Willowbrook Bridge

People view the bridge
Willowbrook Bridge soon after its 2013 restoration and strengthening

Willowbrook Bridge forms a pair with the bridge in Commercial Way (although they differ in detail). Originally completed in 1870, the single-span wrought-iron bridge displays some of the best cast-ironwork of the Victorian period. One of the many canal-side pubs in these parts, the Waterman’s Arms stood alongside the bridge in the 19th century.

Two fine Victorian bridges over the 1826 Peckham branch of the Grand Surrey Canal survive, whilst most of the bridges over other parts of the former canal have been removed. This bridge was previously known as ‘Taylor’s Bridge’, but when it was rebuilt in 1870, it was decided to rename it ‘Hill Street Bridge’, although it was still referred to in official documents by the old name. The Commercial Way bridge, further south, was known as ‘Globe Bridge’.

Willowbrook Bridge details
Beautifully restored bridge detail, and barge tow rope marks on stonework

The 1870 bridge replaced an earlier one, possibly wooden and opening to allow barges through, which had probably begun to cause traffic congestion. The local vestry, St Giles Camberwell, provided the funds, and the foundation stone, which may be seen underneath on the old towpath, was laid by Edward Dresser Rogers, Chairman of the General Purposes Committee of the Vestry, in 1869. The designer of the new bridge is named in the records as Mr. Dredge, Junior, a civil engineer.

White carved stone set in brickwork walls under bridge
Foundation stone, somewhat defaced

At that time, a civil vestries existed all over London, the equivalent of a borough council. The vestry took its name from the old church parish of St. Giles, which had existed for hundreds of years and which still thrives today, worshipping in its prominent church in Camberwell Church Street, built in 1842-44 to the designs of by Sir Gilbert Scott. The civil vestry was superseded by the Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell in 1900.

The Willowbrook Road Bridge has lately been restored. The original labels on the two parapets may now be read easily: SGC [St Giles Camberwell] Hill Street Bridge 1870.

Gold painted plaque with black lettering spelling out S.G.C Hill Street Bridge A.D. 1870
Name plaque and balustrade
Cast-iron milepost set in canal towpath against a brick wall
Canal Milestone showing distance from Surrey Docks

Another unique survivor on the entire canal is the milepost just adjacent to the bridge, set into the towpath.

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6 thoughts on “Willowbrook Bridge

  1. I was brought up at 7 Cowan Street from 1944 on, immediately opposite Watkins Book Binding Factory. I went to Scarsdale Road Primary School and then to Walworth Secondary Modern, Mina Road)

    1. Hi Roy
      Interesting to hear about Walworth School – you must have many memories – it sounds a remarakable place. I saw the film ‘Two Bob’s Worth of Trouble’ at the Walworth Festival a few weeks ago which was made by the pupils of an English class there in about 1961. Apparently the English teaching was very forward thinking and school had a very high reputation at that time. The film is available at the Southwark Local History Library and Archives, and on Youtube. There’s also some older information on the school here, which I see Roy has been contributing to! I think the study on English teaching mentioned on that site has been published now.

  2. My Grandad pulled barges with his horse on the tow path under this bridge, my Mum as a little girl used to ride on the horses back from the stable. They lived in East Dean St off St George’s Way Peckham, she was born in 1909 name of Prizeman. Lovely Memories.

    1. My grandad Alfred Egerton was born in East Dean St in 1910.
      The street only had twelve houses and my grandad’s family lived in four of them until it was demolished

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