This beautiful bridge was completed in 1777 to little fanfare. The only way across the river at Richmond until then had been a ferry service. Despite the convenience of a new bridge, the people of Richmond had objections. It was feared the structure could: “destroy the great beauty of the said River and Views about it”
Discussions then turned to where exactly the bridge should cross the river. It was decided the best spot was the existing ferries route rather than opposite Water Lane, another suggestion.
Architects, Kenton Couse and James Paine are responsible for the elegant design we have today. However, there was no official ceremony. on when the bridge opened on People excited to use the new bridge and cross to Twickenham might have been disappointed to find there would be a cost. A toll was charged to all pedestrians vehicles and animals. These were collected at toll gates positioned at either end of the bridge.
The bridge had been financed with tontine shares of £100, proceeds of the toll provided an annuity for the shareholders. As shareholders died the others enjoyed a greater proportion of the profit. The last survivor accruing £800 per year, this works out at about £94,000 in today’s money. When he died in 1859 the bridge was finally free to cross.
The original bridge was narrow only 16ft 6inches or 5 meters wide. In 1937 the bridge was widened as it was too slender to accommodate motor vehicles. One side of the bridge was carefully deconstructed and reconstructed a stone at a time. If you look under the arch you can still make out the join today.
A few years after completion, Richmond Bridge was described by The London Magazine as “a simple, yet elegant structure…one of the most beautiful ornaments of the river”. Today it is the oldest original structure to cross the Thames.