Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,405 pages of information and 245,908 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Hungerford Bridge

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November 1946.
2007. Downstream side of bridge

in London (not in Hungerford!)

There are in fact four bridges here: the original railway bridge; the 1884-7 railway bridge; two cable-stayed suspension bridges.

The railway bridge is unusual in UK practice, in having pin-jointed wrought iron girders.

See website for an excellent series of photographs.

Suspension Bridge

1845 The first Hungerford Bridge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, opened in 1845 as a suspension footbridge. The completed bridge was photographed by William Henry Fox Talbot c.1845, and images can be viewed online[1]

The total length of the bridge was 1,362ft. The main span was 676ft and the deck was 14ft wide.

Sandys, Carne and Vivian supplied 800 tons of ironwork, including chains, for the bridge.[2]

In 1859 the suspension bridge was bought by the railway company as part of their plan to extend the South Eastern Railway across the Thames into the newly opened Charing Cross railway station. They would dismantle the suspension bridge and use the river piers for their new iron bridge.

The suspension chains and the saddles were sold and re-used on the Clifton Suspension Bridge, whose construction had stalled.

Railway Bridge

The railway company replaced the suspension bridge with a structure designed by John Hawkshaw, comprising nine spans with wrought iron Warren truss girders, which opened in 1864. It was also known as Charing Cross Railway Bridge. It was unusual in British practice in having pin-jointed diagonal and vertical members. The presence of such a utilitarian structure in the heart of London was widely frowned upon.

The masonry piers of the suspension bridge were re-used for the railway bridge (Middlesex Pier, adjacent to the north bank, and Surrey Pier, which lies three quarters of the way across towards the south bank)[3]. The masonry piers were supplemented by cylindrical cast iron piers.

The bridge originally carried four tracks, plus footways on both sides, provided in place of the earlier suspension bridge. The original width was 61 ft 3 in.

In 1887 the bridge was extended by 48 ft 9 in on the upstream side to accommodate three more tracks. The footpath on the upstream side was removed.[4]

The ironwork of the original railway bridge was made by Cochrane, of Woodside, near Dudley, the same firm who supplied the ironwork of the Westminster Bridge. The contractor was George Wythes.

This early photograph shows the bridge in its original form, with just two sets of girders, pedestrian walkway, and impressive clusters of gas lamps.

This early photograph, taken in the 1860s, shows details of girders, taken during construction of the pedestrian walkway. Comparison with the 2007 photo shows minor differences. The bottom chords (the lower horizontal members) have been strengthened by riveting plates on sides. This necessitated alteration of the angle iron brackets which support the cross members. The cross-members originally had cantilevered extensions of lattice construction for the pedestrian walkway, as can be seen in the 1860s photo. Note: The detail in the photo is such that a bucket is visible painted with the initials C&C (Cochrane & Co)! See 'Charing Cross Bridge' drawings in William Humber's Treatise here showing details of the original bridge. Its cross-members were of fish-bellied lattice construction, since replaced with welded box-section structures.

Note: The 2007 photo above shows the northern (downstream) side of the railway bridge. This is the original bridge. The vast majority of photos online show the southern side, with the 1880s girders. This is presumably because the light favours photography from the south side.

This c.1862 photograph shows the suspension bridge towers still in situ after the girders have been erected.


Cable-stayed footbridges were installed on both sides of the railway bridge in 2002.

See here for more information.

