London is renowned for many things, from its unpredictable weather to its postcard worthy landmarks. Among these landmarks are Tower Bridge, London Bridge and the Millennium Bridge but there’s a lesser known structure called the ‘Sham Bridge’. If you haven’t heard of the last one, there’s a reason why.
Most bridges are designed with the intention of being able to support the weight of a vehicle or at the very least a person walking across it, but the bridge in North West London does not meet either of these requirements. At first glance, the bridge that runs across the Thousand Pound Pond in Hampstead Heath appears perfectly normal, however this is far from the case when you take a look at it from a different angle.
Appropriately nicknamed, the ‘Sham Bridge’ is a purely ornamental, two-dimensional structure near Kenwood House and definitely not suitable for crossing. The Sham Bridge dates back to the mid-18th century when the grounds belonged to the first Earl of Mansfield, but has had several repair and rebuild jobs since then.
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It was created as an “eye-catch” for visitors gazing towards London through the Kenwood Estate. The structure is a highly visible, decorative landscape feature and it has been decaying progressively since it was last restored in 1993, impacting on the aesthetic and historical values of Kenwood Park as a heritage asset.
(Image: Geograph/Jim Osley)
In 2019, the bridge underwent further repairs after being damaged by years of weathering. An application for planning consent, submitted by the Historic England Trust, said: “Bearing in mind its status as a significant building on one of English Heritage’s flagship sites, the condition of the Sham Bridge has long been a cause of concern for the Trust.”
The Historic England Trust says the new installation will feature a new timber ‘bridge’ faithful to the original design. The trust added: “It remains a testament of the ingenuity of the designer and the fashion in landscape design for picturesque and fanciful features which had no practical purpose.”