On Thursday 11th July, my wife Sue and I were privileged to be invited to the completion ceremony for the new Walton Bridge. Having researched the history of the bridge, and photographed every stage of its build, it was fascinating to see the culmination of years of planning and construction.
Guests gathered in a marquee on Cowey Sale, but by the appointed time of 9.30am, there was no sign of the principal guest, Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport. Ironically, he was stuck in a traffic jam on the A3! Eventually, the minister arrived and joined his fellow members of the Government, Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond (MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, and Transport Secretary when the bridge was approved), and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.
Guests were shepherded onto the bridge for the first of three ceremonies. Cllr. David Munro, Chairman of Surrey County Council, welcomed everybody, and then Patrick McLoughlin made a short speech before cutting a ribbon across the roadway, with the help of local schoolchildren.
Leader of SCC, Cllr. David Hodge, also made a speech before starting a parade of classic cars across the bridge (although at this stage the roadway was not complete at the junction of the bridge and viaduct).
Moving to the Shepperton end of the bridge, a time capsule containing papers relating to the bridge, coins and stamps, the local newspaper, and a copy of the History Society’s new book on the bridge, was lowered into place, again aided by schoolchildren. Speeches here were made by Cllr. Mike Bennison, Mayor of Elmbridge, and Cllr. Isobel Napper, Mayor of Spelthorne.
Now it was back to the centre of the bridge, and after introducing speakers from Atkins (the bridge designers) and Costain (who built it), David Munro unveiled a plaque commemorating the completion of the bridge. This was followed by a flotilla of boats passing under the bridge, to the accompaniment of a horn enthusiastically operated by some of the schoolchildren! Led by a former police boat, one of the leading boats towed a swan sculpture by Donagh Curwen. Rowing boats and canoes followed, then motor cruisers, and finally sailing boats from Desborough Sailing Club. A memorable day’s proceedings were concluded.
As a postscript, on Monday 22nd July I was, by a combination of luck, judgement and insomnia, the first member of the public to drive over the new bridge from the Shepperton end, when it was opened for traffic at 5.45am.
Sunbury and Shepperton Local History Society will have a display about the history of Walton Bridge, as well as selling the new book, on their stand at Sunbury Regatta on Saturday August 10th.