Railway Bridges: Contemporary Reports

This most important metropolitan extension of the South-Eastern Railway from London-bridge to Charing-cross was yesterday opened for traffic. Owing, however, to the large station— occupying the whole of the site of Hungerford Market-not being yet complete, the accommodation afforded to the public is only a small portion of that which will be provided in a few weeks. ….. The act authorising its construction received the royal assent on 9th August, 1859 ; the first stone of the work was laid in February of the following year. The cost of the line has been considerably greater than was at first estimated, and this is due, first, to the large sum (£276,000) which the company was compelled to pay for the St. Thomas's Hospital property, to the determination to make the bridge over the Thames sufficiently wide for four sets of rails, and to making the viaduct for the remainder of the line sufficiently wide for three sets of rails. ….. The heaviest portion of the work was, of course, that of the bridge over the Thames, built on the site of the Hungerford Suspension-bridge. The width of the river at this point is 1,345 feet. The two brick piers which supported the chains of the old bridge are 616 feet apart, and they remain to form a portion of the supports of the present bridge. But the central space between these piers has been divided into four spaces of 154 feet each by iron columns, sunk deep into the bed of the river, and upon the tops of which the girders of the bridge rest. The space on the north or Charing-cross side, between the brick pier and the abutments is divided into three openings of 100 feet each by iron columns ; and on the Surrey side there are two spaces of 154 feet between the piers and the abutment, also formed by massive iron columns. The total width of the bridge is 66 feet 4 inches ; of this space 49 feet 4 inches is occupied by four lines of rails ; the remaining 17 feet being devoted to two footways for passengers, one on either side of the railway. As the bridge approaches the Charing-cross side, it widens out from 66 feet 4 inches to 165 feet. With the exception of this "fan" end of the bridge, each of the spans just mentioned is composed of two main girders 164 feet in length, 14 feet deep, and 3 feet wide. These are placed 49 feet apart, and rest on the iron cylinders or columns. The cylinders are of cast iron, 14 feet in diameter below low water, and are reduced to 10 feet in diameter above low water. These massive cylinders vary in length from 80 to 90 feet, according to the configuration of the bed of the river and the nature of the ground in which they are sunk. The cylinders were sunk in sections, the earth being excavated from the inside, and as they were gradually lowered either by their own weight, or by placing heavy loads upon them, new sections were added until the required depth was obtained. Before meeting its final level, each cylinder was loaded at the top with a weight of 700 tons, which was allowed to remain upon it for several weeks, The inside of the cylinders is filled, at the lower part, with concrete, and higher up with solid brickwork. The weight of the materials inside each cylinder is about 500 tons, and upon this was placed the load of 700 tons just mentioned, and this enormous load was laid upon a surface of only 154 feet, being equal to a pressure of about eight tons upon every square foot of the clay on which the foundation rests. The weight of the cylinders themselves is about 1,200 tons. The manner in which the girders were constructed and put together presented several features of novelty. The girders are in the lattice form, and they consist of a top and bottom flange of wrought iron, riveted together in the form of an open box or trough, and these are connected with each other by diagonal struts and ties crossing each other at an angle of 45 degrees, the ends being secured by carefully-turned steel pins. The road and footway are carried upon cross girders 66 feet 4 inches long, 4 feet deep in the centre, and placed 11 feet apart. The main girders are of enormous strength ; though only 164 feet in length, each of them weighs not less than 190 tons, or more than a ton per lineal foot, the heaviest girders for their span which were probably ever constructed. All the parts of which the bridge is constructed are made from six patterns only, and this uniformity of design afforded great facilities for putting the work together, and every piece of metal comprised in a girder was turned out of the workshop so accurately shaped and finished that they would fit indiscriminately in any of the girders. The holes that were required in each separate piece of metal were formed at one operation, and the most extreme accuracy was thus ensured. Each piece of iron was placed upon a table, over which was fixed a strong frame containing as many drills as there were holes wanted in the plate ; the iron was forced by hydraulic pressure against these manifold drills, and a few minutes sufficed to pierce many of them with as many as 80 holes, and these formed simultaneously, equidistant, and perfectly well finished. When these were delivered, the work of putting together was comparatively easy. The tests which were applied to the bridge previous to the opening gave most satisfactory results, and there is no reason to doubt that it is well adapted for a very large amount of traffic.' [5]

1884 'The South-Eastern Railway Extension.
The first cylinder of an addition to Charing Cross Railway Bridge, which will give three additional lines, was sunk in the Thames on Thursday p.m. …. …. The party were met by Mr. Cochrane, the contractor, and conducted by the footway on the west side of the bridge to the scene of operations near the Surrey side of the river, where a pile platform, just abreast of the Surrey brick pier, showed the cylinder suspended and ready for lowering. It is of oval form, about 30 feet high, 14 feet the major, and 10 feet the minor axis with a flange on the upper edge to which a fresh section can be rivetted, and about 24 tons in weight. On the word being given to “lower away” the chain tackles were slowly rendered, and in seven minutes the lower end took the ground amid the cheers of the workmen. The immense advantage of the cylinder method of bridge building is that it supersedes the use of the costly and tedious operation of forming coffer dams. The moment the cylinder was place, its weight sunk it far into the bed of the river that it was, so to speak, its own coffer dam. The water was pumped out, and the men could at once descend and commence the work of excavation necessary to sink the cylinders 35 feet to a solid foundation of London clay, which, unless exposed to the air, is hard almost as rock There will four of these cylinders opposite each of the brick piers of the existing bridge, and two opposite each of the cylinders of the present bridge exactly in the same line, so as not to interfere with the present water way. There will also be two land cylinders on the Thames Embankment. ….'[6]

