A pioneering bridge

THE CONCRETE PEDESTRIAN bridge over the railway tracks at Kew Gardens Station cannot be described as attractive. In fact, it is rather ugly. However, on a recent visit to the station, I spotted a notice attached to the bridge that provides interesting information about it.

The bridge was opened in 1912. It is one of the earliest examples of the use of reinforced concrete in Britain. The technique used to construct this bridge was that pioneered by François Hennebique (1842-1921). The first building made in Britain using his method of reinforcing concrete with wrought iron beams was the Weaver Building in Swansea (in 1897). An article in Wikipedia related that between 1892 and 1902, over 2000 structures were made using Hennebique’s method. This makes me wonder why the plaque on the bridge at Kew is described as a “rare example” of this kind of structure. Maybe, what is meant is that it is a rare surviving example of his construction method. In any case, the bridge at Kew incorporates two features that were designed to protect users of the bridge from the smoke produced by steam engines that used to travel beneath it. One feature is the high wall on each side of the pathway over the bridge. The other are small projections over the railway lines, which were designed to deflect smoke from the bridge.

Kew Gardens station was opened in 1869. It is the only station on the London Underground network to have a pub attached to it. In the past, this pub, now known as The Tap on the Line, had an entrance directly from the London bound platform. In addition to the bridge described above, there is also an underground pedestrian passageway running beneath the tracks. The main reasons to use this station are to visit the National Archives and/or Kew Gardens. If you are coming from central London to visit the gardens, you will have to cross the tracks. So, why not cross them on a bridge that, although ugly, is a landmark of engineering history?

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