Richmond Bridge: The Oldest Bridge Across The Thames

Richmond Bridge

This is Richmond Bridge, built in 1777, the oldest bridge across the Thames. When it was built it was a toll bridge, and the tolls repaid the investors, who invested their money as a tontine.

A tontine is a kind of a lottery where the last man alive takes the lot. Each year after the bridge was completed, the members of the tontine split the proceeds from the tolls. Then as one man after another died, their shares were split among the remaining members of the tontine, and so on.

The last man outlived his fellows by several years, and collected all the tolls as his reward.

If you are familiar with English law you might know that specific Acts of Parliament to deal with specific circumstances were once much more commonplace than they are today.

The Richmond Bridge Act of 1772 is an example of an Act specifically to do with the proposed Richmond Bridge.

The interesting thing is not just that it authorised the building of the bridge, but also that it established a sentence of transportation to the colonies for seven years for anyone vandalising the bridge.

It’s an interesting thought as to which of the ‘colonies’ a person might be sent to. The American wars of independence started in 1775, and no convicts were sent there after the start of the war. And Britain’s colonisation of Australia begain in 1778 after Cook landed there in 1770 and transportation didn’t start until 1787.

So if someone vandalised the bridge in 1780, they would have had to have been sent to the British colonies in the West Indies, which are:

Anguilla, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Montserrat, the British Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The British Virgin Islands is of course in the news now as the place where almost one half of the providers found in the Pandora Papers have acted as registered agents for over 370,000 companies hiding secret wealth.

All this hidden wealth was speculation until the Pandora papers – 11.9 million records from 14 different offshore service firms – made its way recently to a consortium of investigative journalists. Now, a ragbag of politicians and others are in the spotlight for stashing their wealth offshore.

And of course the big question is from where did their wealth derive when there is no obvious answer to how they acquired it.

Back To The Bridge

Before the bridge there was a ferry. And on one bank the land rose steeply and limited the traffic the ferry could handle. The traffic off the ferry couldn’t negotiate the incline on that side.

The bridge was designed to overcome that, because traffic would come off the bridge at a higher point than the river bank. That didn’t quite work out because the landowner on that side wouldn’t give up part of her land for the road. So the bridge had to swing in a curve around the landowner’s land to get up the hill.

Of course, that was then, and nowadays cars and buses chug straight up the hill without a thought.

Still, the bit where traffic came off the bridge on that side was steep. Then, in 1937, the bridge was widened and flattened, as I knew that from reading about it beforehand.

So when I was standing by the river looking up, I saw what I think must be the line of the bridge before it was flattened, following the colonades as you can see in the photo here.

Richmond Bridge at the Surrey end

If you travel up the hill and turn right at the T junction and travel on, the road rises more and more. Eventually you are on Richmond Hill and then at the entrance to Richmond Park. (See my earlier posts about the park and the deer in the park.)

Just a bit further from the bridge and on the same bank, were canoes tied up along the river, framed by trees and the river bank.

Click any of the photos for bigger versions.

3200 ISO and Sufficiently Good

A friend and I were talking today about film speeds in the days of film. 3200 ISO was about as fast a film as one could get, and it was black and white. There may have been colour film at that speed, though I doubt it.

So, a typical low-sensitivity film would have an ISO of 100. And a ‘fast’ film with more sensitivity would be something like 800 ISO.

What does ISO 100 and ISO 800 mean? It means that to get enough light onto the film to expose it sufficiently for the image to be produced, you need eight times more light on the slow ISO 100 film than you do on the fast ISO 800 film.

That’s because of the way photographers measure the amount of light. The standard way to measure ‘units’ of light is in ‘stops’. Each doubling of the ISO corresponds to twice as much sensitivity to light. Or one ‘stop’ of light as it is called.

Going from 100 ISO to 800 ISO means doubling once to 200 ISO, then doubling again to 400 and doubling again to 800 ISO. That is eight times more.

