Uncertainty over Hammersmith Bridge refurbishment

I have written before about the controversial question of what colour Hammersmith Bridge should be painted.

The work is due to take place this year but the colour – and other matters – have yet to be resolved.

Tom Ryland, Chairman of the Hammersmith Society says:

“We have been pressing the Council – so far unsuccessfully – for us to be involved in decisions regarding the refurbishment of the bridge which is due to take place later this year. As you will all be aware, the bridge is in need of strengthening so that it can support the weight of double decker buses and some lorries. This a joint project between Transport for London and the Council who have responsibility for the maintenance of the bridge. Several short term closures have been necessary for temporary works and we understand further closures are necessary to allow detail survey work to be carried out. There still does not seem to be a formal programme for the main works. For obvious reasons we do not expect to be involved in the technical detail and our main interest is in the lighting and redecoration. Since the last lighting upgrade for which the Hammersmith Society gave its Environment Award in 2000 for the ‘blades of light’ created on each side of the bridge, lighting technology has moved on in leaps and bounds so that the individual incandescent bulbs will almost certainly be replaced by strips of modern LEDs. In the same refurbishment, the bridge was repainted in the olive green – often described as ‘Harrods Green’ as this was found by research to be closest to Joseph Bazelgette’s original colour scheme. Does this mean that the bridge must always be this colour which is not universally liked? After all Bazelgette was an engineer not an architect. Apart from the green colour fading quite badly – looking awful when patched – it now merges with the green tint of the new Queen’s Wharf/Riverside Studios buildings so that the bridge, when viewed from up river, is all but lost. The bridge has had other colour schemes in its history and we suggest that the colour scheme should be re-visited so that the bridge can rightly be seen and appreciated in all its glory.”

What colour should Hammersmith Bridge be?

Hammersmith BridgeIn his latest bulletin Tom Ryland, the Chairman of the Hammersmith Society, writes:

“Despite recent emergency closures, the bridge is due to be completely closed next year for a more radical overhaul and strengthening to allow double decker buses to use it again. (They were banned when there were previous structural problems). Our understanding is that this work is likely to take six months from next summer. The works will also involve repainting (and relighting). When it was last repainted, many lamented the loss of the more decorative treatment in pastel colours by the London County Council. The replacement in what many people refer to as Harrods green came about after studies of the original paint scheme by Sir Joseph Bazalgette in 1887 and was strongly advised by English Heritage. A new lighting scheme was also installed by the Council and which won a Hammersmith Society Environment Award in 2001, but the deck lighting has proved unreliable and difficult to maintain. The Hammersmith Society Committee feel that there is an opportunity to revisit both the colour and the lighting and that an exciting way to explore possibilities would be for an open competition : We would be happy to organise this but obviously there would need to be agreement with both the Council and TfL who are funding the main project.

Do let us know what you think!”

Richard Owen responds:

“On the subject of Hammersmith Bridge I welcome plans for an overhaul of arguably London’s most beautiful river crossing.

Personally I would not open up the question of colour scheme. The existing green and gold scheme is both historically accurate and beautiful. I understand the bridge spent the first year of its life in 1887 in a pale pink undercoat before being painted green in 1888, which may have implanted a folk memory that this was its ‘correct’ colour.

There are still important questions though:

1) Will the overhaul include a full strip/gritblast of very many existing paint layers as in the case of the restoration of Tower Bridge completed 2011?
2) There are actually two distinct shades of green in the scheme – a bright acidic green at lower levels and a dustier bronze green elsewhere. Is this intentional/correct or just the result of a partial and poorly matched repaint? Which one is Bazalgette’s colour?
3) There are large heraldic decorations at each end of the bridge (including the coat of  arms of United Kingdom!) which were originally visible in their correct colours but  have since  been painted out. These could, indeed I think should, be reinstated.”