The Bridge: Ladbroke Grove 1938

The original station at Ladbroke Grove was called Notting Hill station and was part of the Hammersmith and City Railway (later the Metropolitan Railway). It was built in 1864. If you look back at the post on Ladbroke Grove you can see it as it was before the street north of the station was built up. This is a slightly later view:

Ladbroke Grove Station PC1137

This kind of view, showing the railway lines passing over the street on a steel bridge is familiar in many parts of London. The station was subsequently called “Notting Hill (Ladbroke Grove)”, “Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove” and “Ladbroke Grove (North Kensington)”. It didn’t settle down as “Ladbroke Grove” until 1938.

This coincides with the replacement of the bridge itself, a tricky maneuver  as the plan was to prefabricate the new span, detach the old one, roll it away on trestles and slide the new one into place. This week’s pictures show the story of the new bridge from the foundry in Middlesborough where it was constructed to its new home in North Kensington. Just as in our posts on the Westway when it helps if you’re a fan of concrete this week is for devotees of steel.

K61-1115 624.2 wide view of wokshop

At Dorman, Long & Co of Middlesborough, in the apparent chaos of the foundry sit the parts of the bridge, dim light from the glass roof streaming through the overhead gantry.

K61-1116 624.2 girder and roof

And men at work, welding the sections of the girder together.

K61-1113 624.2 outside girder

A helpful sign has been placed in front of the workers by management. Photography was becoming part of the industrial process, keeping a record of big jobs. Note the brick huts at the rear of the picture. They remind me of a summer job I had at the Shotton Steel Works in North Wales. Within the vast space of the cold strip mill the fitters huddled in huts waiting for the call (and I carried the bag of tools).

K60-130 624.2 outside girder

Here a man uses an oxy-acetylene torch, holding the mask between his face and the flame.

K61-1114 624.2 welding

And below, with the girder on its side. You can see the flare of another torch on the left.

K61-1112 624.2panel

The same view from another angle:

K61-1111 624.2 panel

The upside down writing reads: end plate girder B. A couple of indistinct men pass by taking a close look at the work.

A picture showing some detail with another caption, pointing out the flange splice (a piece of industrial poetry).

K60-129 624.2 flange splice

And this, another expressive phrase.

K60-131 624.2 butt weld

After all the assembly work, all that remained was the small matter of installing the new bridge at Ladbroke Grove

K61-1109 FP bridge

Cranes on the track with a house on the western side of Ladbroke Grove on the other. Can you see the word Greig? Not something superimposed on the pictures but a sign above a shop on some kind of metal superstructure. Two workmen and a manager (distinguished by his homberg hat) look on as the cranes lower the girder into place.

K61-1118 624.2 bridge on top

You can see the street below the work as the bridge is put into place.

A finished weld:

K60-133 624.2 weld

We can tell that this picture was taken on site because you can just see the top of a roof line on the right.

K61-1117 624.2 bridge from south

A final view looking north at the bridge, a few decades after the first picture in the post. A couple of men in coats confidently watch from below. You can see the steel trestle supporting the new and old sections of the bridge. The street (and the railway) were closed for the work which was completed in a single day. The bridge was then the largest of its kind.

Girder C has another painted sign : Hammersmith End. Very useful. You wouldn’t want to have got it the wrong way round, would you?



After May Queens and shops in South Kensington it was good to get back to some industrial images. Remember the posts on the gas works, the water tower and the building of Chelsea Bridge in 1936? We had a discussion in the department about how we think about the 1930s and how political and social events seem to crowd out the technological changes which were happening between the two world wars.

Thanks to Tim who found these pictures and suggested them for the blog. He also came up with the suggestion that a phrase I was particularly taken with,”butt weld” was a brand name for an American anti-diarrhea medicine. Sorry.


12 responses to “The Bridge: Ladbroke Grove 1938

  • James Farndale

    Thank you Dave Walker for an excellent post. I walked across Ladbroke Grove on my way to school (North Kensington Secondary Modern 1950 to1954) and didn’t take any notice of the Bridge.(Sigh)

  • Joanna Sutherland

    Interesting post

    Sent from my iPhone


  • Roger Tiller

    The picture that shows Greig by the bridge was David Greigs provision and groceries store.
    Roger Tiller

  • Roy Farndale

    my Brother posted saying we went to North Kensington Central School, as against North Kensington Secondary Modern, when I attended there in 1952 on, it was a Central School then, my brother does not agree, so if any one can verify that, please do so,

  • Roy Farndale

    I have just made a mistake I left North Kensington Central in 1952, I started there in 1949, having transferred to there from Wandsworth Grammar school, I also meant my Brother thinks it was North Kensington Secondary Modern, I think it was North Kensington Central School, we would welcome any confirmation either way.

  • Eddie O'Sullivan

    What an amazing article to add to the many interesting and diligently researched pieces on the website. Thank you! Couldn’t help but notice a typo in the attribution of the bridge manufacturers town where the “s” from Middlesborough has been lost – see the attribution under the 2nd picturenin the article.

  • Mark Barragry

    Small point on a fascinating post – I think the chap with the protective mask is arc welding (per notice) rather than using a cutting torch.

  • Chris Capewell

    The rail cranes are an interesting pair.
    The lattice jibbed machine was the Metropolitan Railway breakdown crane which had been built by Cowans Sheldon of Carlisle in 1925.
    The crane to the right is the Great Western Railway machine built by Stothert and Pitt of Bath in 1909 .
    I would very much like to know whether any other photographs of the cranes were in the collection of photos; and to ask please whose collection is it and where is it archived? I assume either Dorman Long or one of the railway companies involved took the photographs?

    • Dave Walker

      The pictures all come from our collection but have a variety of sources: The Quasi-Arc Company, WS Hiscox and the Topical Press Agency. I used them all in the post except for one which was very similar to one of the pictures of a welded component, and a close-up of a weld. No more crane pictures unfortunately. The pictures were donated to the library in 1960-61.

  • Colin JOHNSON

    Ted Kirkby and I painter slogan FREE MANDELA on this bridge late 50s. lasted many years. There was also a slogan on wall top of Portabello whch read WIN MITH MOSELY (still active in area then, ) possibly helped stir up riots. We changed it to sWING WITH MOSELEY.

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