Of course there is a penalty for that increased sensitivity. The more sensitive the film the grainier the photo would be.

It all changed with digital cameras. No longer was the speed of the sensor in the camera fixed at a certain value. With digital cameras one could simply dial up a higher or lower speed, meaning a different sensitivity of the sensor.

Almost all digital cameras have a button or a dial to increase sensitivity, from the base sensitivity of 100 ISO (or perhaps 200 ISO) up to 400 or 800 or 1600, 3200 ISO and beyond.

And you may wonder how it is possible to just turn a dial and make a digital camera more sensitive to light.

And the answer is that just like with film, the more sensitivity the more noise.

No matter how big or how small the chip used in the camera, The more we boost the sensitivity of the chip by turning up the dial, the more ‘noise’ we get. And digital noise is the digital ugly sister of film grain.

That Was Then

Nowadays, though, most cameras are sufficiently good. There is hardly any such thing as a bad camera. They all focus quickly, make good photos, and make good photos at higher ISO. In fact, 3200 ISO is hardly ‘fast’ any more. 6400 or 12,800 is common.

This is the grab shot that I took to illustrate the point while Mark and I were talking about film sensitivity. It is at 3200 ISO from a Fuji X-E3. It is sufficiently good. It is so sufficiently good that it’s just completely acceptable. Noise? What noise?

Animals That Are Comfortable Around People

Earlier today I was watching moorhens coming in and out of the water at the Botanic Garden. They were practically at my feet and not taking much if any notice of me. Later on Mark and I saw a fox, and again it didn’t take much notice of us although we were just ten feet from it.

I can’t show you exactly how it was, but maybe these photos will give you an idea.

And I was thinking how different it was when I lived in the countryside. Then it hit me that the reason was that the animals then had reason to be afraid of the farmers and the people who booked days to shoot pheasants.

Here at the Botanic Garden the animals know they are on safe ground.

Petersham Common

Most of the way uphill on the road named Richmond Hill there is a wooden board with information about Petersham Common. The board is just past an unoccupied building named Wick House. At one time is was used to house nurses who worked at the nearby Royal Star and Garter Home.

The ground behind the road backs onto Petersham Common and slopes away steeply. That slope is probably what accounts for the large straggling vertical crack down the side of the building. It’s empty and I don’t think the building is recoverable.

The Star & Garter Home in Richmond is just outside Richmond Park a few hundred yards further up the hill. It was built to care for severely disabled soldiers from the First World War. It is now being converted to flats, and the Star and Garter Home and its residents have moved three locations around the country.

Petersham Common is 16 acres (about six and a half hectares) of deciduous woodland managed as a public open space for nature.

It was originally part of the Ham House Estate, and the land was donated for public use in 1900 by the ninth Earl of Dysart. The freehold of the Common passed to Richmond Council and the Petersham Common Conservators were established to manage the Common.

One morning when we were staying in Richmond, I read the notice and continued uphill to near the entrance to Richmond Park and found the way into the Common.

And this is the Star & Garter Home on the little roundabout just opposite the gates into Richmond Park. As you can see, I photographed it from within the park.

Star & Garter Home at Richmond

What Is He Thinking?

They get the insects that he doesn’t want.

What is he thinking as he looks behind him. How cognisant is he of the relationship with the jackdaws. Is he a willing partner, with both species knowing that they are working together? Or is he resigned to those bloody birds always sitting on his back and pecking away?

More than any of this, how much consciousness is an animal capable of? We humans anthropomorphosise animals. Do we do it because we are pattern finders, even when there is no pattern except as we construct it? Or do we see what is plainly there? Of course, we have an axe to grind – on the one hand we adore some animals and try to eradicate others. And we eat some of them. How can we have a clear head in what we purport to see?

Richmond Park, Fallow Deer and Jackdaws – Nikon D500 With 70-30mm Lens

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