Image source: Google Maps

Guest author: John Taylor

With more than 200 bridges crossing the total length of the River Thames today, the town of Staines-Upon-Thames with a population of approximately 18,500 (2022) has both a road and a separate railway bridge.

In Roman times the Thames was second only to the London Road (then known as the Devil’s Highway) as a course through Staines. Therefore it was an important connection between the provincial Capital Londinium and the west. The areas, Latin Roman name was Pontes (The Bridges), implying that there was more than one bridge, traversing Church Island. Roman crossings at Staines were replaced by a wooden bridge referenced as early as 1222, when that year King Henry III gave a cut tree from Windsor Forest for repairs of the bridge. Although this wooden structure lasted many years it was continually requiring reconstruction, and it was badly damaged during the English Civil War, with a ferry replacing the bridge for a while. Under an act of 1791, a stone bridge was built downstream of the old one, but unfortunately the central arch soon cracked and a third bridge made of iron was completed in 1803.This also failed and a fourth iron replacement was opened in 1807.

The fifth and present bridge with three arches in white granite, was designed by Sir John and George Rennie. Construction started in 1827, and it was opened in 1832, by King William IV and Queen Adelaide. This bridge crosses the Thames on the reach between Penton Hook Lock and Bell Weir Lock, and is close to and upstream of the main mouth of the River Colne, a tributary. The crossing carries the Thames Path across the river. Tolls were abolished in 1871. [The City of London ‘city limits ’Coal tax markers are still in place on today’s bridge, which is Grade 11 listed. In the town Clarence Street was constructed at the same time, and many buildings remain to this day.

From the 1940’s until the 1970’s the bridge area was a hotspot for summer holiday traffic delays due to many motorists heading from the capital towards the south-west. When the M3 and later the M25 motorways were constructed the traffic was diverted away from town.

In 1848 the railway came to Staines, and new industries were established, and the town began to grow. The hamlet of Knowle Green, around the station was one of the first to expand. The railway bridge was completed in 1856 to the design of John Gardner. It carries the Waterloo to Reading line, and the Waterloo to Chertsey, via Hounslow. Staines station was opened eight years earlier on the Waterloo to Windsor Line. With the coming of the second line Staines became an intersection and for many years the station was named Staines Junction.

Interestingly within the town there used to be a secondary station for Staines. Located on the north side of the high street, it was called Staines High Street Station, and was opened in August 1884 by the London and South Western Railway. More of a halt than a proper station, it was built of two wooden platforms on wooden stilts, some 20ft above street level. The line saw regular trains between Waterloo and Windsor, however in its later days few stopped at High Street Station, and it closed in 1916.Unfortunately nothing remains of this disused station.

About the author:

“My home town was Molesey in Surrey, and for the last 45 years, I have been living with my wife in Walton-on-Thames. We have two daughters and three grandchildren. I retired from employment a few years ago, having worked in various occupations, but mainly in administrative roles, both in the government and private sector.

About five years ago, as a hobby, I began writing articles for local magazines. Generally of historic interest. I choose the articles myself and these range from The history of ‘The Trolley Bus and Green Line Bus service,’ The history of Bushy Park’, ‘The Bridges of Hampton Court,’ ‘Local Reservoirs,’ ‘The Great Storm’,’ Legendary islands of the Thames’, ’The Festival of Britain’, ‘Waterloo Station’, and several other articles. I have usually written about three or four each year.