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Updated October 2006 and revised in 2004 with additional information kindly provided by Janet Kennish who has written an extensive Datchet history and published Datchet Past.

This article features 27 illustrations. Please allow a moment or two for them all to arrive.Windsor's Bridges Title

Windsor's Bridges Downstream
The Railway Bridges

This article features the following bridges
The Albert Bridge, linking Datchet with
Old Windsor
The Victoria Bridge, linking Datchet
with Windsor
Black Potts Railway Bridge on the 'Southern Railway' line to and from London, Waterloo Brunel's Bowstring Bridge on the GWR line to Bristol and London, Paddington,
via Slough

plus the Windsor Relief Road Bridge, the Elizabeth Bridge

See also
The History of Windsor Town Bridge


The only bridge across the Thames in this area for hundreds of years was at the point where Windsor Bridge now stands although a ferry also operated across the river at Datchet. It is only comparatively recently that other bridges have been built nearby. One of the earliest alternative bridges was built downstream at Datchet providing an east-west link on the road between London and Windsor and replacing the ferry earlier. The only other option would have been to 'ford' the river but this would not always have been possible, especially in times of flood.
  The Datchet Ferry was illustrated [see below] in 1686. At that time the road from Windsor to the east passed through what we now know as the private area of the Castle grounds and crossed into the High Street at Datchet.

Datchet Ferry 1686

Datchet Mead and Datchet Ferry, A.D. 1686
(Tighe and Davis, 'Annals of Windsor', Vol. 2, p 492)

In 1706 Queen Anne erected a wooden bridge at this spot and discontinued the ferry. The bridge was for the use of the public and was at all times free of toll much to the concern of Windsor's Corporation who lost revenue from their toll bridge as a result, but were recompensed by The Treasury. In 1734 the bridge was repaired at a cost of £800, paid for the the Crown.

Datchet Bridge 1750

Datchet Bridge in the 1750s which Queen Anne had built in 1706. (William Oram)

Around 1770 the bridge was rebuilt as ten wooden arches resting on stone piers, but this was short-lived, one section collapsing in 1794 during heavy floods. The ferry was therefore reinstated once more at the expense of George III.

1770 bridge

A view upstream of the 1770 bridge 'published for S Ireland in May 1799'
but by that date one of the arches had collapsed.

Sandby's Datchet Bridge

The 1770 bridge looking downstream by Edward Rooker after a painting by Paul Sandby in 1774.

Two paintings exist showing the piers of the ruined bridge, one by J Hakewill in his 'Views of the Neighbourhood of Windsor', London, 1820. p.31. According to Tighe and Davis, 'Annals of Windsor' p. 494, this dates from 1810 although other references date it from 1795.
  The other image is an engraving by William Havell. The Havell brothers published c. 1818 the volume "Picturesque Views of the River Thames" which features scenes from along the river. These were coloured by the brothers in aquatint from drawings by William Havell. In his engraving of Datchet Ferry, the ferry is seen being drawn by rope across the river and carrying a horse, cart and several foot passengers. The Crown and Angel Inn is shown on the Windsor bank plus the ruined piers of the bridge to the right, upstream. The picture is reproduced below and pre-dates the 1812 bridge reconstruction.

Datchet Ferry by Havell

Datchet Ferry from the Havell brothers' "Picturesque Views of the River Thames" published c.1818 but showing the bridge and ferry before 1812.

Following the collapse of the 1770 bridge, an argument ensued between Buckinghamshire and Berkshire as to who should pay for its replacement. By this time the king, George III, was determined not to have to pay for yet another bridge, being of the view that it was now the responsibility of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire whose county boundaries met in the middle of the river, a fact that was to lead to trouble in the future.
  Mr John Richards, rector of Datchet and a lawyer, set out in 1801 to force the two counties to erect the new crossing. By 1809 a King's Bench hearing required that both counties should contribute half the cost of rebuilding, a total of £2,375 each.
  By January 1812 the new bridge had been constructed on the old stone piers. The lack of income from tolls had restricted the options during the rebuilding, but its completion was met with great celebration in Datchet at the time, illustrating just how important the river crossing was to local trade.

