Picture of the bridge taken one evening in October 2016
Warwick Avenue bridge is 110 years old this week. Originally known as Warwick Road bridge, it was officially opened on 18th September 1907. This post has been written specially for this anniversary to show how the bridge has changed over the years.
The plaque denoting year of construction. Its been moved from another part of the bridge and welded here.
As the plaque denotes, the engineer was E.B.B.Newton and the contractors A.N.Coles of Plymouth. I cant find much about these other than A.N.Coles was still doing construction projects almost fifty years later.
E.B.B.Newton was a M.I.C.E, thats not a special kind of mouse but in fact a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was also member of the Institution of Municipal and County Engineers (the acroymn is M.INST. C.E.) Newton was the Borough’s Surveyor, based at the Town Hall, Paddington. The Town Hall was next to St Mary’s church on Paddington Green and demolished in 1965 for the new A40 Westway.
One of the bridge’s mysteries! Did Newton design the bridge so it would fit tightly against the Regent’s Canal toll house?
It seems E.B.B.Newton may have been responsible for the design of the three new bridges around Little Venice. The horse bridge I’m not so sure about but Harrow Road bridge would have been his work. The reconstruction of both Warwick Avenue and Harrow Road bridges would have been a bus man’s holiday for Newton, being right on the doorstep of his offices.
Although many would assume the old bridges around the Little Venice pool were the original canal bridges, I think they were actually the second such to be built. The pictures of the canals on their opening day in 1801 show different bridges to those that can be seen in photographs. Its possible the old bridge at Warwick Road on the Regent’s Canal was original and the weigh bridge (now Westbourne Terrace bridge) copied that style, making it the second such at that location before the present was built. The same would have gone for Harrow Road too.
Or did the Regent’s Canal Company rebuild their toll house so it fitted tightly against the new Warwick Avenue bridge?
The old bridges around the Little Venice pool had an incline up either side and that made them unsuitable for modern traffic and services such as gas and water mains. This was a problem even in the 1900’s and why they were replaced more or less at the same time.
The first of the Little Venice bridges to be replaced was Westbourne Terrace in 1900, with Warwick Road (aka Warwick Ave) following soon after. That at Harrow Road lasted until around 1912.
Pictures of the original bridge at Warwick Avenue are extremely rare but here are a couple. As the first shows, the first bridge once had a pair of stone columns at its entrance. Why they were there or what they signified, I have no clue, but Its possible they were elaborate lamp posts.
View across pool to the bridge. Note the columns, horse, omnibus. Prob late 1890s.
An information board about Warwick Avenue bridge and the Regent’s Canal toll house once existed. It was removed, probably 12 years ago no doubt due to vandalism. Here’s a picture of the old bridge depicted on that very board.
The year given is 1900 this means the date the picture was taken, not the year the new bridge was built. The view looks west and Browning’s Island can just be seen through the bridge. The blue markings on the picture are part of the decorative work that once covered the board.
The original Warwick Avenue bridge was replaced because of the need to lay new mains including water and gas beneath the road. The old hump backed bridge was no good for the purpose and the relevant authorities, Paddington Borough, London County Council and Regent’s Canal Company collaborated to build the new bridge.
The bridge in the 1950s. Note the sunken towpaths! Marylebone power station can be seen in the distance.
Both Warwick Avenue and Westbourne Terrace Road bridges have similarities in terms of the stone that was used for the pillars. Pretty much the same kind of lamp posts were used for both. Each had the Paddington Borough coat of arms depicted on the four pillars, though Warwick Avenue’s used a later style coat of arms.
In the sixties, various schemes were touted to improve the area’s roads, and with the coming of the Westway, it soon became apparent the bridge wouldn’t be wide enough for traffic coming off the A40. There was also a need for more service pipes, including another gas mains, underneath the bridge and widening was one way of achieving this. Local historians say the other two bridges around the Little Venice pool, Harrow Road and Westbourne Terrace (horse bridge) were altered too, although I have not yet found out exactly how the horse bridge was widened.
Waterbus about to pass beneath the bridge in 1959. Note the old road embankment at right.
The above and below pictures are clips from You Tube showing Little Venice and the Regent’s Canal in 1959. The bridge is in its old position. The road embankment at right was replaced by the current wall seen in Rembrandt Gardens. This enabled the road to be widened, then the bridge was altered to match up with that widening.
Again this is 1959. Its clear where the bridge stood originally. Note the coping stone.
Above and below: The same stone coping can be seen and tells us the original and current position of the bridge.
September 2017: The very front of Lady A is about where the bridge originally began. The same stone can be seen.
The first proposal to widen both road and bridge was made by the London County Council in 1962, however the properties along the east side objected as the work would remove most of their gardens. These plans were revised and it was decided to widen only the west side instead, taking land from Warwick Avenue gardens for this purpose.
September 2017: The present road showing approximately where the west side of the bridge originally stood.
The work took place in about 1965. I cant find any references to the exact dates, however maps do show road widening took place at this time. The new wall along the east side of Warwick Avenue Gardens (now Rembrandt Gardens) was built in that year. No doubt the bridge had to be rebuilt at the same time or it would have been out of line with the new roads.
The reconstruction turned Warwick Avenue bridge from a two and half lane bridge into a four lane bridge. On the present bridge just the pair of northbound lanes are marked to facilitate the traffic needing to go straight on or turn into Blomfield Road. Southbound its two lanes again but unmarked.
Sept 2017 showing the new bridge section with its welded steel beams. The pigeons prefer the new to the old!
The work was done simply by splitting the bridge along the middle of the road. The western part, including its piers, was then taken down and rebuilt about twelve feet further west. The resulting gap had new welded steel beams installed in order to provide the extra width needed for the road above. New pipelines were also laid in the new section. The original services on the east side of the bridge remain in place.
The new wall by Blomfield Road allowed the road junction to be expanded and align the bridge correctly.
In addition to the work at the bridge itself, the junction of Warwick Avenue and Blomfield Road was widened to ensure the bridge’s new alignment would fit in seamlessly with the roads. The same kind of brick that was used to build the new walls along here was used on all new areas of work so one can see where the rebuilding has occurred.
The differences in brickwork, at Blomfield Road, where the new was used to widen the road junction here.
Differences in construction above the towpath. 1907 riveted steel sections at right, 1960’s welded steel sections on left.
The eastern half of the bridge with its 1907 plaque is the 100% original bit. To be able to see the real differences between the 1907 and 1965 construction stages, the canal towpath beneath is the best place. From there one can look up at the girders to see the differences in construction.
General view looking east. The differences in construction can be seen, including the new (false) and old (solid) quoins.
The older parts of the bridge supports are made of riveted steel whilst the modern bits have welded steel plates. The original bridge sections used solid limestone quoins a couple of feet thick, the bridge’s support beams rested on these. The new sections use false limestone quoins with concrete packed behind to form the foundations, and the modern beams rest upon this concrete. One of the false quoins has fallen out and the concrete foundations from the sixties can be easily seen.
The video mentioned is at You Tube – Little Venice 1959. (Note the absence of boats along the Blomfield Road stretch!)