Maidenhead Bridge, A4 Bath Road

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EA Maidenhead level graph -

Maidenhead Waterways Restoration Group - restoring old channels in Maidenhead.

1910: Maidenhead in Thames Villages by Charles Harper.

1297: Maidenhead Bridge was “almost broke down” – so clearly dates from long before that.
1337:  Pontage (toll on water traffic) grant for 6 years.
1367:  Watermen complaining about pontage. Fred Thacker comments -

It has always seemed to me one of the minor ironies of our planet that water traffic should be compelled to contribute towards the maintenance of obstructions to its conduct.

1400:  Repairs under the supervision of the Prior of Bisham

divers lieges of the King cannot cross without peril at certain times of the year through floods and the weakness of the bridge.

1530:  Leland –

Maidenhead Bridge of Tymbre.  Ther is great warfeage of Timbre and fier wood on the west end of the bridge, & this wood cummith out of Barkshir

1557: Part of petition quoted in Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames, 1885 -

... the seid toun of Maydenhedd is scituat in a loo contree, and very nere adjoynynge to the ryver Thamys, so that the seid contre is, dyvers tymes in the yere, so surrounded and overflowen with water that yr. Highnes seid subjects cannot passe goe nor travell to their seid churches ...

1577: Argument as to whether the whole river or just to the centre line belonged to Bray:

One set of witnesses asserted that the Taplow parish procession (“walking the bounds”) proceeded to the middle of the bridge “and that there was a gospell said there by the curate of Taplow”.
This was not denied; however it was asserted that the Bray procession always “came over Maidenhed Bridge to the farther post of the same on Bucksyde”.
[What a pity their Saints’ Days did not coincide.  Clearly a judgement of Solomon was called for. ]

1699:  Ogilby’s Travellers’ Guide –

Maidenhead has a Key to which barges come from London

1714: The bridge had become ruinous and dangerous.
1772:  Act for a new bridge passed.

1776:  P. Oliver’s MS, Notes of Tours in Engand –

A long wooden bridge, with a privilege annex’d to it of cutting 3 trees annually from the King’s forest to repair it. 
But a Rod or two above it, upstream, is now building a very grand free stone bridge of thirteen arches in imitation of Westminster bridge, which will have a striking effect, and it is said will cost £25,000”. 
Architect Sir Robert Taylor.

London: To Thirty Miles Extent, from an Actual Perambulation By David Hughson, 1808 -

The stone bridge over the river Thames, with thirteen arches, six brick and seven stone, was begun in 1772, and cost upwards of £20,000: the architect was Sir Robert Taylor ; it was originally of timber.
This town, now so considerable, did not begin to flourish, till, by the building of its bridge, travellers were brought this way, who before used a ferry at that time called Babham's End, two miles north of it.
The barge pier bridge is maintained by the corporation, for which they are allowed the tolls both over and under it. The barge pier divides Berks from Bucks. There is a great trade here in malt, meal, and timber, which they carry in their barges to London. As this is the great thoroughfare from thence to Bath, Bristol, and other southwest parts of England, the adjacent wood or thicket has been noted for many robberies.

1792: The new Maidenhead Bridge, Samuel Ireland -

The handsome bridge at Maidenhead was constructed from a design of the late Sir Robert Taylor, and is a work of much merit. It is of stone, and consists of seven large semi-circular arches, with three smaller ones of brick at each end. It has been finished about nine years, at an expence of nineteen thousand pounds, independent of the purchase of lands contiguous, to render the work compleat.
Below the bridge, on a retrospective view, the hills of Taplow and Cliefden aid the landscape considerably, and render the scenery more picturesque and beautiful than any thing that has yet occurred. From this point the annexed view was taken.