Datchet Bridge 1840s

Datchet Bridge from 1812 to 1836
An engraving painted by Tombleson and engraved by T Harris.
This view is from the Berkshire side, looking towards Datchet village and was first published around 1820 in black and white with the above tinted version being published in 1840.

It was not long however before the bridge was causing trouble again. By 1834 further repairs and restoration were required on the Datchet (Buckinghamshire) side for which Berkshire refused to accept any financial responsibility, until it was found that Berkshire's half of the bridge was nearing collapse also. When Buckinghamshire's side actually collapsed, Berkshire wanted to totally rebuild the bridge in iron (as had been successfully constructed at Windsor ten years earlier). But Buckinghamshire refused and so they went their own ways, Berkshire rebuilding in iron, Bucks in wood! This new bridge was described as "a hideous monstrosity", and showed the lack of compromise between the two counties where claim and counter-claim had lasted for almost 20 years. At its centre Berkshire had built a cantilever that did not rely on structural support from the Buckinghamshire side. Two pictures are known to exist of this 'hideous monstrosity', one by J Bannister, from 1837 viewed from upstream on the Windsor bank, and a second, reproduced below, dating from 1847.
  In a directory by Kelly and published by The Post Office in 1847, the entry for Datchet features the following description of the bridge.

Datchet is separated from Windsor by the river Thames, over which is a very singular bridge; one half of it is kept in repair by the county of Bucks and the other half by Berks. The former has a wooden railing and the latter an iron one, suspended by chains, but neither the Bucks nor Berks sides touch each other. The view from it is very beautiful commanding a magnificent extent of scenery ­ Windsor castle, Eton college, the winding of the Thames, and a great portion of the royal park.

The bridge would finally be completely removed as a result of The Windsor Improvement Act of 1848 which resulted in the construction of the Albert and Victoria Bridges. Remains of the stone piers have been found in more recent times during dredging of the Thames at Datchet.

Datchet Bridge 1847

Datchet Bridge, half in wood and half in iron, illustrated in 1847 by J Chapman.
The bridge was finally demolished in 1851.

The new roads of 1850-1851

In the 1840s there had been much discussion about the land around the castle, and the roads to and from Windsor. In the end The Windsor Improvement Act divided The Little Park (Home Park) into public and private areas and provided for two new roads out of Windsor and one between Datchet and Old Windsor. The Windsor Improvement Act was a major development in the town ushering in many changes and will be the subject of a future article on the Royal Windsor Web Site.

New Roads Map 1851

Map of the new roads and bridges 1851.

Three new roads were constructed as a result of the Windsor Improvement Act. One new road passed through The Home Park to Datchet, shown in blue above and crossed the river at Victoria Bridge. The second new road was from Datchet to Old Windsor crossing the river at the Albert Bridge, shown in green, and the third new road ran from from Kings Road, Windsor, shown in red, across the Long Walk to Old Windsor. These routes are still in use today. This meant that the 1812 bridge at Datchet could be removed entirely as soon as The Albert and Victoria Bridges had been completed. They were both opened in June 1851. The old routes out of Windsor (orange) were now closed off but remain as roads within the Castle grounds.
  Although not directly related to these improvements, the coming of the railways provided an opportunity for the new road and bridge projects to be funded, at least in part, by the railway companies. Proposals for the construction of railways into Windsor by both the Great Western Railway, and the Windsor, Staines and Richmond Railway (which was to become part of the South Western Railway company) were discussed in Parliament in 1847 and accepted, not least because the railway companies had offered to make substantial payments to help fund the new roads and bridges. The Great Western Railway Company would contribute £25,000 and the South Western Railway Company, £60,000. The SWR were also required to pay £15 per annum towards the upkeep of Victoria Bridge, a legal nicety that was to complicate matters some 110 years later when Victoria Bridge required rebuilding!

