Putney Bridge

Putney Bridge, Hammersmith & Fulham/Wandsworth

A busy river crossing between Putney and Fulham, and the station on its north side

Hidden London: Putney Bridge, looking upriver

The Earl of Essex erect­ed a tem­po­rary bridge here in 1642 to facil­i­tate troop move­ments. In 1729 local mas­ter car­pen­ter Thomas Philips com­plet­ed the first per­ma­nent struc­ture, to the design of Sir Jacob Ack­worth. The bridge orig­i­nal­ly had 26 arch­es (lat­er reduced to 23), rang­ing in width from 14 to 32 feet. It pro­vid­ed the only dry cross­ing of the Thames between the City and Kingston and soon gen­er­at­ed toll rev­enues of £1,500 a year.

Sir Joseph Bazal­gette was respon­si­ble for the bridge’s replace­ment in 1886. Con­struct­ed from Cor­nish gran­ite, the new bridge also served as an aque­duct, car­ry­ing water mains under the foot­way. Bazalgette’s bridge was widened in the 1930s.

Put­ney Bridge sta­tion (orig­i­nal­ly Put­ney Bridge and Ful­ham) opened in 1880 as the ter­mi­nus of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Dis­trict Railway’s new­ly extend­ed West Bromp­ton branch. In 1889 a rail bridge was con­struct­ed down­stream of the road bridge, allow­ing a con­nec­tion with the Lon­don and South West­ern Rail­way at East Put­ney.

Put­ney Bridge has been the start­ing point for the Oxford and Cam­bridge Boat Race since 1845, and it was the fin­ish­ing point for the five pre­ced­ing races, which began at West­min­ster. It is the best-known event in the row­ing cal­en­dar – and was in many ways the inspi­ra­tion for the mod­ern sport. The four-and-a-quar­ter-mile slog to Mort­lake is usu­al­ly com­plet­ed in less than twen­ty min­utes and around a quar­ter of a mil­lion peo­ple are esti­mat­ed to watch the race from the river­bank.

The melancholic writer Mary Wollstonecraft tried to drown herself by leaping from Putney Bridge one night in October 1795. She was revived by watermen who had pulled her unconscious from the river.

Postal districts: SW6 and SW15
Station: District line (zone 2)
Website: The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race