THE TREMBLING LADY – ALBERT BRIDGE
Albert Bridge, which links Chelsea on the north side of the Thames with Battersea on the south side, acquired the nickname ‘the trembling lady’, because it tended to vibrate when troops from the nearby Chelsea barracks marched over it. So much so, that a sign was put up on the bridge asking soldiers to ‘break step’ in order to help reduce the ‘bridge’s tremble’ .
The bridge was originally built at the suggestion of Prince Albert, who thought a toll bridge would ease the congestion on the newly built Chelsea bridge (then called Victoria bridge) and the old wooden Battersea bridge which was in bad condition.
The new Albert bridge was completed in 1873 by Rowland Ordish but the toll booths (which are the only surviving bridge toll booths in London) were not commercially successful. Albert Bridge, along with all the other bridges between Hammersmith and Waterloo, were purchased by the newly formed Metropolitan Board of Works in 1879.
With a road width only 8 meters wide, the bridge was ill suited to the introduction of the motor car and has always had weight restrictions. More than once it was planned to replace the bridge or convert it to a pedestrian bridge, but lack of funds and campaigns by pressure groups meant that the original bridge survived and is the only bridge in London, along with Tower Bridge, not to have been replaced.
In addition to the bridge’s weight and width problems, its timbers were also in a bad way due to dog urine from the many dogs on their way to the Battersea Park! Used by approx 19,000 cars a day, it is second only to Southwark Bridge as the least used bridge in London.
In 1992 and again in 2010 the bridge was closed for significant maintenance work and now is painted in bright colours to warn boats of its presence and lit by 4000 LED bulbs at night, making it a wonderful sight from miles around.