Maidenhead Bridge, 1792
1792: Maidenhead Bridge, Samuel Ireland

1800: The new Maidenhead Bridge -

Maidenhead Bridge, c 1800
Maidenhead Bridge, c 1800

[ I think this is a typical example of an artist drawing what he thought he saw rather than what actually was before his eyes. (Of course maybe artists always have to do that - but to my mind there is gross distortion here) I cannot think that the bridge has changed so significantly with such a gradient to the centre, and the side arches being so much smaller. However the same 'distortion' if that is what it is, is shown in the 1859 woodcut for Mr & Mrs Hall. But the photos of 1880 and 1899 show a much flatter bridge - ]

1811: The Thames -

Maidenhead Bridge, 1811

Maidenhead bridge is a handsome structure of Portland stone, consisting of seven principal and six lesser arches, and was built after a design of Sir Robert Taylor.
In passing over it the Thames presents two such different views, that the eye can scarce be brought to reconcile the contrasted appearance.
To the north is seen the bold range of woody heights, crowned with Taplow, Cliefden, and Hedsor; while to the south the river flows through one unvaried, uninteresting level, enlivened with no other objects than the summer buildings on Monkey Island, and the tower of Bray church.

The English Counties Delineated by Thomas Moule -

The bridge, of thirteen arches altogether, over the Thames, was erected in 1772, from designs by Sir Robert Taylor, at an expense of £20,000. The barge pier of the bridge is maintained by the Corporation, for which they receive toll ...
From the ten aldermen two bridge-masters are annually chosen.

View from Maidenhead Bridge,Tombleson 1830
View from Maidenhead Bridge, Tombleson 1830
[ See next picture! ]

1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall

[ See Tombleson's 1836 almost identical "View from Maidenhead Bridge", above ]


Maidenhead is a small town, at some distance from the bridge — a structure of much elegance, built in 1773, from the designs of Sir Robert Taylor. The name is said to be a corruption of that which it bore so early as the reign of Edward III. — Maydenhithe, hithe being the Saxon word for haven or port:

Camden, however, fancifully derives its title from the veneration paid there to the "head" of a Virgin, one of the "eleven thousand" whose bones may be now seen at Cologne!
The view from the bridge, both above and below, is very beautiful: on the one side the trees rise from the river-bank to the wooded heights that surround Cliefden; while on the other the pretty islet, the Church of Bray, the bridge of the railroad, the near meadows and distant hills, attract the eye, and tempt the passenger to linger awhile in admiration.
In this district, indeed, are to be found all the several advantages which the noble river so abundantly supplies: a channel of depth sufficient for any required traffic, a populous and flourishing town close at hand, pleasant cottages, comfortable inns, and villas, grand or graceful, scattered at convenient intervals, by the bank-sides, on the slopes of adjacent elevations, or crowning distant hills in the midst of "patrician trees " and "plebeian underwood"; while the heart-cheering turrets of Windsor Castle occasionally come in sight, to add to the interest of the scenery the lessons and the pleasures of association. The land is thus fertile in themes, and the water is hardly less so: the barges, the punts, the gay wherries, the racing-boats are everywhere; and perhaps in no part of the world are there to be obtained enjoyments so many or so full — at once so quiet and so active— as are to be found in this part of the Thames, where the venerable Father leads us to classic Eton and regal Windsor.

1885: Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames -

... Although Maidenhead itself has few charms for the visitor, the country about it, more particularly the woods of Cliveden and Hedsor, a short distance up the river on the Bucks side, is charming indeed. Between Maidenhead and Marlow is, perhaps, the best known and the most popular part of the river. And its popularity is well deserved; for whether for the angler, the artist, the oarsman, or the simple tourist; whether for fishing, picnicking, and it has been even whispered "spooning", to say nothing of camping-out, there are few places in England to beat the Cliveden Reach at Maidenhead or Quarry Woods at Marlow. ...

Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - Maidenhead Bridge
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.

