The wooden bridge (see The Building of Fulham Bridge) lasted over 150 years. It was not only used by locals but was a through road to the south and west. This 1750 print shows the type of traffic that generally used the bridge.
The bridge was tolled and Wimbledon Common reviews by royalty were popular and so profitable for the proprietors of the bridge. The greatest sum ever taken at the bridge in one day was on 10 June 1811 when the Prince Regent reviewed the regulars and volunteers on Wimbledon Common.
On 11 June 1845 an advertisement appeared in the Times announcing a grand review of the Life Guards on the 23 June. A letter appeared on the 25 June from a volunteer describing how he had crossed the bridge and arrived at Wimbledon Common along with 5000 others, only to find the advertisement a hoax. There was some suspicion, though never any proof, that the proprietors might have been responsible.
The end of the tolls
In 1724, just before Fulham Bridge was built, Fulham had a population of 2,225. By 1851 it was 11,886 and by 1886 the estimate was 72, 142.
Finally in 1881 after much negotiation, the bridge passed into public ownership (to the Metropolitan Board of Works). The tolls had been discontinued in 1880. Although the maintenance costs were high, the bridge proved a reasonable investment for the subscribers and by the time it was sold the income from the tolls had doubled and so had the value of the shares.
There was much rejoicing at the end of the tolls. A stand was erected at the Putney end for the celebrations.
The beginning of the new bridge
Fulham Bridge and the viaduct can be seen here in this photograph of 1881. The decision had been made to replace the wooden bridge by a stone structure approximately on the line of the viaduct.
This photograph taken in 1883 from the Putney side shows the Old Fulham Bridge, a temporary viaduct and the beginnings of the new Putney Bridge.
This photograph shows the dismantling of the old bridge around 1886 with the piers for the District railways bridge in the background.
Fiona Fowler, Volunteer