Richmond Lock and Footbridge
is the furthest downstream of the forty-five Thames locks.
It was opened in 1894 and connects the promenade at Richmond with the neighbouring district of St. Margarets on the west bank during the day and is closed at night to pedestrians. At high tide the sluice gates are raised and partly hidden behind metal arches forming twin footbridges.
It was built to maintain the lowest-lying head of water of the forty-five navigable reaches of the Thames above the rest of the Tideway. Below the structure for a few miles, at low tide, the navigable channel is narrow and restricts access for vessels with the greatest draft.
When the London Bridge of 1209 to 1831 was demolished the removal of its bulky and elaborate piers resulted in the tides upstream returning to the rapid flows as they were downstream and before its forming of a near-barrier. That bridge was particularly dam-like when it housed 200 buildings in the Tudor period and in depictions at the time of the Great Fire of London which spared the bridge. This change, together with dredging of the lower river (lowest reaches) and construction of Teddington Lock and weir, meant that for hours of each day the Thames at Richmond, Twickenham, Ham, Petersham and northern Teddington, was a shallow watercourse running past great mud and shingle banks.
The exception was after weeks of above-average rainfall when the river is known as in spate however such outflow hinders navigation upstream.
By the late 19th century water extraction above Teddington had increased to four of five of the city’s main waterworks and after light or normal rainfall more barges found it impossible to navigate the reach during and for hours around the two low tides each day. In 1890, after many years of petitioning, an Act of Parliament was enacted to build the half-lock and weir, the Richmond Footbridge, Sluice, Lock and Slipway Act 1890. This is among a small minority of Thames locks not to have been built around an island or islands (aits).
The chief engineer who designed the core of the structure, F.G.M. Stoney took out seven patents relating to sluices between 1873 and 1894.
Hunt and Steward, surveyors, designed the lockhouses. Ransome and Rapier of Ipswich designed the ironwork including the arches. The structure was built between 1891 and 1894.
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