first bridge over the Thames to carry trams. In 1974 the bridge was widened to its present width. The bridge is flanked at the Vauxhall end on one side by the MI 6 Building by Terry Farrell.