London Bridge Facts

London Bridge has actually been replaced numerous times during the history of the crossing. As a result, the term London Bridge doesn’t just refer to the current bridge over the River Thames joining the City of London with Southwark, it refers to all of the bridges throughout history that have spanned the Thames in this location.

Here are some facts about London Bridge:

  • The Romans built the first version of what was to become London Bridge. This was probably a pontoon style crossing and it linked the Roman roads called Stane Street and Watling Street with the Camulodnum settlement.
  • The bridge was made more permanent by the Romans in about 55 AD and, although the bridge was probably destroyed during the revolt led by Boudicca, it would have been rebuilt and the town of Londinium (London) grew around it.
  • After the Romans left Britain, the Saxons allowed the bridge to fall into disrepair as the River Thames formed the boundary between the lands of Mercia and those of Wessex.
  • William the Conqueror rebuilt the wooden bridge, but it was destroyed in 1091 in the ‘London Tornado’. It was also rebuilt and repaired by both William II and King Stephen.
  • The first stone version of London Bridge was started by Henry II in 1176. Henry II died before the bridge was completed. Work on London Bridge finally stopped in 1209, during the reign of King John. The cost of construction was massive.
  • Old London Bridge, as it is often referred to, was built upon 19 arches. It had a drawbridge at each end to allow tall ships to pass through it.
  • Many different types of building were built on the bridge. In the 14th century, there were over 100 shops on the bridge along with a public latrine.
  • There were over 200 buildings on London Bridge in the Tudor Period. Some were more than six stories high and many overhung the road in the centre of the bridge. The road was only four metres wide and had to deal with traffic going both ways. As a result, London Bridge was often congested.

London Bridge

  • The severed heads of traitors were impaled on spikes on a tower of the southern gatehouse in full-view of everyone who used London Bridge. The heads of William Wallace, Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell were all displayed there.
  • In 1722, in an attempt to improve the congestion on the bridge, the Lord Mayor decided that bridge users should keep to the left. Those heading into the City should use the west side of the bridge and those heading towards Sothwark should stick to the east side.
  • In 1758 all of the buildings on the bridge where taken down and a large central arch was constructed to make it easier for ships to pass under the bridge.
  • New London Bridge was designed by John Rennie and was constructed with five stone arches. It was located about 30 metres upstream of Old London Bridge and the older bridge was still used while the new one was being built.
  • New London Bridge was officially opened on 1st August 1831.
  • The new bridge was very heavily used. In 1896 it was estimated that more than 8000 pedestrians and nearly 1000 vehicles crossed the bridge every hour.
  • The bridge started to sink into the bed of the Thames at a rate of about an inch every eight years. The decision was made to remove it and replace it.
  • London Bridge was sold to Robert P McCulloch, a businessman from Missouri (United States). The bridge was reconstructed at Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
  • Lord Holford designed the current London Bridge. Building work started in 1967 and was completed in 1972.
  • The bridge is featured in the traditional nursery rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down.

What next? Find out some facts about Tower Bridge (which is often confused with London Bridge), or visit out London resources page.

25 Responses to London Bridge Facts

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