There are several bridges in London, but the bridge that has the longest history and is referred to as “The London Bridge” is none other than the ones that span the River Thames in between of Southwark, in central London and the City of London, or more specifically Southwark Cathedral on the southern bank and St Magnus-the-Martyr on the northern shore. “Ones” because there were several of them successively built to give way to the sturdy bridge that is now in place.
One Bridge after Another
What used to be the only way to get to the other side of the river before the medieval times, apart from taking boat, was the early rickety wooden London Bridge. These wooden bridges never lasted as fires destroyed them. In 1176, Henry II ordered the building of a medieval structure stone bridge. The construction took 33 years and repairs happened all throughout its lifetime, which is over six centuries.
This London Bridge was beautiful and memorable with its central chapel, 20 gothic arches, and a horde of gates, a drawbridge, shops, as well as waterwheels and a mill. There were even rental houses; the rentals were used to pay or the cost of the repairs and maintenance of the bridge. As this London Bridge came “falling down,” it was replaced by a 19th-century stone-arched bridge that came before the current concrete-and-steel bridge, which opened to traffic in 1973.
“London Bridge is Falling Down”
While the Bridge offered a way to get to the other side, it was a bottleneck for commuters and pedestrians, who need to share it with livestock and carts drawn by horses, making the crossing long and arduous. The dam effect caused by the building of the arches and the waterwheels resulted made crossing by ferry a dangerous thing. Fire was also another dreaded thing. The 1212 fire was the most notorious, claiming the lives of about 3,000 commuters.
If you are wondering about the inspiration behind the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is falling down,” it is related to the collapses that happened several times between 1281 and 1437. The 1281 incident, which was alluded to the misappropriation of the funds by then Queen Eleanor, destroyed five arches. The addition of “my fair lady” was a clear taunt at the Queen, but nobody dared raise the issue lest their heads end up on spikes to decorate the bridge’s stone gatehouse.
How Lake Havasu Got the Bridge
Recognizing that the 600 plus year-old bridge can’t hold up to the demands anymore, the landmark bridge was put on auction by the British government. The Chairman of McCulloch Oil Corporation, Robert McCulloch, won the auction with a bid of $2, 460,000. He spent another $7 million to ship all the dismantled and numbered stones to Long Beach, California, which were then trucked to Lake Havasu City in Arizona. Restoration began on September 23, 1968 and dedication took place on October 10, 1971.
The Current Bridge
The Bridge is now positioned about 30 meters or 98 feet upstream, which is different from the previous one. It is owned, maintained and managed by the Bridge House Estates, which in turn is run by the City of London Corporation. It is excellently linked to public roads, like the A3 operated by the Greater London Authority, and transports to Sussex, Kent, and South London as well as to Gatwick and Luton airports.
What to do and see in London Bridge
The Bridge is a huge attraction in itself. Some of the toasts of the Bridge are:
- The Shard: It is the loftiest structure in Western Europe and it dominates the London Bridge skyline. It has three levels from where you can enjoy a fabulous view of London.
- Neighborhood attractions: There are several places of interest near the Bridge, including the Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret,
- The Borough Market: This is the home of UK’s oldest food market with more than 70 stalls that sell a diversity of artisan cheese, cakes, breads and other delightful foods.
- Vinopolis: This is wine tasting spot is located next to the market and near Southwark Cathedral, the oldest Gothic church in London.
- HMS Belfast: Brush up on of Britain’s naval history by visiting HMS Belfast, the last warship of its kind, for an interactive experience.
- Design Museum and Fashion and Textile Museum: If you have the penchant for fashion, these are spots you shouldn’t miss.
Try and walk along Thames to explore and discover a lot of interesting spots. Shop at the Hays Galleria, simply relax at The Scoop, catch a special show – a film screening or theatre performance, or just take a walk and appreciate the gorgeous sights over London. And while you are at it, sample the mouthwatering offerings of the bars and restaurants near London Bridge – the Borough Market, the funky Bermondsey on a Saturday, Maltby Street Market, and Kernel Brewery’s local beers.
For a more relaxed dinner, head to Roast, Londinium or Tanner & Co. and for a fabulous restaurant experience keep the following in mind: Gaucho, Hutong, Le Pont De La Tour, Dim T or the Blueprint Café. For a wonderful drinking experience, here are special pubs and bars: The Upper Deck Bar at HMS Belfast, The Rake, Aqua Shard, and The George Inn