Address: London

200m from London Bridge

100m from London Bridge

London Bridge was the first bridge in London, crossing the Thames into the centre of the old City. The Romans first built a crossing here and this was replaced by a Saxon bridge. In 1014 Norwegian King Olaf pulled it down to help King Ethelred divide the occupying Danes. This prompted today’s children’s nursery rhyme of ‘London Bridge is falling down’.

Subsequent bridges were destroyed by a storm and fire before a stone bridge was built in 1176-1209. St Thomas’s church was built at the midpoint and around 200 shops were built to pay for bridge maintenance, some being seven storeys high. Some shops were connected to shops on the other side at upper storey level creating a tunnel effect in places. There was also a drawbridge on the south side. Amazingly this was the only bridge in London until 1729. The design was of 19 arches, all different widths, and when you took account of the water driven wheels at either end, it acted as a semi barrier for the water with the water on one side being up to six feet lower than the other side. Many people drowned attempting to travel under in a boat.

The distance between the shop fronts on either side was only 12ft which left 6ft for each carriageway to take the animals, carts and people. It was incredibly congested and when a great fire started on the south bank in 1212 and burning sparks were blown across the river to the north bank the people on the bridge were trapped and over 3,000 people died. This old bridge saw pitched battles during rebellions and over the years it became a place where heads of executed traitors were displayed on pikes by the entrance.

A new bridge was completed in 1831, opened by William IV, and was widened in 1902. When it was decided to replace it in 1967 at a cost of £4m, the old one was sold for £1.025m to an Arizona businessman who re-erected it, and it now forms part of a theme park and 2nd busiest attraction after the Grand Canyon. The existing bridge was opened by the Queen in 1973.

Due to its history, this is one of the greater London landmarks and its location is central to a host of others.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.