The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

Open location in Google Maps: 51.507977, -0.086890


This text was copied from Wikipedia on 22 May 2023 at 3:10AM.

London Bridge
Wide bridge over water against a grey sky with tall buildings
London Bridge in 2017
Coordinates51°30′29″N 0°05′16″W / 51.50806°N 0.08778°W / 51.50806; -0.08778
CarriesFive lanes of the A3
CrossesRiver Thames
LocaleCentral London
Maintained byBridge House Estates,
City of London Corporation
Preceded byCannon Street Railway Bridge
Followed byTower Bridge
DesignPrestressed concrete box girder bridge
Total length269 m (882.5 ft)
Width32 m (105.0 ft)
Longest span104 m (341.2 ft)
Clearance below8.9 m (29.2 ft)
Design life
Opened16 March 1973 (1973-03-16)

Several bridges named London Bridge have spanned the River Thames between the City of London and Southwark, in central London. It is the oldest road-crossing location on the river, and from ancient times until the 1720s was the only bridge on The Thames. The current crossing, which opened to traffic in 1973, is a box girder bridge built from concrete and steel. It replaced a 19th-century stone-arched bridge, which in turn superseded a 600-year-old stone-built medieval structure. This was preceded by a succession of timber bridges, the first of which was built by the Roman founders of London.

The current bridge stands at the western end of the Pool of London and is positioned 30 metres (98 ft) upstream from previous alignments. The approaches to the medieval bridge were marked by the church of St Magnus-the-Martyr on the northern bank and by Southwark Cathedral on the southern shore. Until Putney Bridge opened in 1729, London Bridge was the only road crossing of the Thames downstream of Kingston upon Thames. London Bridge has been depicted in its several forms, in art, literature, and songs, including the nursery rhyme "London Bridge Is Falling Down", and the epic poem The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot.

The modern bridge is owned and maintained by Bridge House Estates, an independent charity of medieval origin overseen by the City of London Corporation. It carries the A3 road, which is maintained by the Greater London Authority.[1] The crossing also delineates an area along the southern bank of the River Thames, between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, that has been designated as a business improvement district.[2]



The abutments of modern London Bridge rest several metres above natural embankments of gravel, sand and clay. From the late Neolithic era the southern embankment formed a natural causeway above the surrounding swamp and marsh of the river's estuary; the northern ascended to higher ground at the present site of Cornhill. Between the embankments, the River Thames could have been crossed by ford when the tide was low, or ferry when it was high. Both embankments, particularly the northern, would have offered stable beachheads for boat traffic up and downstream – the Thames and its estuary were a major inland and Continental trade route from at least the 9th century BC.[3]

There is archaeological evidence for scattered Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement nearby, but until a bridge was built there, London did not exist.[4] A few miles upstream, beyond the river's upper tidal reach, two ancient fords were in use. These were apparently aligned with the course of Watling Street, which led into the heartlands of the Catuvellauni, Britain's most powerful tribe at the time of Caesar's invasion of 54 BC. Some time before Claudius's conquest of AD 43, power shifted to the Trinovantes, who held the region northeast of the Thames Estuary from a capital at Camulodunum, nowadays Colchester in Essex. Claudius imposed a major colonia at Camulodunum, and made it the capital city of the new Roman province of Britannia. The first London Bridge was built by the Romans as part of their road-building programme, to help consolidate their conquest.[5]

Roman bridges

It is possible that Roman military engineers built a pontoon type bridge at the site during the conquest period (AD 43). A bridge of any kind would have given a rapid overland shortcut to Camulodunum from the southern and Kentish ports, along the Roman roads of Stane Street and Watling Street (now the A2). The Roman roads leading to and from London were probably built around AD 50, and the river-crossing was possibly served by a permanent timber bridge.[6] On the relatively high, dry ground at the northern end of the bridge, a small, opportunistic trading and shipping settlement took root and grew into the town of Londinium.[7] A smaller settlement developed at the southern end of the bridge, in the area now known as Southwark. The bridge may have been destroyed along with the town in the Boudican revolt (AD 60), but Londinium was rebuilt and eventually, became the administrative and mercantile capital of Roman Britain. The bridge offered uninterrupted, mass movement of foot, horse, and wheeled traffic across the Thames, linking four major arterial road systems north of the Thames with four to the south. Just downstream of the bridge were substantial quays and depots, convenient to seagoing trade between Britain and the rest of the Roman Empire.[8][9]

