22/4/15 TWICKENHAM BRIDGE
26-NOV-08 Twickenham Bridge and attached railing
s, lamp standards and light brackets
Arched road bridge, by Alfred Dryland and Maxwell Ayrton, built by Aubrey Watson Ltd, completed in 1933.
DESCRIPTION: Twickenham Bridge is 145.5m long and 21.3m wide and has five arches, three of which are over the river. The central span is 31.4m and the flanking river arches each span 29.9m. The two land arches at either end measure 17.1m. The bridge superstructure is a light, attenuated and rhythmic composition of reinforced concrete arches, carried on very narrow piers. Expansion joints are situated in the cut-waters and the arch crowns are articulated by metal edging. The striated appearance of the concrete resulted from the use of specially designed shuttering which was then textured with a bush hammer. One of the most distinguishing visual features of the bridge are the decorative bronze coverplates, executed in Art Deco style, that emphasise the three structural hinges at the crowns and springings of each arch. By drawing attention to these hinges, the architect, Maxwell Ayrton gave prominence to the bridge's technical virtuosity as the first large three-hinged concrete arch bridge to be built in the United Kingdom. As such, it is a neat exposition of the intersection of architecture and structural engineering. The Art Deco theme is continued in the use of ornamental tiles embedded in horizontal seams and in the bronze cover plates over the expansion joints at the abutments. The bridge has a coved cornice and paired staircase 'turrets' with bastions which provide pedestrian access from the embankments. The bridge has bronze balustrades and lamps, very similar in design to Chiswick Bridge. Unlike Chiswick Bridge, which was also designed in reinforced concrete by Alfred Dryland, the three river arches of Twickenham Bridge have permanent hinges for self-adjustment.
HISTORY: Twickenham Bridge was designed by Alfred Dryland (1865-1946) and Maxwell Ayrton (1874-1960) and built by Aubrey Watson Ltd who was given the contract for the bridge in 1931. The bridge cast £217,300. As early as 1909 a crossing had been recommended for the site. The delay was caused in part by local objection to the construction and the bridge was known locally as 'The Bridge that Nobody Wants', partly because on the Surrey side the approach cut through the Old Deer Park.
The bridge was the second of three bridges opened by the Prince of Wales (later to become Edward VIII) on the 3 July 1933, the others being Chiswick Bridge and Hampton Court Bridge. These bridges formed part of the Great Chertsey arterial road scheme, a major undertaking designed to relieve Hammersmith Bridge and alleviate congestion in Richmond. The bridge is named for its position on the road to Twickenham; it connects the Old Deer Park in Richmond with the district of St Margaret's on the north bank.
The distinctive architectural ornamentation of the bridge was the work of Maxwell Omrod Ayrton (1874-1960). Ayrton worked closely with some of the era's leading structural engineers, notably Sir Owen Williams (1890-1969), giving distinctive architectural input to works such as the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley (1921-4) and Findhorn and Spey Bridges, Scotland (1924-26). As an architect in his own right he, or his practice, were responsible for such works as Derby Stadium (1948), Medical Research Council Library, Mill Hill (1950) and the 'Oliver', 'Darwin' & 'Heringham' blocks of Bedford College for Women, at Regents Park (1953). Early on he was both a keen advocate and apologist for reinforced concrete, stating in 1926 that 'concrete suffers from having always been regarded as a cheap material with the result that any suggestion of treating it in a seemly manner as a material worthy of architectural recognition has been regarded not only as an extravagance, but as an actual misuse' .
Alfred Dryland, CBE (1865-1946) was also a figure of note: his Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry records 'In the field of road engineering Dryland was considered the greatest expert in Britain of his day and he was a pioneer in the planning and construction of motorways in this country'. In 1920 he became County Engineer of Middlesex and oversaw the construction of the Great West, Great Cambridge, and North Circular roads and many other roads and bridges in the county were his responsibility. In June 1925 the Great West Road from Chiswick to East Bedfont was formally opened by George V and is described as 'a triumph of modern engineering skill in the face of formidable problems'.
Twickenham Bridge was the first large three-hinged concrete arch bridge to be built in the UK. Hinged at the crown and at the springing points of the arch, three-hinged or three-pinned arches overcome many of the defects inherant in fixed (hingeless) arch bridges, notably the difficulty in calculating abutment reactions. By dividing the arch into free halves, the forces acting on the hinges can be exactly calculated, and each half can sink relatively to the other without damaging the arch. For this reason, three-hinged arches were often chosen where differential settlement was likely. Although the three-hinged arch was developed by various French and German engineers in the mid-C19 for arched metal roofs and bridges, it was not until the early C20 that the concept was applied to reinforced concrete structures, with French engineer Armand Considère among the foremost innovators.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION UPGRADE:
* Twickenham Bridge has exceptional constructional interest as the first large concrete bridge built on the three-pin principle in the United Kingdom.
* This innovation is complemented by strong formal qualities: this is a graceful composition with fine points of detail too and important in the gradual acceptance of concrete as an exposed building material in the UK.
* The bridge also has more than special historic interest as a part of the major rebuilding and improvement scheme for the Great Chertsey Road, connected with the road expansion on the first half on the C20 in relation to the rise of the motor car.
* Finally, Twickenham Bridge has very strong group value with the bridges alongside it: Richmond Bridge (Grade I), Richmond Rail Bridge (Grade II) and Richmond Lock and Weir Footbridge (Grade II*).
G Phillips, 'Thames Crossings' (1981), 170-1.
W L Scott, 'Twickenham Bridge' in 'Concrete and Construction Engineer' (August 1932), 434-45.
'Civil Engineering' (March 1933), 88-91.
'Engineer' (1933), 17.
R Sharp, 'Dryland, Alfred (1865-1946)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
P Collins, Concrete: The Vision of a New Architecture (2004) 133.
RIBA Biographical File: Ayrton, Ormrod Maxwell, 1874-1960.
Obituaries: Builder v198, 26 Feb 1960, p402; RIBA Journal v67, May 1960, 247.