About the Thames

Section 5 – Reading to Maidenhead

Researched and written by Jeannette Briggs and photos by Stephen Worsfold.

On leaving Reading the next town with a bridge across the Thames is Sonning (headroom 14’2") - this is a delightful 11 arch brick bridge built in 1775.

This charming view of Sonning bridge (above) is reproduced with our thanks to Denise Hughes who was highly commended for her entry for the 2018 Thames Bridges competition. 

At Shiplake another railway bridge traverses the Thames, which then continues down to Henley upon Thames.

Henley upon Thames bridge - photo by Simon Worsfold

Henley Bridge (headroom 14’3") was built in 1781 and is adorned with two stone masks: A mask of Isis faces upstream, while one of Old Father Thames looks downstream towards the sea. The river continues down to Temple, where it is spanned by Temple Footbridge (headroom 13’1"), built of wood as recently as 1989.

The River Thames at Marlow with Marlow suspension bridge - photo by John Olney 

At Marlow the Thames is crossed by an elegant sweep of Marlow Suspension Bridge (headroom 12’8"). This was designed by William Tierney Clarke in 1836, on the lines of his earlier bridge at Hammersmith. It is one of the most distinctive structures on this stretch of the Thames.  It enables the main road up the High Street at Marlow to cross the Thames.

Marlow Bridge and All Saints Church - photo by Daid Burgess

The Marlow By-Pass road bridge is next (headroom 19’9"), followed by Bourne End railway and footbridge (headroom 15’6").

The Thames then flows under Cookham Bridge (headroom 15’2"), which is unusual in that it was built of iron in 1867. Next on this stretch of the Thames we see Maidenhead Bridge (headroom 18’7"), an elegant 13 arch stone bridge built in 1777.

Maidenhead Bridge - Photo by Simon Worsfold

Immediately after the road bridge is the famous Brunel Railway Bridge (headroom 18’7") a masterpiece of engineering noted for its broad flat arches which are – still - the widest flattest brick built spans in the whole World.

Brunel Railway Bridge Photo by SW

Isambard Kingdon Brunel designed the bridge to carry his Great Western Railway over the Thames on the way to Bristol. The vast bulk of New Thames Bridge at Bray (headroom 25’6") takes the M4 over the river – it was opened in 1961 - before one reaches the outskirts of Maidenhead.

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