From the Archives

Building Bridges at Roehampton Club – Cuthbert Arthur Brereton

Roehampton Club Member Cuthbert Arthur Brereton joined Roehampton Club in 1905 while living on the Meadowbank Estate in Cambridge Park, Twickenham. He was a Civil Engineer by trade and was in partnership with Sir John Wolfe Barry who had already achieved a notable reputation for his construction of Tower Bridge by the Tower of London. This enduring partnership was responsible for a number of major projects including the design of Kew Bridge in South West London, the construction of Barry Docks in South Wales, Middlesbrough Docks, Surrey Commercial Docks in London and perhaps most significant of all, the Northern, District and Piccadilly underground railway lines in London. 

His work on Kew Bridge represents the nearest example of his many projects. The bridge was opened in 1903 by King Edward VII and was originally given the name of the ‘King Edward VII Bridge’ which no longer seems to be used in preference to the name of ‘Kew Bridge’. This crossing of the River Thames separates the counties of Surrey to the south and Middlesex to the north. It also forms the western border of the South Circular and North Circular ring-road around Central London. The first bridge on this site was a toll bridge built by Robert Tunstall of Brentford who had previously owned the ferry at the same location. The architect responsible, John Barnard provided an engraving for the bridge dedicated to George, Prince of Wales and his mother Augusta. George was crowned King George III the following year and this area of Kew became more important to him as his father Frederick had taken a lease on Kew House in the Royal Botanical Gardens recently extended and enlarged by his mother Augusta. The first bridge proved costly to maintain and lasted only 30 years before the son of the builder of the first bridge obtained consent to build a second bridge made entirely of stone which he constructed alongside the first one to avoid hinderance to traffic caused by the building work. The new bridge was designed by John Paine who had previously been responsible for another local construction for Richmond Bridge. 

The second bridge was opened in 1789 by King George III with a concourse of many carriages. In 1819, the bridge was sold by auction to a Mr Robinson for £23,000 and sold again in 1873 when it was purchased by a joint committee of the City of London Corporation and the Metropolitan Board of Works for £57,300. The tolls were abolished in the same year. By the 1890’s it became very clear that the bridge was unable to cope with the volume and weight of the traffic and the entrance to the bridge on the Brentford side was proving difficult to negotiate with its narrow and steep incline. It was the Kew Bridge Act of 1898 which paved the way for the commissioning of the third bridge by the Middlesex and Surrey County Councils at a cost of £250,000. A temporary wooden bridge was put in place upstream allowing the demolition of the second bridge between October and December in 1899 and the construction of the third bridge by Sir John Wolfe Barry and Roehampton Club Member Cuthbert Arthur Brereton. The Royals attending the opening of the third bridge made their way to the ceremony through Kensington, Hammersmith, Chiswick and Brentford returning via Mortlake and Barnes and re-crossing the River Thames at Putney Bridge. 

After the departure of the Royals, a huge party took place on the lawns of Kew Gardens and 1,000 children were entertained for tea in a marquee on Kew Green hosted by Cuthbert Brereton. On the eastern side, halfway across the current bridge, there is a stone plaque commemorating the opening event showing the names of all those involved. Cuthbert Brereton was elected to the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers in 1896 and became its President in July 1909. He sadly passed away in September 1910 after seven years of membership at the Club leaving behind an impressive body of his work which has held up with the passage of time.

Steve Riedlinger | Club Archivist