The South-Eastern Railway Company's bridge across the Thames at London, familiarly known as Charing Cross Bridge, is about to be enlarged to allow of its carrying three additional lines of rails, making in all seven lines. The piers are already in position, and the superstructure is being prepared. The contract was made with Messrs. John Cochrane and Sons, of London, at about £135,000, but the principal part of the work being of iron its execution has been entrusted to the Horseley Company (Limited), of Tipton, who have just constructed one of the principal girders. The existing bridge was erected in 1863, from the designs of Sir John Hawkshaw, and took the place of the old Hungerford suspension bridge, the main piers of which were utilised, while additional cylindrical piers of iron were put in for the new spans. It comprises nine spans six of 154ft. in length, and three of 100 ft. - carries four lines of rails, together with a footway on either side. Owing to the increase of the traffic, it has been found necessary to widen the bridge, and the design of girder devised by Sir John Hawshaw has been adopted, with some improvements in the details by Mr. Frederick Brady, the engineer of the railway company. The widening is to take place on the right hand side of the bridge leaving Charing Cross, and involves the abolition of the footway on that side, which has not been in use for many years. Each of the openings, 154ft. span, consists of two main girders, of wrought-iron, to carry which additional cylinders of piers have been provided, and between which two lines of rails run; and an auxiliary girder of steel, placed close alongside the existing girders, and resting on the existing piers and cylinders, to provide a third line thus increasing the running powers of the bridge by three lines of rails. The object in so constructing the bridge was to put as little additional weight as possible on the existing cylinders. Steel is employed for the additional girder, on account of its relative lightness, and the construction will throw upon the old piers the extra weight of only half an additional line of rails, the remaining two and a half being carried on the new piers. The new cylindrical piers, which have a diameter at the base of 14ft., and taper to 10ft. at the top, are sunk in the bed of the river down to the London clay, and are filled with concrete, making them practically solid from top to bottom. One of them has been tested by having placed upon it for ten days the dead weight of a stack of 780 tons of old rails, with the result that the pier sunk under the pressure by four inches. The wrought iron main girders - of which one now stands erected in tie Horseley Company's yard - are each 154 ft long over all - fifteen feet longer than the interior of the great room at the Birmingham Town Hall - the outer girder being 13ft. 6in. and the inner girder 13t. 9in. deep over the angles. They are divided into fourteen equal bays between the bearings, each bay containing a double set of diagonals (crossing each other), which are connected to the top and bottom booms by turned steel pins. The booms of the girders are formed of plates, and consist of flanges 4ft. wide at the top boom and 3ft. wide at the bottom, and of four webs to each flange 24in deep. These webs are connected to the flanges by angle-irons 6in. by 6in. by 1in, The rivets throughout are 1in. diameter and 4in. pitch. The diagonals are of the design known as Howard's rolled suspension links, with swelled ends, and are either shaped out of plates the width of the swelled ends or made as solid forgings. The dimensions of the struts vary from 9¼ in by 4½ in. to 6in. by 1½ in. The turned steel pins vary from 4in to 7in. diameter, and are 11ft. apart centre to centre. The ends of the pins are covered with ornamental castings tapped on. The strain on the wrought iron is 5 tons in tension and 4 tons in compression. The method of constructing the girders involves some novel points, and was as follows:- The plates having been planed all round and marked off, and punched with 3in. holes, each boom was laid down complete on fifteen cross-bearers, with a pair of vertical adjusting screws to each, on a drilling table - this table being 210ft long and 5ft. 6in. wide, and planed from end to end - with its camber and in the exact position it will occupy when erected. The holes were then drilled by two steam transverse travelling multiple drilling machines, these machines travelling from end to end of the table, and independently of each other, eighteen holes being drilled at one operation by each machine in the top flane and twelve in the bottom. Each of the holes for the steel pins was also bored to its exact size, and in its exact position, at one operation, by a third travelling machine, designed especially for the purpose. This machine was designed to follow, and in fact determine by gauges, the camber of the girder, so that the attendant had simply to work the gauges, which fixed both the horizontal and vertical centres of the pins, without measurement. The camber of the girders is 4in., thus giving a radius of 8,893 ft. 8in. for the top boom and 8,789ft. 11in. for the bottom one. The distance of the centres of the pins in the top booms is 10.99561ft.; in the bottom 10.98439ft., the diagonals being 15.9079ft. The length over the fourteen bays in the top boom is 153.80054ft, (154ft. approximately) and the bottom (153it, 9 1/8in. full). The Iinks, both vertical and diagonal, were bored out, both ends simultaneously, by fixed boring bars to the exact dimensions, so that they are absolutely alike and interchangeable and the girders can only be put together with the right camber, and to the correct dimensions and circumstances in all their parts.
The steel girders are each 164ft. long and 13ft. 9in. deep between the angles, the general outline being as nearly as possible similar to the existing girders. Each girder consists of fourteen double sets of diagonal bars, the upper and lower booms being further connected by vertical tie bars. The top booms of these girders will be connected to the top booms of the existing main girders in such a manner as will give the necessary stiffness to the steel girders, and at the same time allow the girders to deflect independently of each other. The strain on the steel does not exceed 6½ tons per square inch. The weight of each main girder is as follows :- Wrought-iron outer main girder, 151¾ tons; ditto inner main girder, 206¼ tons; steel auxiliary girder, 46¾ tons. The wrought-iron girders are of North of England metal, of which in the construction of the girder already constructed there were 185 samplings and testings, with the average result that a ¾in. plate was found to bear a tensile strain of 23.70 tons per square inch, with a contraction of area amounting to 13.7 per cent. and 12.6 per cent. elongation. The cross girders between the new wrought-iron main girders are of the same material, and are single web plate girders. Steel is used for the cross girders between the new steel and the inner wrought-iron main girders. Including a widening of the far end over the Victoria Embankment, the total weight of wrought-iron and steel in the superstructure is about 4,000 tons. It is anticipated that the Horseley Company will be occupied another twelve months in the execution of the order.'[7]

