Bridge paintings in festive card surprise

In the latest instalment of his regular feature, Mort Smith looks at the first two bridges that crossed the Thames at Walton, both of which had an unfortunate ending

IT’S amazing what you can discover when you clear out cupboards and drawers isn’t it?

That was certainly the case for Jean Williams of Foxhills Close, Ottershaw, who contacted me to ask whether I’d like to see a Christmas card dating from 1936, which had come to light when she was sorting through some old papers.

The card featured good wishes on the front from Sir Mayson and Lady Beeton of Oatlands Chase, Walton but inside, it contained these two wonderful old prints of the first and second bridges that crossed the Thames at Walton.

So with work on the new crossing due to begin shortly, it seemed like a timely moment to remind you of some of the background to Walton’s bridges.

The first print shows the original bridge built in 1750 by Samuel Dicker who used to live at Mount Felix. The bridge’s novel latticework timber construction attracted a number of artists and one, Canaletto, painted a famous picture of the bridge.

When Dicker unveiled his bridge, he confidently stated that its morticed and bolted construction meant that any piece could be easily replaced and he predicted a life of 200 years. Sadly for him, the money raised from tolls came nowhere close to covering the cost of regular repairs and it was replaced in 1780 by the stone bridge depicted in the second picture.

The view here, taken from Oatlands in 1793, clearly shows the viaduct, which still crosses Cowey Sale.

Unfortunately this bridge also came to a sticky end when the centre span collapsed suddenly in 1859.

Many thanks, Jean, for sharing this with Riverwatch readers.

THANKS, too, to Pamela Chapman who sent me this picture of some of the 22 barges of The Barge Association gathered on the Bushy Park moorings just upstream from Kingston Bridge recently. They ranged from a 30m classic barge with beautiful original skipper’s aft cabin through local favourite Angelus, built in 1884, to several new builds. Richmond Venturer acted as host boat for seminars on various subjects and social get-togethers for the owners.

Lovely to see this wonderful craft gathered in such numbers on our stretch of the Thames.

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