If you’ve read my novel Bleeding London (and I suppose it’s just possible that some of you have) you may have noticed one glaring error. I’m not saying it’s the only one but it’s the one I’ve been told about. I say in the book that Hornsey Lane Bridge, which runs high above Archway Road is a railway bridge – it isn’t and I should have known that.
The more important thing to know (and this is in the book), is that it’s a famous “suicide bridge” – a place where people launch themselves into space, down to the road and traffic below.
So in a very small literary penance, and many years after the event, I decided I’d walk both across and under Hornsey Lane Bridge As you walk along it, it really doesn’t seem very threatening or scary. People walk or drive or cycle across it and thoughts of death don’t immediately spring to mind, though you may notice it’s a long way down to the road below.
A bit or research reveals that there have long been plans to build anti-suicide features, including a net, but I didn’t see any sign of that. Sure there were railings and spikes that would make it harder and more unpleasant to get in position to jump, but I don’t think these things would deter the determined suicidalist. Then again, I suppose even if they deter one or two casual jumpers, then they’re still doing a job.
There are also various notices, attached to the bridge with phone numbers that you’re invited to call if you’re feeling suicidal. Presumably somebody at the other end tries to talk you out of it, though not having called the numbers I can‘t absolutely swear to that.
There were two other remarkable things on the bridge. First this warning sign telling you to avoid whatever electrical gubbins are beneath that metal cover. Now, I’m no expert but I’d have thought death by electrocution might be an easier option than death by jumping off a bridge, but this is no doubt debatable.
Secondly, this war memorial commemorating servicemen who attended Saint Alosyius College which is just at the western end of the bridge. (FYI - the fictional Tony Hancock was named “Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock.") There’s our Lord upon the cross and nearer ground level there’s a certain amount of foot love going on, which I think might be biblically dubious, but I’m sure some would think it’s the kind of thing that might make life worth living.
Walking down below in Archway Road, and looking up, the bridge was far more impressive than I remembered it, and considerably grander than it seemed when walking across it. It’s a fine bit of Victorian engineering, it's the work of Sir Alexander Binnie who also designed Vauxhall Bridge.
You're likely to see some other interesting stuff as you walk along Archway Road . My eye was caught by this house that apparently had to be completely reconfigured to accommodate Archway Road:
And a gun shop. But hey, this is England, they’re not going to sell you anything you’re likely to be able to kill yourself with.