Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hungerford Bridge

During the Queen's Jubilee Pageant on the Thames the flotilla of 1,000 vessels passed beneath 14 of London's historic bridges, including London Bridge, which marks the site of the first crossing of the Thames.  The present bridge replaced the 1830s version sold to the American McCulloch Oil Corporation in 1968 for a reputed £1,029,000.  During the 18th century the river was twice it's present width and flowed at half the speed it does today.  There remained only one bridge across the Thames until 1750 when Westminster Bridge was built.

Friends and followers of Lydiard House and the St John family might be interested in the history of another of London's famous bridges with a familiar sounding name - Hungerford.

Hungerford Bridge was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1845.  Southwark shoppers paid a half penny toll to cross the original suspension bridge built to connect the south bank with the market from which the bridge took its name.

The site of Hungerford Market dates to the 15th century when it belonged to Sir Walter 1st Baron Hungerford, Lucy Hungerford's great-great-great-great-great grandfather. It was Lucy Hungerford who married Sir John St John in about 1584 and is depicted in the St John polypytch in St Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze. Following Sir John's death she married her cousin Sir Anthony Hungerford.  Her son by this second marriage, Parliamentarian leader Sir Edward Hungerford, inherited Hungerford House from his great uncle.  When he died in 1648 the property passed to his nephew, the son of his half brother Sir Anthony Hungerford.

It was this Edward who, encouraged by the success of Covent Garden, decided to develop his property, then called Hungerford Inn.  A 1678 Act of Parliament granted Edward authority to let the ground on building leases and to hold a market there on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.  The prospects were good for this commercial enterprise when the market opened in 1682, but somewhat surprisingly the market never prospered and Edward quickly began selling off parcels of land.  Sir Christopher Wren bought a quarter of the property and the market house built in the centre of the site was thought to have been designed by him.

Subsequent owners included architect Henry Wise who bought the property in 1718 and in 1830 it was acquired by the newly created Hungerford Market Company.  In 1851 Hungerford Hall was built for lectures and shows but just three years later the property was burnt down when it caught fire during a panorama of the Duke of Wellington's Funeral.  The fire also damaged the Market Hall, causing yet more financial problems for the Hungerford Market Company.  In 1862 the whole property was bought by the Charing Cross Railway Company.  The area was cleared and is today the site of Charing Cross Station.

Brunel's original suspension bridge was bought by the South Eastern Railway company in 1859. It was replaced with a structure designed by Sir John Hawkshaw using Brunel's brick pile buttresses, which continue to support the bridge up to the present day.

Read more about Lucy Hungerford on my other blog

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