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Length of the other Bridges in London.

Westminster from wharf to wharf.............. 223 feet

Blackfriars............................................. 940 "

London Bridge....................................... 900 "

Vauxhall Cast-Iron Bridge........................ 860 "

The whole of the outside courses of the bridge is Cornish granite, except the balustrades, which are of Aberdeen granite and the stones, like those of the Temple of Solomon, were cut to their form before they were brought to the spot.

There are 320 piles driven into the bed of the river under each pier, the length of each pile from 19 to 22 feet, and the diameter about 13 inches: there is one pile to every yard square.

The scientific manner in which the centres were constructed was admirable; and as all the arches are of the same size, the centres were removed from those that were finished, and placed on the piers where the arches were not yet thrown; this was an operation that required great skill and care, and was very ably executed

When the centres were removed, so solidly and well was the masonry constructed, that in the middle they only sunk about one inch. Those of the Pont de Neuilly, in France, six miles from Paris, which are nearly similar, sunk about 18 inches in the middle, after the centres were taken away.

The scientific principle on which the centres were constructed, which did great credit to Mr. Rennie, the engineer, was that of the longitudinal incompressibility of timber. The strongest and largest beams of wood bend and yield when pressed upon laterally; and by that means the form of a centre constructed in the usual manner, is different when loaded from what it is when not loaded; but as no weight that men are acquainted with, when acting gradually, will shorten the length of a beam, it was so contrived that the pressure acted always longitudinally or lengthwise, and not laterally or side-wise; so that those centres remained in form unchangeable, as much as if they had been one solid mass of matter, the two extreme points resting on the firm and well-constructed piers.

In circular arches, such as those of Westminster or other bridges, the pressure on the centres before the key-stones are put in place, is not near so great as in elliptical arches like those of Waterloo.

The four toll-lodges are neat appropriate Doric structures.—There is a clever contrivance at each lodge for the purpose of checking. The kind of iron turn-stiles, which admit of only one person passing at a time, touch some machinery which communicates with a clock locked up in an oak box in each toll-house, the index of which is thereby moved, so that on looking at it the number of those who have passed is directly seen.

The bridge was only six years in building. It is exactly on a level with the Strand, where it joins, and is fifty feet above the surface of the water of the River Thames

The first stone of the bridge was laid on Friday, the 11th of October, 1811, by Mr. Henry Swann; a bottle containing coins of his present majesty's reign was deposited in the first stone, over which a plate with the following inscription was laid:

"This foundation stone of the Strand Bridge was laid on the 11th day of October, A. D. 1811, by the Directors for executing the same, Henry Swann, Esq. M. P. Chairman, in the 51st year of the reign of King George the Third, and during the Regency of His R. H. George Prince of Wales, the money for building which was raised by subscription, under the authority of an Act of Parliament.

Engineer, JOHN RENNIE, F.R.S."

Since its opening, it has been constantly frequented by foot passengers as well as by horsemen, carriages, &c.; and during the summer months it is much visited as a promenade; but there is not yet that traffic across the bridge which presents the prospect of any great profit to the proprietor. This, however, may be considered as partly owing to the injudicious expenditure of money in the formation of roads on the Surrey side; for instead of continuing the road from the bridge to the Obelisk, or so as to lead direct to the roads that form a junction at that point, it stops at Lambeth Marsh; and it has, therefore, been not inaptly said, that the bridge and road are fine and full of promise, but unfortunately they lead to no particular place. And this is not the whole of the evil, for money, got with difficulty, has been actually expended not in furtherance of the direct road, but in the formation of a new side or cross road to communicate with the foot of Blackfriars Bridge. On the bridge and roads upwards of 1,100,000l. is said to have been expended: what the circumscribed produce of the tolls has hitherto been, we are not aware: and what the shares are now worth, they having fallen so much in nominal worth, we have really been afraid to inquire. But although the chance of splendid gains to the various proprietors consisting of share-holders, annuitants, &c., may be distant, yet it must be owned that this bridge is a noble, and may be made a very useful improvement of the metropolis.

It may not be unamusing to add an anecdote connected with the early history of this bridge. When it was commenced, the mania for speculation by means of public companies raged in no ordinary degree; and impossibilities as well as possibilities were urged with no common energy, and listened to most devoutly. At such a juncture, about 100 of the Strand Bridge proprietors were dining together, with their enterprising engineer, Mr. G. Dodd in the chair; and in allusion to the fever of the moment, as well as to the boundless professions of mere speculators, one of the proprietors said, "I have long thought, Mr. Dodd, that a bridge from Dover to Calais would be extremely useful; I will take some shares, if you will project one, but pray, of what materials would you build it ?" "Why," retorted Dodd, in a happy vein, "I will undertake to build such a bridge, if you will get the materials—but for the piles, we must have thunderbolts; for the piers, water-spouts; for the arches, rainbows; and for the roadway we must have a flash of lightning. Secure me those materials, and I will undertake to build your projected bridge !"

Other London bridges:
London Bridge
Blackfriars' Bridge
Westminster Bridge
The Strand, or Waterloo Bridge
Length of the other Bridges
Vauxhall Bridge
Southwark Bridge
Summary of the Bridges

Source: Leigh's New Picture of London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand;
by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819