The 1729 Fulham Toll Bridge

From the time of the Norman Conquest, and possibly even earlier a ferry has been known to operate between the settlements of Fulham on the north bank of the River Thames and Putney on the south bank. The service was leased to the Ferrymen by the Bishop of London who resided at Fulham Palace and the Lord of the Manor of Wimbledon.

In 1671 and 1688 plans to construct a bridge over the Thames linking Fulham with Putney were rejected by Parliament. However, an Act of Parliament in 1724 sanctioned the building of the Fulham Toll Bridge. The Act also stipulated that: ‘The sum of £62 was directed to be divided annually between the widows and children of the poor watermen of Fulham and Putney, as a recompense to their fraternity, who, upon the building of the bridge, were constrained from plying upon Sundays.’

Completed in November 1729, and constructed of timber at a cost of £23,975 by Thomas Phillips, a master carpenter to a design by the architect Sir Jacob Ackworth. The bridge was some 786ft (240m) in length with a 24ft (7.3m) wide carriageway. On either side of the carriageway and at regular intervals were tri-angular recesses to safeguard pedestrians from passing traffic. There were 26 openings and locks. The larger central opening was known as Walpole’s Lock; presumably named in honour of Sir Robert Walpole who was instrumental in supporting the Fulham Bridge Bill. Positioned at either end of the bridge were the toll houses, each manned by two toll collectors. Spanning the roadway, the Fulham toll house by all accounts appeared to be an impressive looking structure.

The 1886 Putney Bridge

In the early 1880s it was decided that a new bridge should replace the Fulham Toll Bridge. Sir Joseph Bazalgette was responsible for the design of the new bridge. Putney Bridge, constructed of granite and comprising of five arches. Realigned away from the old bridge, it followed the line of the former Chelsea Waterworks Company 1855 aqueduct that bridged the river. Major alterations were made to the foreshore and area of land close to All Saints Church, Fulham during the construction. On completion of the new bridge, the old wooden bridge and aqueduct were demolished. In 1933 due to the increase in road traffic the down-side of the bridge was widened.

TDP FROG Discoveries at Putney and Fulham

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In 2009, recording work carried out by FROG teams uncovered the remains of red brick structures on the Putney foreshore and also at the Carrera Wharf on the Fulham foreshore. It is thought that both these structures were the remains of the two toll houses on the old Fulham Toll Bridge.