THE HISTORY OF LONDON BRIDGE
The First London Bridge
Before stone was used to build bridges, most bridges across the river thames were made out of wood. The first ‘London Bridge’ was built by the Romans in 43 AD and was built as a pontoon bridge using planks that were laid across anchored boats.
In 984, a new fixed wooden London Bridge was built. This wooden bridge was short-lived however, as in 1014 Viking invaders led by King Olaf Haraldsson, attacked the British Isles and tore the bridge down.
Old London Bridge
The first stone version of London Bridge was built between 1176 – 1209 under the guidance of priest and architect, Peter Colechurch. The stone bridge was 20 feet wide, 300 yards long and included a wooden drawbridge in the middle to help with river traffic and to stop invaders.
Over the years, many people and merchants started to build and trade on the new stone bridge, which eventually meant the bridge was covered by stores and dwellings. Sadly, these cramped conditions spelled disaster in 1212, as a fire broke out on either side of the bridge, trapping many people on it.
Another fire broke out in 1623 which burned down many houses and stores. Due to the dilapidation of the bridge, and the damage from fires, merchants eventually left the bridge and traded elsewhere. Eventually, by 1657, all the houses and stores were torn down and the bridge was widened and partly rebuilt.
Over the years, the bridge needed many repairs, due to structural damage and fires, but it still managed to survive for 600 years!
For readers with a weak stomach, you might want to skip this part! You have been warned!
Between, 1305 – 1660 severed heads of traitors were displayed on the southern gateway of London Bridge. These heads were impaled on spikes and dipped in tar to ensure they would survive the weather!
There were many famous heads put on display on London Bridge, including William Wallis, Sir Thomas More, and Oliver Cromwell. Thankfully, this practice was put to head, ahem, bed, in 1660 following the restoration of the monarchy under King Charles II.
“New” London Bridge
In 1821, a committee appointed by the government decided that a new bridge needed to be built and in 1824, plans drawn up by Scottish civil engineer, John Rennie were accepted.
The new bridge was to be built 100 feet west of the old bridge along the river Thames and would measure 928 feet long and 49 feet wide. The first stone was laid in 1825 and was open to the public in 1831.
The new London Bridge was a great success and lasted for 140 years, however, due to the increase in traffic and an increase in commuters using the bridge, in 1962 it was discovered that the bridge was starting to sink! Not so much of a success then!
Modern London Bridge
The current London Bridge was built between 1968 and 1972 and was built directly over the foundations of the old bridge. As the bridge was an important and busy river crossing, the bridge’s construction was arranged in such a way to not disturb busy traffic.
London Bridge may not be as awe-inspiring as its neighbour to the east, Tower Bridge, but its influence and history has cemented itself as one of the most important bridges in London.
The London Bridge Hotel is located just a short walk away from this historical bridge. Book a room with us and you could take a walk around this historic area and have a wander over this famous bridge.