Plan for bridge to Old Windsor

A design for the proposed bridge between Datchet and Old Windsor in the late 1840s

Postcard of Albert Bridge 1909

A very rare tinted postcard of the Albert Bridge postmarked 1909 although the actual photograph may well date from any time in the previous twelve or so years.

Another very rare tinted postcard of Albert Bridge

Another unusual post card of the road from Datchet to Old Windsor as it leaves Datchet village. Postmarked 1905 but may be slightly earlier.


The Albert Bridge

The Albert Bridge

The Albert Bridge, rebuilt in 1927

The view downstream from Albert Bridge, December 17th 2003 (JGC)

Both The Victoria Bridge and The Albert Bridge were constructed in cast iron in 1850-51, and designed, it is said, by the Prince Consort, Albert. The two bridges were constructed in connection with the 1851 Enclosure of the Little Park when the older Datchet Bridge was removed. The Enclosure also caused the closure of the tow path along that side of the river, the south bank on the Berkshire, castle, side.
  Prince Albert certainly took a great interest in the construction of the bridges, the Albert Bridge, linking Old Windsor and Datchet, bearing a plaque inscribed "The Albert Bridge, so called by permission of The Most Gracious Majesty The Queen and the Royal Highness Prince Albert, 1851".
  In 1914 the Albert Bridge was damaged and a hole appeared in the middle of the carriageway which needed to be guarded day and night by a watchman along with his hut and brazier. All such holes in public roads had to be attended in this way in those days, and it was not until August 1924 that Buckinghamshire and Berkshire County Councils at last signed a contract to rebuild the bridge to the specification of Col. Hawkins, Berkshire's County Surveyor. The cost was £43,812.00 to be paid jointly by the two councils and the Ministry of Transport.
  The rebuilding plans ran into the familiar difficulties that arise when several parties are involved. Local residents pressed for a lighter bridge, unsuitable for heavy vehicles such as traction engines, whilst the Thames Conservancy required that the bridge be at least 130 feet wide with increased headroom to avoid a flow constriction in times of flood. By comparison Maidenhead Bridge had a waterway of 183 feet, whilst the waterway of the original Albert Bridge was only 119 feet. These negotiations and consultations account for a delay of around 10 years before the bridge was rebuilt. The new bridge was finally opened in 1927.

Albert Bridge Arches

Albert Bridge - Detail of the arches on the north bank

The Thames Path, that runs the length of the Thames, crosses to the north bank at this point and beneath the approach arches, then on upstream along a wooded path.

The Thames Path beneath the Albert Bridge

A secluded section of the Thames Path beneath The Albert Bridge

Albert Bridge seating

A seating area above one of the pillars supporting Albert Bridge

Albert Bridge House

View of the bridge house at the southern end of Albert Bridge

Rather a catastrophe appears to have been visited upon the Albert Bridge in 2004 in that a totally unsuitable pink balustrade has been erected on both sides. Our illustrated story of the rebuilt bridge appears here.

Pink Albert Bridge

The Victoria Bridge

Victoria Bridge Colour Engraving

The original cast iron Victoria Bridge in 1851

Panel Centre Victoria Bridge

The cast-iron commemorative panel at the centre of the bridge
for VR, Victoria Regina

Victoria Bridge was built originally at the same time as the Albert Bridge in 1851 and paid for in part by the Windsor, Staines and Richmond Railway Company, anxious to extend their line from Staines, through Datchet to Windsor, in the hope of royal patronage. This new railway line would need to be built across the grounds of Windsor Castle, The Home Park, and so in 1847 the railway company sought the permission of Parliament and Queen Victoria. This was granted in 1848 in return for a substantial contribution towards the costs of a new road and bridge, as provided for in The Windsor Improvement Act of 1848. Construction of the bridge commenced soon after and was completed in the summer of 1851.
  Victoria Bridge did not suffer damage quite as soon as the Albert Bridge, but problems dating from the Second World War did arise when a string of tanks crossed over the bridge, overloading and severely damaging it. For a period in the autumn of 1960 following an inspection the bridge had been closed while repairs were carried out and it is during this period that it is said that passengers on the bus between Datchet and Windsor had to disembark, walk across the bridge, and reboard the bus after crossing the river! This to keep the weight of the bus under the 3 ton limit.