It is close on three years since the extensive works necessary to the widening of the substantial railway bridge which spans the Thames at Charing-cross were first taken in hand, and in another three months the completed bridge will be handed over to the railway company ready for traffic.

'The total length of the bridge from shore to shore is 1,000 ft., while an additional length of 390 ft. is required to carry the rails from the pier on the Middlesex side to Charing-cross Station. The entire bridge is carried on three spans of 100 ft., and six of 154 ft. in the clear, the girders being supported on brick piers and iron cylinders, 14ft, in diameter, going 65ft. below high-water mark into the river bed. Each of these cylinders has been tested with a weight of 780 tons of iron rails, being considerably in excess of any load which can ever pass over them.

'The permanent way is carried on cross girders 11ft, apart, supported from the main lattice girders, three in number, being one pair and one space line alongside, but not touching the western girder of the old bridge. This arrangement has been adopted in order to prevent any additional strain being thrown on the old structure. The rails are being carried on these cross girders at a height of 25ft. above highwater mark, the line being laid on plate girders covered with creosoted planking. The additions to the old bridge will accommodate three sets of rails, two between the pair of lattice girders, and one between what is practically the old bridge and the new. The amount of iron used in the undertaking is very great. The girders over the Embankment alone weigh 720 tons, while the weight of the main girders, with ' cross pieces, exceeds 2,900 tons, and the iron in the whole, including the cylinders, is upwards of 5,200 tons. The strain is nowhere in excess of five tons to the square inch in tension, or four in compresssion.

'The undertaking has been proceeded with without intermission, and the only difficulty experienced has been on the Embankment, where, owing to the unsatisfactory ground, the old foundations had to be gone through, and a coffer dame were sunk through the granite no fewer than five times before the water was finally got rid of. The widening of the bridge begins from the party wall of the railway station, where the girders, formerly sloping inwards to the old bridge, have been carried out so as to give an increased width of 48 feet to the whole. The many thousand rivets required in so big a structure, as well as a great part of the other work, have been fixed by hydraulic power, while the great weights which had to be adjusted have been raised by steam cranes, of which one of 104 on and three of Mon capacity been employed, while 80 workmen have been constantly employed on the works. It would seem that although the bridge is all but completed, so far as the engineering feat is concerned, it will be some time before the traffic will be benefited by the increased facilities conferred. The three lines carried by the extension of the bridge will be brought tip short on the Surrey side by a blank wall, beyond which lies private property.'[8]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Metropolitan Museum of Art, collections on line, zoomable photograph of Hungerford Bridge
  2. Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper - Sunday 12 May 1844
  3. [2] Engineering Timelines website - Hungerford Suspension Bridge
  4. [3] Southern Railway e-mail Group: Railway Structures: Charing Cross Bridge
  5. Morning Post - Tuesday 12 January 1864
  6. South London Press - Saturday 13 September 1884
  7. Birmingham Daily Post - Tuesday 12 May 1885
  8. Magnet (London) - Monday 1 August 1887