Early medieval bridges

With the end of Roman rule in Britain in the early 5th century, Londinium was gradually abandoned and the bridge fell into disrepair. In the Anglo-Saxon period, the river became a boundary between the emergent, mutually hostile kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex. By the late 9th century, Danish invasions prompted at least a partial reoccupation of the site by the Saxons. The bridge may have been rebuilt by Alfred the Great soon after the Battle of Edington as part of Alfred's redevelopment of the area in his system of burhs,[10] or it may have been rebuilt around 990 under the Saxon king Æthelred the Unready to hasten his troop movements against Sweyn Forkbeard, father of Cnut the Great. A skaldic tradition describes the bridge's destruction in 1014 by Æthelred's ally Olaf,[11] to divide the Danish forces who held both the walled City of London and Southwark. The earliest contemporary written reference to a Saxon bridge is c. 1016 when chroniclers mention how Cnut's ships bypassed the crossing, during his war to regain the throne from Edmund Ironside.[12]

Following the Norman conquest in 1066, King William I rebuilt the bridge. It was repaired or replaced by King William II, destroyed by fire in 1136, and rebuilt in the reign of Stephen. Henry II created a monastic guild, the "Brethren of the Bridge", to oversee all work on London Bridge. In 1163, Peter of Colechurch, chaplain and warden of the bridge and its brethren, supervised the bridge's last rebuilding in timber.[13]

Old London Bridge (1209–1831)

An engraving by Claes Visscher showing Old London Bridge in 1616, with what is now Southwark Cathedral in the foreground. The spiked heads of executed criminals can be seen above the Southwark gatehouse.

After the murder of his former friend and later opponent Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, the penitent King Henry II commissioned a new stone bridge in place of the old, with a chapel at its centre dedicated to Becket as martyr. The archbishop had been a native Londoner, born at Cheapside, and a popular figure. The Chapel of St Thomas on the Bridge became the official start of pilgrimage to his Canterbury shrine; it was grander than some town parish churches, and had an additional river-level entrance for fishermen and ferrymen. Building work began in 1176, supervised by Peter of Colechurch.[13] The costs would have been enormous; Henry's attempt to meet them with taxes on wool and sheepskins probably gave rise to a later legend that London Bridge was built on wool packs.[13] In 1202, before Colechurch's death, Isembert, a French monk who was renowned as a bridge builder, was appointed by King John to complete the project. Construction was not finished until 1209. There were houses on the bridge from the start; this was a normal way of paying for the maintenance of a bridge, though in this case it had to be supplemented by other rents and by tolls. From 1282 two bridge wardens were responsible for maintaining the bridge, heading the organization known as the Bridge House. The only two collapses occurred when maintenance had been neglected, in 1281 (five arches) and 1437 (two arches). In 1212, perhaps the greatest of the early fires of London broke out, spreading as far as the chapel and trapping many people.

The bridge was about 926 feet (282 metres) long, and had nineteen piers linked by nineteen arches and a wooden drawbridge. There were 'starlings' around the piers to protect them (they had deeper piles than the piers themselves). The bridge, including the part occupied by houses, was from 20 to 24 feet (6.1 to 7.3 metres) wide. The roadway was mostly around 15 feet (4.6 metres) wide, varying from about 14 feet to 16 feet, except that it was narrower at defensive features (the stone gate, the drawbridge and the drawbridge tower) and wider south of the stone gate. The houses occupied only a few feet on each side of the bridge. They received their main support either from the piers, which extended well beyond the bridge itself from west to east, or from 'hammer beams' laid from pier to pier parallel to the bridge. It was the length of the piers which made it possible to build quite large houses, up to 34 feet (10 metres) deep.[14]

The numerous starlings restricted the river's tidal ebb and flow. The difference in water levels on the two sides of the bridge could be as much as 6 feet (1.8 m), producing ferocious rapids between the piers resembling a weir.[15] Only the brave or foolhardy attempted to "shoot the bridge" – steer a boat between the starlings when in flood – and some were drowned in the attempt. The bridge was "for wise men to pass over, and for fools to pass under."[16] The restricted flow also meant that in hard winters the river upstream was more susceptible to freezing.

