Lambeth Bridge (1865)

Image dated 1862

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Photo taken in a westerly direction · Lambeth · SE1 ·
Lambeth Bridge is on the site of a horse ferry between the Palace of Westminster and Lambeth Palace on the south bank.

The first modern bridge was a suspension bridge, 828 feet long, designed by Peter W. Barlow. Sanctioned by an Act of Parliament in 1860, it opened as a toll bridge in 1862 but doubts about its safety, coupled with its awkwardly steep approaches deterring horse-drawn traffic, meant it soon became used almost solely as a pedestrian crossing. It ceased to be a toll bridge in 1879 when the Metropolitan Board of Works assumed responsibility for its upkeep — it was by then severely corroded, and by 1910 it was closed to vehicular traffic.

The London County Council prepared a masterplan for the area, including a replacement road bridge linking to a widened Horseferry Road, which was authorised by London County Council (Lambeth Bridge) Act 1924. Before work had started on the project, the 1928 Thames flood caused extensive destruction of property in the Millbank area. Following the flood the Chelsea Embankment was rebuilt and raised, resulting in some minor redesign of the approaches, and creating the open space to the south of Lambeth Bridge now known as Victoria Tower Gardens South. During the period of delay, the bridge was also redesigned to be able to cope with a higher weight of motorised traffic.

The current structure, a five-span steel arch, designed by engineer Sir George Humphreys and architects Sir Reginald Blomfield and G. Topham Forrest, was built by Dorman Long


The ’Lamb’ in Lambeth really means just that.

The name is recorded in 1062 as Lambehitha, meaning ’landing place for lambs’, and in 1255 as Lambeth. The name refers to a harbour where lambs were either shipped from or to. It is formed from the Old English ’lamb’ and ’hythe.

South Lambeth is recorded as Sutlamehethe in 1241 and North Lambeth is recorded in 1319 as North Lamhuth. The marshland in the area, known as Lambeth Marshe, was drained in the 18th century but is remembered in the Lower Marsh street name. Sometime after the opening of Waterloo railway station in 1848 the locality around the station and Lower Marsh became known as Waterloo.

Lambeth Palace is located opposite the Palace of Westminster. The two were linked by a horse ferry across the Thames.

Until the mid-18th Century the north of Lambeth was marshland, crossed by a number of roads raised against floods.

With the opening of Westminster Bridge in 1750, followed by the Blackfriars Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge, a number of major thoroughfares were developed through Lambeth, such as Westminster Bridge Road, Kennington Road and Camberwell New Road.

In William Blake’s epic Milton a Poem, the poet John Milton leaves Heaven and travels to Lambeth, in the form of a falling comet, and enters Blake’s foot. This allows Blake to treat the ordinary world as perceived by the five senses as a sandal formed of "precious stones and gold" that he can now wear. Blake ties the sandal and, guided by Los, walks with it into the City of Art, inspired by the spirit of poetic creativity. The poem was written between 1804 and 1810.
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