A privately-owned wooden toll bridge opened here in 1771 and survived – despite its deteriorating condition and a design that made it dangerous to river traffic – until it was taken into public ownership, demolished and replaced by the present crossing, which opened in 1890.
The bridge was designated a grade II listed structure in 1983, which means it is unlikely to be removed or significantly altered, despite being impracticably narrow for some modern purposes. Battersea Bridge was restored to its original appearance under the auspices of English Heritage in 1992.
The old wooden bridge was the subject of several paintings by James McNeill Whistler, including Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Old Battersea Bridge, which hangs in Tate Britain, and Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket, in the Detroit Institute of Arts.
“I have seen, and heard, much of Cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.”
John Ruskin on Whistler’s Nocturne in Black and Gold (1877)