1899: Maidenhead Bridge, Francis Frith -

1899:  Maidenhead Bridge, Francis Frith
1899:  Maidenhead Bridge, Francis Frith

1901: The Thames Illustrated by John Leland -

Maidenhead is a busy centre of life on the Thames. The attractions of its surroundings are very great. Already we have seen what are the picturesque interests of Bray, and all Thames oarsmen know how surpassingly beautiful are the reaches that lie above. We are at the threshold of what is universally admitted to be one of the most delightful districts in the valley of the Thames.
The aquatic and sylvan beauties of Cliveden, Cookham, Hedsor and Marlow would indeed be hard to excel; and Maidenhead is an excellent place at which to rest, and from which to set out for the enjoyment of them. There everything that can conduce to the pleasure and exhilerating exploration of the Upper Thames has its centre. Punts and every kind of river craft can be hired near the bridge, and there is excellent accommodation at the place, when often the the riverside inns higher up are full.
The present handsome [bridge] was designed by Sir Robert Taylor in 1772. Its surroundings are remarkably picturesque and beautiful though modern hotels and other buildings break the older charm, especially on the Berkshire side towards Boulter's Lock.
Close by the bridge stands Old Bridge House looking very pretty with its red brick, ivy and fine trees. "Skindle's", that famous hostelry, is opposite, and the Guards' Club-house stands by the shore, with many boats lying along the edge of its trim lawn. There is an Angling Association with its headquarters at Maidenhead, which cares for and preserves the fishery along these reaches, and turns great numbers of trout and other fish into the stream.

1906:  Mortimer Menpes, Watercolour –

Maidenhead, Mortimer Menpes, 1906
Maidenhead, Mortimer Menpes, 1906

1907: Watercolour –

Maidenhead, 1907
Maidenhead, 1907

Vanishing Britain, P H Ditchfield -

The building of bridges was anciently regarded as a charitable and religious act, and guilds and brotherhoods existed for their maintenance and reparation. At Maidenhead there was a notable bridge, for the sustenance of which the Guild of St. Andrew and St. Mary Magdalene was established by Henry VI in 1452. An early bridge existed here in the thirteenth century, a grant having been made in 1298 for its repair. A bridge-master was one of the officials of the corporation, according to the charter granted to the town by James II. The old bridge was built of wood and supported by piles. No wonder that people were terrified at the thought of passing over such structures in dark nights and stormy weather. There was often a bridge-chapel, as on the old Caversham bridge, wherein they said their prayers, and perhaps made their wills, before they ventured to cross.
Some towns owe their existence to the making of bridges. It was so at Maidenhead. It was quite a small place, a cluster of cottages, but Camden tells us that after the erection of the bridge the town began to have inns and to be so frequented as to outvie its "neighbouring mother, Bray, a much more ancient place," where the famous "Vicar" lived. The old bridge gave place in 1772 to a grand new one with very graceful arches, which was designed by Sir Roland Taylor.

1929: A Thames Survey -

Maidenhead Bridge, carrying the Bath Road, was built by John Townsend of Oxford to the design and under the supervision of Sir Robert Taylor (1714-88), who was the architect for stone buildings, Lincoln's Inn, also the two wings on either side of Sampson's original façade at The Bank of England, and many buildings in London. Sir Robert Taylor was also a sculptor of some repute and carried out the sculpture in the pediment at the Mansion House. He founded the Taylorian Institute at Oxford.
The bridge with its approaches are in the County of Berks (Bridge Act, 1772), and it was opened for traffic in 1777, built of stone at a total cost of nearly £19,000.
It is a robust and interesting design, with five arches over the river, very pronounced voussoirs, and surmounted by a stone balustrade.

1955: Maidenhead Bridge, Francis Frith -

1955:  Maidenhead Bridge, Francis Frith
1955:  Maidenhead Bridge, Francis Frith

2004:  Maidenhead Bridge –

Maidenhead Bridge 2004
Maidenhead Bridge in 2004

Maidenhead Bridge, Doug Myers © 2005
Maidenhead Bridge, Doug Myers © 2005

2007: From the Taplow Riverside Conservation Area report, South Bucks District Council

The road bridge, Maidenhead bridge, listed Grade I, was built between 1772 and 1777 by John Townsend of Oxford to the designs of Sir Robert Taylor, the architect of Lincoln’s Inn. With its graceful stone arches and balustrade Pevsner describes it as “Georgian masonry at its best.”

2009: September

Contractors are set to remove eroded stonework and replace it as part of essential strengthening works.
The repairs will not impact on traffic using the bridge as work will be carried out from barges on the river.
It is expected to last 25 weeks, dependent on weather and river flow, and should maintain the Grade 1 listed structure for future generations.
The first phase to prevent underwater erosion on the main bridge foundation piers was completed [in 2008]
Cllr Colin Rayner, cabinet member for highways and streetcare, said: "If we did not carry out the work we would undoubtedly have had to reduce the 40-tonne weight limit on the bridge which would have had major traffic implications for a great many vehicles."