When the old London Bridge was demolished in 1832, the removal of the palisades, constructed to protect the bridge, resulted in the tides on the Thames rising and falling far more rapidly than they had done. This, together with dredging of the lower river, meant that for long periods the Thames at Twickenham and Richmond was little more than a stream running through mudbanks.
In 1890, after many years of petitioning, permission was granted to build a half-lock and weir downstream of Richmond Bridge.
To restore the river to its former state a barge lock was constructed against the Surrey side joined by a weir to three roller slipways for small craft on the Middlesex side.
As a superstructure was required to operate the sluice mechanism, it was agreed to construct this in the form of two footbridges. The footbridges was opened by the Duke and Duchess of York in 1894.
The footbridges at Richmond Lock were the last on the tidal river to levy tolls, they were abolished in 1938.