23 AUGUST 1856, Page 11


THE notice which has already been taken of the new Westminster Bridge has raised two further questions of no mean importance, both pressing practically, and both likely to entail upon the public inconvenience and waste if they be wrongly settled. The Commissioners appointed to investigate the plans of the new Westminster Bridge have shown that the very principle of the structure is erroneous ; but they seem to have lacked the moral courage to recommend the obvious course—a clean sweep. of the whole scheme. Now, surely, it is time to leave off tinkering at that spot. Ever since the first architect began, the bridge has been tortured with tinkerings. He was, as we showed in our last number but one, compelled to alter the Aructure after it had been actually begun, and to put upon it a heavier duty than it was de- signed to bear. When it had lasted longer than any reasonable man could have expected of a heavy carriage-bridge placed on foot-bridge foundations, with the enormous traffic of the West- minster highways passing. over it, various plans were adopted for " mending " it ; and before the repairs were over, more had been spent upon it than it originally cost. At last it was resolved to sweep away the tinkered structure, and to make a new one altogether.

But how is the work undertaken ? It is not thrown open to public competition ; neither the plan adopted nor the testimo- nials of the favoured workman are submitted to public criticism; but the piers are allowed to creep into embryo existence before the ppublic is aroused. Who is the gentleman chosen ? He has produced works before—the new bridge at Battersea, for instance, a bridge at Datchet, and some previous Works in conjunction with eminent engineers. But what is the practical opinion on his individual performances ? It is a public question, which ought to have a specific answer. We know that there are very adverse opinions ; we know that there are favourable opinions ; we know that the architect is obstructed and overruled, yet that he is allowed to continue. The public interest demands that we should ascertain on which side is the right, and that the right should not be compromised. The more so since with the existence of the new bridge begins a new series of tinkerings. As the very principle of the bridge is called in question, so of course must be its details. Professional men calculate that its foundations will be infirm, its water-way inconvenient, its carriage-way incon- venient if not dangerous ; and " alterations " are suggested.

Alterations—indeed repairs—before the bridge is more than commenced !

Would it not be better to begin again, once more, but abso- lutely without this congenital tinkering ? The sums expended would—we have it on high authority—have sufficed to give us a newbridge ; and if we had done the work properly ten years ago, the traffic of Westminster would now be moving smoothly over a solid bridge which would not have needed repairs for years to come, instead of crowding precariously over a dilapidated bridge, and awaiting the appearance of that new one which has to be re- paired before it has risen above the water !

Nor is Westminster the only place where a tinkering process is at work. Even in 1846, if not before, the want of a seventh bridge was practically felt and distinctly recognized ;yet it is a convenience of which we should feel the value on having it, even more than we feel the want before we have it. The same high military engineer who condemned the peddling and wasteful plan of botching old Westminster Bridge, condemned the make- shift of a suspension foot-bridge across the river at Hungorford : but every argument then used tells with tenfold force now. If • "Metropolitan Bridges and Westminster Improvements. By Sir Howard Douglas, Bart., M.P. Second edition?' Published by T. and W. Boone, in 18I6.

the reader will glance at the map of London, he will see that the Thames, which irregularly bisects the metropolis longitudi- nally, makes an elbow Northward, reaching into the very centre of the region of houses, and literally coming within a stone's throw of "the finest site in Europe "—the Feat crossing of metropolitan highways. Charing Cross is the pomt at which, as Sir Howard Douglas said in 1846, the traffic would naturally traverse the river to the Surrey side of the metropolis, from Pall Mall, Piccadilly, Oxford Street, and all the North-west ; at which it would naturally pass from the counties behind the North-west frontier of the me- tropolis to those on the South and South-east. But if that was so in 1846, how much stronger the case in 1856 ! The South- Western Railway station has brought a vast traffic, especially for passengers and the fast travelling, into the very heart of the me- tropolis, close to Charing Cross. Nor is that all. No improve- ment of the great thoroughfares parallel to the North bank of the Thames would be equal to drawing away the through traffic from that route ; and again a glance at the map will show that the natural route from the North-west to the London Bridge station, and from the North-east to Lambeth and the stations designed East of the super-pontine Thames, would be over a bridge at Cha- ring Cross.

The want of a bridge will be more felt, more imperatively de- manded, as soon as we see the completion of improvements already planned in that quarter. There are several schemes for opening the tangled labyrinth of streets in Lambeth and Southwark so as to give a clear highway ; but that which is the simplest and most profitable for present purposes would consist of a road parallel to the curve of the Thames from Westminster Bridge and 'Vauxhall Bridge onwards to London Bridge. Stamford Street and its conti- nuation to the South-west already give the larger part of this curve ; which would effect a direct union between all the bridges on the Surrey side, and all the railway stations, and would be the main line between all the most pressing requirements of a grand thoroughfare. This would completely open all the highways of the North and South ; and they would then need the single link, the junction by means of a bridge at Charing Cross. If that were given, all the traffic from the West to London Bridge would at once flow away from the City and its choked thoroughfares

The want has been in part recognized by the formation of the foot-bridge ; but a foot-bridge met the very smallest and least pro- fitable of the demands. Foot-passengers do not want to go to Bent, to Surrey, to London Bridge, or Vauxhall : it is cabs, coaches, omnibuses, goods-waggons, that now have to compass such journeys by a circuitous route,; and no toll could carry them over a chain suspension-bridge. The further demand is recognized more practically, and two ans are already discussed. One plan seems, from certain pub-

lished reports, to be the subject of actual negotiation. It is, if we understand it rightly, the formation of a road or carriage bridge on each side of thepresent foot-bridge ; one for the coming, one for the going traffic. The other is the building of a solid and sufficient stone bridge, either on the site of the sus- pension-bridge, as Sir Howard Douglas suggested, or a little West of it. This project is only "talked of." Now again we protest against the wanton and wasteful spirit of tinkering. Let us consider the main, features of the two plans. One would convert the present suspension-bridge into a triple bridge of mixed character, with a stable roadway, of what kind we know not, on each side, and the elastic bounding suspension- bridge between. Since Hungerford Market stands right in the midst of the Middlesex side,—and we do not hear that it is to be removed,—the approaches to the road-ways of the bridge, we presume, would diverge, the one turning off from the bridge to the right and going up Villiers Street, the other to the left and going up Craven Street. Now, in the absence of any other ar- rangement, this would be a great public convenience. It seems to be the one in contemplation. But we affirm confidently, that if it were carried out, it would develop a traffic too big for the bridge, and the makeshift would have to be removed to give room ior the Charing Bridge. That is the true want, greater even than the want of a new Westminster Bridge. There are no real difficulties in the way. The ground on both sides would be so enormously improved in value by the opening, that no expense of land could be an obstacle. Even if Northumberland House be not procurable for the direct opening into the "finest site,"—and it has been asked for inferior purposes,—the object could be practically attained by opening Northumberland Street or Craven Street, or piercing the block of houses between. No necessity in such a case to disturb the exist- ing suspension-bridge. No necessity to put up with tortuous and divided approaches, separated from each other by the market. All these obstacles would be left on one side, undisturbed. No neces- sity to build an expensive provisional bridge, to be superseded in a few years. No ; Government could at once place the two halves of the metropolis into communication with each other at the

. central point of junction, by a sufficient free bridge ; and the bridge could be begun and finished within three years.