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What is the story and history of London bridge?

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  • What is the story and history of London bridge?

    London Bridge is situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge to the west and Tower Bridge to the east. How would you describe about London bridge story and its history?
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  • #2
    Wikipedia has a good amount of information on London Bridge and the London Bridge Experience website also gives a good summary of its history. Apparently the first bridge was built in 53 AD!!! Various bridges have been built over the centuries and the modern bridge was designed by Lord Holford. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973. Seems to have had an interesting history...


    • #3
      London Bridge is situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge to the west and Tower Bridge to the east. Its a nice place to visit.
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      • #4
        London Bridge History

        In A.D. 43 London did not exist when the invading Roman army marched inland and saw them being faced with the river Thames. The Romans probably erected a bridge near to the site of the later Mediaeval bridge.

        The first London Bridge was built around A.D. 80 from the Southwark settlement. The northern end of the settlement grew to a large town which later became London

        After the Romans had left the bridge probably fell into disrepair and was replaced by a ferry and intermittent timber bridges built in Saxon Times.

        It was not until 984 when the next records emerged of a bridge crossing the Thames. The records show that a widow and her son had driven pins into an image of a man. The woman was taken to the wooden bridge and drowned whilst her son had escaped.

        1014 saw the Saxons under King Ethelred the Unready. A band of Vikings led by King Olaf sailed up the Thames to attack the bridge controlled by the Danes. They rowed under the bridge, put ropes around the pillar supports, rowed off, pulling the bridge down. This is where the song “London Bridge is Falling Down” comes from.
        There were two other bridges to follow, one being swept away by a storm in 1091. A third bridge was built in 1163 by a priest named Peter de Colechurch, who vowed he would build a bridge of stone.

        The first stone bridge took thirty three years to build. Work commenced under the direction of Peter de Colechurch in the reign of Henry II. The bridge once finished had seen the reign of three monarchs, Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and John. The bridge was completed in 1209 and lasted 600 years. Its road was 20 feet wide and 300 yards long supported by 20 arches, curving to a point in gothic style. There was a gatehouse and drawbridge and even street houses to provide rent for the upkeep of the bridge.

        1269 is probably the source of the present version of the song “London Bridge is Falling Down – My Fair Lady”, composed in the 13th century when Queen Eleanor was given the tolls from the bridge as a present from her husband, Henry III in 1269. Unfortunately she was a prolific spender and used the toll money for herself instead of spending it on the bridge.
        Because of this the bridge fell into disrepair. The City of London finally regained control in 1281 but that winter heavy ice pushing against the ill maintained structure suffered when 5 arches collapsed and a temporary wooden bridge had to be built.

        The roof of the stone gate house had poles which were used for traitors’ heads. This was started in 1304 and continued until 1678. Probably one of the most famous heads to be seen on one of the poles was Oliver Cromwell’s in the 17th century.
        The bridge contained many fine houses and one of which was most certainly lived in by Sir John Hewitt, one of London’s Mayors. It is said that his daughter fell out of the window into the Thames below and Sir John’s apprentice, Edward Osborne dived into the Thames and rescued her. She was later to marry Osborne who later became Mayor.

        The bloodiest night in the history of the bridge was on the 5th July 1450 when rebels led by Jack Cade burnt houses and slaughtered hundreds by sword. The rebellion was eventually brought under control and Cade’s head was stuck on a pole over the drawbridge.

        1577 saw the Nonesuch House built to replace the New stone Gate, it stretched across the bridge with a tunnel running through it at street level. The south end of the bridge was then used for a somewhat disturbing tradition of displaying heads and limbs of traitors, as it took the place of the original Traitors Gate.

        1633 saw forty three houses destroyed and many shops damaged, when a maid servant left a pail of hot ashes under some wooden stairs. The bridge escaped the Great Fire of 1666 as the fire before left a great gap which the flames could not cross. This fire lasted 4 days but only the new houses on the end of the bridge were burnt.

        In 1722 the keep left rule was introduced to control congestion on the bridge, this is still in force today on all British roads.
        1763 saw all the house pulled down and the bridge widened and also partly rebuilt. The centre arch was made wider but this created problems because the main flow of the river was concentrated at one point which started to tear at the bridges existing piers which made the bridge unstable.

        There were proposals for a new bridge in 1800 to replace the old bridge, but it was not until 1821 that a committee was appointed by Parliament to consider the condition of the bridge. By then the arches had been damaged by the great freeze and it was decided that a new bridge would be built. A competition was held which produced many designs and in 1824 John Rennie’s plans were accepted. The new bridge was built 180 feet west of the old bridge and for sometime Londoner’s could see the old and the new side by side.

        John Rennie’s bridge did not last that long, when in the 1960’s plans were drawn up for a new modern bridge. The old bridge had sunk twelve inches at the southern end even on completion and continued to sink unevenly by an inch every eight years after. However the bridge was spared total destruction when American Robert McCulloch learned that the British Government was putting the bridge up for sale. He bought the bridge for $2,460,00 and moved the bridge stone by stone to Lake Havasu City in Arizona.
        The new bridge constructed by John Mowlem & Co was erected this time on the same spot but by progressive building of the new bridge and demolition of the old. The new bridge gradually took over the place of the old and traffic was able to continue to cross the Thames throughout construction.
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        • #5
          Until Medieval times, the only way to cross the Thames from London on the north bank to the southern suburb of Southwark was by ferry or a rickety wooden bridge. In 1176 all that changed. After successive wooden bridges were destroyed by fire, Henry II commissioned the building of a permanent stone crossing. It took 33 years to complete and was to last – give or take repairs and remodelling – more than 600 years.

