A Brief History of London Bridge

The bridge connects the city of London with Southwark and has historically been one of the first and only crossing point of the river Thames.

Dangerous crossing then and now

The first London Bridge had houses build on them, with shops and gate keepers. Its arches of support were plentiful and placed so tightly that passing through by boat during flood was described as foolish, if not deadly. We are speaking 1772 and the traffic on the bridge itself was described as similarly dangerous. This prompted Lord Mayor to devise a two-way system that is said to be responsible for English left side driving ! At the time the south gate featured severed heads of traitors on display, drenched in tar and serving as warning to maintain civil order.

London Bridge now and then
London bridge today vs. 1710. Image by Motco 2000 http://www.motco.com/map/006/

Cruelsome memories aren’t new to the history of London and London Bridge sadly played host to quite a few of them. As recent as a year ago terrorists descended on the famed Borough market after speeding a rented car over the bridge causing fatalities. This lead to a barricade to be constructed along the driveway separating pedestrians from vehicles in a visible attempt to create security measures. This addition to the architecture of the bridge became a painful reminder of the attacks in 2017 and a precedent to similar infrastructural upgrades throughout the city.

A makeover and a curious acquisition

In 1831 the second London bridge was build. Rennie’s Bridge, as it was referred to in respect for the architect John Rennie, was under close observation by the government and found to sink 2,5 centimetres every few years. Followingly, in an attempt to raise funds for its replacement structure, it was put up for sale and an American entrepreneur offered to buy it. Although described as a misunderstanding on his part (where he thought he is buying Tower Gate bridge, which would indeed have meant something prestigious) Rennie’s Bridge can be seen reassembled in California, offering a crossing to a yet unnamed island and giving a curious pointer towards the current whereabouts of this historical structure.

Samaritans along the way

Today’s London Bridge opened in 1973 and is a clear cut and security enhanced transit zone offering mind blowing views over the river. With streams of office workers crossing daily it is often depicted as a metaphor for London’s economical rat race on the News, or famously in the movie Notting Hill with Hugh Grant walking the landmark, but you’ll also see something else when crossing the river via London Bridge. Posters along the railing are advertising a free of charge telephone helpline run by the Christian charity the Samaritans – spelling out a sombre dimension associated with bridges …that I don’t want to dismiss when writing this blogpost. It reads : Talk to us ! If things are getting to you. These acid green posters have been placed to offer much needed support for those the city got on top of, meaning to say : please don’t leave.

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