Victoria Bridge following reconstruction, 1964

Victoria Bridge in 1999, rebuilt in 1966

Victoria Bridge was eventually closed on 26th March 1963 following this wartime damage as cracks had developed in the cast iron ribs. A temporary Bailey Bridge was erected by Army engineers over the existing bridge, but without placing any load on it, and so that the old bridge could be removed. The Bailey Bridge itself had to be removed later while the new bridge was completed in 1966 and the road to Datchet closed to traffic, although a temporary footbridge existed to one side for pedestrians and cyclists. The bridge as we see it today was opened in February 1967. The County Surveyor at this time was Mr Harrison. The consultants for the project were Messrs. Mott, Hay and Anderson.

Victoria Bridge during reconstruction, 1964

Victoria Bridge during the rebuild with the temporary foot bridge to one side

Victoria Bridge was reopened in 1967 but not before the railway company, the nationalised British Railways by this time, had been pressed to make a substantial contribution towards the cost of repairing the bridge, the upkeep of which their predecessors had been responsible for over the preceding 110 years. There cannot be too many railway companies in the world that are required to pay for the repair of adjacent road bridges!

III. The Railway Bridges


The Black Potts Railway Bridge

Black Potts Bridge

Black Potts Railway Bridge, between Datchet and Windsor
The Thames Flood Relief Channel passes beneath the approach to this bridge, on the north west side

The Windsor, Staines and Richmond Railway was expected to be completed in time to be the first railway service into Windsor but on Sunday, 14th August 1849, just a day before the Government Inspector was due to inspect the line prior to opening to the public, a cast iron girder on the Black Potts Bridge snapped in two caused by the sinking of one of the piers. These were cylindrical and also in cast iron to save the time required to construct 'coffer dams' in the river. So it was not until 22nd November 1849 that the repairs were completed and an inspection could take place.
 Rumours of cholera in the town had also delayed the official opening by Queen Victoria until her return from Osborne (on the Isle of Wight) on Friday 23rd November.
  The first train subsequently left Waterloo at 8.10am on Saturday 1st December 1849, two months after the first Great Western Railway train had reached Windsor at 8.30am on 8th October 1849. The first engine had crossed Black Potts Bridge into Windsor on 20th September, the day after a tragic accident when Joseph Moyser had lost his life while working on the bridge.

  Initially there were plans only for the construction of the line as far as Black Potts on the far side of the river, but in 1848 permission was granted for the line to run across the river, through the Home Park and into Windsor, terminating close by Windsor Town Bridge at the Windsor Riverside Station which was completed in 1851. The railway company paid £60,000 for these rights and to fund Victoria Bridge and the road across the Home Park. Their successors, the Southern Railway Company, continued to pay £15 per annum towards the upkeep of Victoria Bridge until it was rebuilt in 1964.
  The present Windsor Riverside Station dates from 1851, complete with its Royal Waiting Room, just as the Great Western Railway had provided in 1849 at the Central Station, though the implication that the Queen would be required to wait for her train in a Waiting Room, however plush, seemed to display a degree of pessimism in those days that would not surprise rail travellers today! In reality, it is likely that the Waiting Room was for the officials awaiting the Queen's arrival.

The Royal Waiting Room SR

The Windsor and Eton Riverside Royal Waiting Room

Windsor Riverside Station Facade

The Windsor and Eton Riverside Station

Windsor and Eton Riverside, south side

The Windsor and Eton Riverside Station, south side.
The large number of high doors along the side of the station
were intended to permit easy access by a full complement of
cavalry and their horses. These doors have recently been replaced (1999).