          The finished bridge was quite a sight. It was 275m long, supported on 20 gothic arches. It featured a central chapel, a host of shops and houses (the rent from which funded its construction and upkeep), gates, a drawbridge – even waterwheels and a mill. The houses were up to seven storeys high and jutted over the river by as much as 2m on either side. Many practically touched in the middle, making the bridge more of a tunnel in places.

          Ironically, the bridge didn’t make crossing the Thames much less arduous. Although the bridge was about 8m wide, buildings reduced the space for traffic to just 4m – room for only one narrow lane north and one south. These were shared by horses, carts, livestock and pedestrians. Crossing the bridge could take as long as an hour.

          Things weren’t much better by ferry. The narrowness of the arches and the later addition of waterwheels created a dam effect. The water level on one side of the piers could be several metres below that on the other and shooting the rapids connecting the two was a dangerous game played only by the most skilled watermen. Drownings were common.

          Fire was another hazard of life on the bridge. The worst came in 1212 when sparks from a house fire at the Southwark end started another at the north end. Trapped in the middle, people jumped in desperation into waiting rescue boats, sinking many in the process. It’s thought that at least 3,000 people died.

          As if that wasn’t enough, parts of the bridge collapsed on several occasions, including 1281, 1309, 1425 and 1437. The 1281 collapse happened when expanding ice from the frozen Thames literally crushed five of the arches. Queen Eleanor – unpopular at the best of times – was blamed for misappropriating bridge revenues and failing to use them for repairs. This gave rise to a rewrite of the popular rhyme “London Bridge is falling down”: the original was based on a Norse saga, but the addition of “my fair lady” was a clear dig at the Queen.

          But it was unwise to oppose the monarchy too much in medieval England – as the heads of traitors on spikes above the bridge’s stone gatehouse attested. The first unfortunate to have his tar-soaked head displayed in this manner was Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace, in 1305. In 1450, rebel Jack Cade suffered the same fate after a terrible night of rioting on the bridge that left hundreds dead. The terrifying practice continued until 1678 and included the heads of Thomas More, Guy Fawkes and Oliver Cromwell. (
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          • #6
            I love your post! You will be in our prayers and thoughts! Nice and informative post
            on this topic thanks for sharing with us.Thank you.

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            • #7
              Thanks for this post it would be help of everyone who doesn't know history about London bridge ....


              • #8
                Thanks for the detailed post, and we can definitely say it is one of the modern wonders of the world.
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                • #9
                  Tower Bridge is a most popular historical landmark that is located in London. It is a nice place for history lovers to explored on earth. I also visited there about few months ago and enjoyed there climbing. I think you should go there once in your life if you like to visit historical places. I hope you will fully enjoy there.


                  • #10
                    I visited many times in my life London. I want to visit there again in my life. I am going to agree with you Tower Bridge is a most popular attraction in London. I would like to suggest all of you must visit there and see its this attraction in your life. I want to share an image of this attraction. I hope you like it.
                    Last edited by tomammi; 01-28-2016, 10:20 AM.


                    • #11
                      I would like to thank you for this, Because i was completely unaware with this but the way you have shared the incredible information. This is just wow and i am so much happy about this. I am sure that trying this up would be something quite great and amazing for us surely.


                      • #12
                        There has been a bridge across the River Thames in London for nearly 2,000 years. The first "London Bridge" was built by the Romans in 43 A.D. They built a temporary pontoon bridge which was planks laid across a row of anchored boats, or they may have used ferry boats....
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                        • #13
                          Very well said @Chitra. This history is quite interesting since I don't know much about London.
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                          • #14
                            The Old London Bridge of nursery rhyme fame dates from 1176, when Peter of Colechurch, a priest and chaplain of St. Mary’s of Colechurch, began construction of the foundation. Replacing a timber bridge (one of several built in late Roman and early medieval times), Peter’s structure was the first great stone arch bridge built in Britain. It was to consist of 19 pointed arches, each with a span of approximately 7 metres (24 feet), built on piers 6 metres (20 feet) wide; a 20th opening was designed to be spanned by a wooden drawbridge. The stone foundations of the piers were built inside cofferdams made by driving timber piles into the riverbed; these in turn were surrounded by starlings (loose stone filling enclosed by piles). As a result of obstructions encountered during pile driving, the span of the constructed arches actually varied from 5 to 10 metres (15 to 34 feet). In addition, the width of the protective starlings was so great that the total waterway was reduced to a quarter of its original width, and the tide roared through the narrow archways like a millrace. “Shooting the bridge” in a small boat became one of the thrills of Londoners.

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                            • #15
                              While the discussion is about the history of London Bridge, it's worth noting that accessibility and convenience play a crucial role for travelers heading to this iconic location. If you're planning a visit to London Bridge, consider checking out Ezybook for hassle-free airport parking solutions. Their services, like the ones at Luton Airport Cheap Parking, make your travel experience smoother, allowing you to focus on exploring the historical marvels of London Bridge. Safe travels and enjoy your historical adventure!