The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Amazing how rough-and-tumble old Saxon sounds. Somehow I doubt that the residents of Putney would have paid through their noses to buy property there had their borough retained its old name of Putta. And wealthy Fulham today, once having started life as a fishing village, can scarce be connected with the demesne of Fulla, or indeed the criminal syndicates that ran the suburb till the 1960s.

Continuing our recitation of the various bridges over London's Thames, we find that other interesting facts abound. We speak here of the crossings connecting Fulham with Putney. At least initially, ferries were used to traverse the river. Indeed, ferries from Putney are mentioned in the Domesday Book (which recorded in 1086 that they yielded twenty shillings annually to the Lord of the Manor). The first plans to build a bridge in 1671 were scuppered by the jealousy of the City Corporation, and it was not till 1726 that an Act of Parliament authorised its construction. (You can purchase the original documents at de Freitas Books.)

This first bridge was designed by Sir Joseph Acworth, and was made of timber, supported by 26 arches. Being low-slung, ships often collided with it, and it needed constant repair. An engraved map by John Rocque names it 'Fulham Bridge'. In 1879, the Metropolitan Board of Works purchased this bridge, and decided it was time to build a new one. That is the one currently standing, called Putney Bridge - unique in being the only one in Britain to have a church at either end - and is the first of Sir Joseph Bazalgette's bridges in London (1886).

That famous feminist Mary Wollstonecraft allegedly tried to commit suicide by jumping off Fulham bridge. She had been earlier thwarted at Battersea by the large crowds; when she leapt into the river at Putney, she proved to be equally inept in the attempt and was fished out of the water by a boatman.
It appears that the only person compensated when the Bazalgette bridge was built was the landlord of the Eight Bells tavern, whose trade was affected because the pub was no longer at the end of the bridge. This is in exact opposition to previous payoffs, which were made to boatmen and the scullers whose livelihoods would have been permanently affected by the construction of any bridge across the river.
A railway bridge standing adjacent to the Old Fulham Bridge is used by the District Line is a wrought-iron lattice girder bridge placed on two piers. Designed by William Jacomb, it was completed in 1889. Once it was called the iron bridge although its abutments are dressed with Portland Stone. It has a pedestrian route, which seems barely used.

Meanwhile, the rivalry between Cambridge and Oxford universities resulted in the annual Boat Race (1845). Starting from the Putney Embankment and ending at Mortlake, this is the most famous and popular of the races on the river. Sadly, though, the ancient Doggett's Coat and Badge race, or the Head of Rivers race, or the yearly contest between the London Fire Brigade and the River Police are hardly attended.


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