The number of houses on the bridge reached its maximum in the late fourteenth century, when there were 140. Subsequently, many of the houses, originally only 10 to 11 feet wide, were merged, so that by 1605 there were 91. Originally they are likely to have had only two storeys, but they were gradually enlarged. In the seventeenth century, when there are detailed descriptions of them, almost all had four or five storeys (counting the garrets as a storey); three houses had six storeys. Two-thirds of the houses were rebuilt from 1477 to 1548. In the seventeenth century, the usual plan was a shop on the ground floor, a hall and often a chamber on the first floor, a kitchen and usually a chamber and a waterhouse (for hauling up water in buckets) on the second floor, and chambers and garrets above. Approximately every other house shared in a 'cross building' above the roadway, linking the houses either side and extending from the first floor upwards.[17]

The Frozen Thames (1677) by Abraham Hondius in the Museum of London, showing Old London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral at right

All the houses were shops, and the bridge was one of the City of London's four or five main shopping streets. There seems to have been a deliberate attempt to attract the more prestigious trades. In the late fourteenth century more than four-fifths of the shopkeepers were haberdashers, glovers, cutlers, bowyers and fletchers or from related trades. By 1600 all of these had dwindled except the haberdashers, and the spaces were filled by additional haberdashers, by traders selling textiles and by grocers. From the late seventeenth century there was a greater variety of trades, including metalworkers such as pinmakers and needle makers, sellers of durable goods such as trunks and brushes, booksellers and stationers.[18]

The three major buildings on the bridge were the chapel, the drawbridge tower and the stone gate, all of which seem to have been present soon after the bridge's construction. The chapel was last rebuilt in 1387–1396, by Henry Yevele, master mason to the king. Following the Reformation, it was converted into a house in 1553. The drawbridge tower was where the severed heads of traitors were exhibited. The drawbridge ceased to be opened in the 1470s and in 1577–1579 the tower was replaced by Nonsuch House—a pair of magnificent houses. Its architect was Lewis Stockett, Surveyor of the Queen's Works, who gave it the second classical facade in London (after Somerset House in the Strand). The stone gate was last rebuilt in the 1470s, and later took over the function of displaying the heads of traitors.[19] The heads were dipped in tar and boiled to preserve them against the elements, and were impaled on pikes.[20] The head of William Wallace was the first recorded as appearing, in 1305, starting a long tradition. Other famous heads on pikes included those of Jack Cade in 1450, Thomas More in 1535, Bishop John Fisher in the same year, and Thomas Cromwell in 1540. In 1598, a German visitor to London, Paul Hentzner, counted over 30 heads on the bridge:[21]

On the south is a bridge of stone eight hundred feet in length, of wonderful work; it is supported upon twenty piers of square stone, sixty feet high and thirty broad, joined by arches of about twenty feet diameter. The whole is covered on each side with houses so disposed as to have the appearance of a continued street, not at all of a bridge. Upon this is built a tower, on whose top the heads of such as have been executed for high treason are placed on iron spikes: we counted above thirty.

The last head was installed in 1661;[22] subsequently heads were placed on Temple Bar instead, until the practice ceased.[23]

There were two multi-seated public latrines, but they seem to have been at the two ends of the bridge, possibly on the riverbank. The one at the north end had two entrances in 1306. In 1481, one of the latrines fell into the Thames and five men were drowned. Neither of the latrines is recorded after 1591.[24]

In 1578–1582 a Dutchman, Peter Morris, created a waterworks at the north end of the bridge. Water wheels under the two northernmost arches drove pumps that raised water to the top of a tower, from which wooden pipes conveyed it into the city. In 1591 water wheels were installed at the south end of the bridge to grind corn.[25]

Detail of Old London Bridge on the 1632 oil painting View of London Bridge by Claude de Jongh,
in the Yale Center for British Art

In 1633 fire destroyed the houses on the northern part of the bridge. The gap was only partly filled by new houses, with the result that there was a firebreak that prevented the Great Fire of London (1666) spreading to the rest of the bridge and to Southwark. The Great Fire destroyed the bridge's waterwheels, preventing them from pumping water to fight the fire.

alt text
Drawing of London Bridge from a 1682 panorama
London Bridge in 1757 just before the removal of the houses, by Samuel Scott

For nearly twenty years only sheds replaced the burnt buildings. They were replaced In the 1680s, when almost all the houses on the bridge were rebuilt. The roadway was widened to 20 feet (6.1 metres) by setting the houses further back and was increased in height from one storey to two. The new houses extended further back over the river, which was to cause trouble later. In 1695 the bridge had 551 inhabitants. From 1670 attempts were made to keep traffic in each direction to one side, at first through a keep-right policy and from 1722 through a keep-left policy.[26] This has been suggested as one possible origin for the practice of traffic in Britain driving on the left.[27]