The GWR Bridge by Brunel

In the early days, many companies had been formed all over the UK to construct railways, and one of the most famous and successful was The Great Western Railway Company of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the great Victorian engineer, whose plans not only included a wide gauge railway to Bristol and the West Country, but also to offer trans-Atlantic passenger services departing from London, Paddington, to New York, via the sea port of Bristol, and featuring the world's first iron hulled, screw propeller driven steam passenger liner, the SS Great Britain launched by Prince Albert in 1843. With the line passing through Slough, just a couple of miles from the Queen's residence at Windsor, it made commercial sense to construct a line to Windsor in the hope of Royal patronage.
  The GWR therefore constructed an elevated section of track in timber but this was subsequently rebuilt on brick arches. These extend from the station in Windsor town centre to the north west of Eton. To cross the river, Brunel built a 'bow and string' style rail bridge upstream from Windsor to carry the gently rising track across the river and up to Windsor Central Station, the track ending within yards of the Castle walls. This Great Western branch line from Slough was first opened on 8th October 1849. A plaque has been erected on Baths Island adjacent to Brunel's Bridge giving details. Brunel's bridge, the oldest wrought iron bridge still in service, is a unique example of Industrial archaeology.

Brunel Plan illustration

From the original plans for Brunel's bridge. Note the wider tow path provision on the right [north] bank.

Brunel's Bowstring Bridge

Brunel's GWR Bridge on the Slough to Windsor line in 2000


It is interesting to note that bridge building along this stretch of the Thames has seen two main periods of activity since the completion of Windsor Bridge in 1824. The first period featured the construction of four bridges between 1849 and 1851, the two downstream road bridges of 1851, the Victoria Bridge and Albert Bridge, plus two railway bridges, both dating from 1849, either side of Windsor. Apart from the rebuild of the Albert Bridge in 1927, and the Victoria Bridge in 1966-7, no new crossings were started for almost 100 years when in 1938 another bridge was commenced upstream at Bray, but the project was not completed, partly due to the intervention of the war.
  It was not to be until 1964 that the construction of the M4 to the west required the Bray bridge to be constructed. This was followed by the Elizabeth Bridge carrying Windsor's Relief Road in 1966 just a short distance upstream from Brunel's Bowstring Bridge.

  But this is not the end of the story. Rumours are afoot that another bridge is required in the area, but in the current climate of public disquiet over new road projects, these rumours will remain just that for some time to come!

References and Further Reading

Published in 2007 by Silver Link Publishing Ltd, 'Thames Bridges' features a comprehensive set of descriptions and monochrome photographs of all the bridges across the Thames. ISBN 9781 85794 229 3. 168 x 238mm. 224 pps. Approx. 200 B&W illustrations. £25.00

Windsor's bridges are covered in some detail and also makes mention of the original Datchet Bridge in use prior to the construction of the Albert and Victoria Bridges and now long since demolished. The railway bridges are also included and provide some background and additional information that would have taken some time to research. The book is therefore a useful addition to the history of the Thames.


Dredge's Bridges of the Thames. Windsor Bridge

1851 Tighe folio re Albert and Victoria Bridges (Windsor Library)

Parish Magazine (Trinity Church) features a story about a young boy being taken by his father to view the construction of Victoria Bridge. (Copy not located at time of writing)

Berkshire Records, previously at Shire Hall, Shinfield Park, Reading, Berkshire received the 'Bridge Box' from Windsor, however, records and archives, scattered since the demise of Berkshire County Council, remain to be indexed.

Daphne Phillips, How the Great Western came to Berkshire. Page 28. Reading Library, 1975. ISBN 0 9501338 5 X

Artist Doug Myers has undertaken a major project to paint all the bridges along the Thames. To see how far he has got - see


Windsor Bridge

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