Rustic Bridge

Below is an article by Tom Maxwell in issue 46 of The Review.

“Rustic bridges were popular in Victorian gardens, giving the visitor the feeling that he or she was in the depths of the country, far away from the bustle of the city. Beside the one in our Park there was also one on Wandsworth Common (see picture) and also Ladywell Park. The bridge itself, and the fine views it afforded, were regarded as special enough for at least ten different postcards to be produced.

It must be seen as one of the highlights of a walk around the Park.The most revealing picture is that on page 49 of the Friends book ‘Battersea Park, an Illustrated History’. Here it is easy to see the two almost Georgian styled brick piers.

You can even count the bricks! Clearly visible are the timbers, which almost resemble railway sleepers. The exact shape, size and structure can be gleaned from this valuable photograph. The nature of the path over the bridge can be seen on another rare greetings postcard. It seems to be similar to that recently restored at Audley End by English Heritage. With a lens you can see details of the protective inner kerb at the base of the bridge, and also the flamboyant burrs and knots on the top rails.

Almost everything needed for an accurate restoration can be found amongst these, and other, pictures. No doubt modern safety regulations would require various modifications, and more money may be needed than that already allocated. Perhaps the Friends could help? By their nature, rustic bridges were prone to decay, and in time were replaced, as was ours, by newer stone structures. With our current restoration programme there is a golden opportunity to replace a special, and now rare, feature of the original Victorian gardens. This must be an exciting challenge to our restorers.”

The Rustic Bridge has always been a popular postcard subject, and some interesting variations can be found in the following images.