A fire in September 1725 destroyed all the houses south of the stone gate; they were rebuilt.[28] The last houses to be built on the bridge were designed by George Dance the Elder in 1745,[29] but these buildings had begun to subside within a decade.[30] In 1756, the London Bridge Act gave the City Corporation the power to purchase all the properties on the bridge so that they could be demolished and the bridge improved. While this work was underway, a temporary wooden bridge was constructed to the west of London Bridge. It opened in October 1757 but caught fire and collapsed in the following April. The old bridge was reopened until a new wooden construction could be completed a year later.[31] To help improve navigation under the bridge, its two centre arches were replaced by a single wider span, the Great Arch, in 1759.

Demolition of the houses was completed in 1761 and the last tenant departed after some 550 years of housing on the bridge.[32] Under the supervision of Dance the Elder, the roadway was widened to 46 feet (14 m)[33] and a balustrade was added "in the Gothic taste" together with fourteen stone alcoves for pedestrians to shelter in.[34] However, the creation of the Great Arch had weakened the rest of the structure and constant expensive repairs were required in the following decades; this, combined with congestion both on and under bridge, often leading to fatal accidents, resulted in public pressure for a modern replacement.[35]

New London Bridge (1831–1967)

The remains of the bridge, as sketched by William Alfred Delamotte on 30 March 1832
The Demolition of Old London Bridge, 1832, Guildhall Gallery, London
New London Bridge under construction, by William Henry Kearney, 1826

In 1799, a competition was opened to design a replacement for the medieval bridge. Entrants included Thomas Telford; he proposed a single iron arch span of 600 feet (180 m), with 65 feet (20 m) centre clearance beneath it for masted river traffic. His design was accepted as safe and practicable, following expert testimony.[36] Preliminary surveys and works were begun, but Telford's design required exceptionally wide approaches and the extensive use of multiple, steeply inclined planes, which would have required the purchase and demolition of valuable adjacent properties.[37]

A more conventional design of five stone arches, by John Rennie, was chosen instead. It was built 100 feet (30 m) west (upstream) of the original site by Jolliffe and Banks of Merstham, Surrey,[38] under the supervision of Rennie's son. Work began in 1824 and the foundation stone was laid, in the southern coffer dam, on 15 June 1825.

New London Bridge, c. 1870–1890

The old bridge continued in use while the new bridge was being built, and was demolished after the latter opened in 1831. New approach roads had to be built, which cost three times as much as the bridge itself. The total costs, around £2.5 million (£242 million in 2021),[39] were shared by the British Government and the Corporation of London.

Rennie's bridge was 928 feet (283 m) long and 49 feet (15 m) wide, constructed from Haytor granite. The official opening took place on 1 August 1831; King William IV and Queen Adelaide attended a banquet in a pavilion erected on the bridge. The northern approach road, King William Street, was renamed after the monarch.

New London Bridge in 1927

In 1896 the bridge was the busiest point in London, and one of its most congested; 8,000 pedestrians and 900 vehicles crossed every hour.[20] It was widened by 13 feet (4.0 m), using granite corbels.[40] Subsequent surveys showed that the bridge was sinking an inch (about 2.5 cm) every eight years, and by 1924 the east side had sunk some three to four inches (about 9 cm) lower than the west side. The bridge would have to be removed and replaced.

Sale to Robert McCulloch

Rennie's New London Bridge during its reconstruction at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, March 1971

Common Council of the City of London member Ivan Luckin put forward the idea of selling the bridge, and recalled: "They all thought I was completely crazy when I suggested we should sell London Bridge when it needed replacing."[41] Subsequently, in 1968, Council placed the bridge on the market and began to look for potential buyers. On 18 April 1968, Rennie's bridge was purchased by the Missourian entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch of McCulloch Oil for US$2,460,000. The claim that McCulloch believed mistakenly that he was buying the more impressive Tower Bridge was denied by Luckin in a newspaper interview.[42] Before the bridge was taken apart, each granite facing block was marked for later reassembly.

Rennie's New London Bridge rebuilt, Lake Havasu City, 2016

The blocks were taken to Merrivale Quarry at Princetown in Devon, where 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 in) were sliced off the inner faces of many, to facilitate their fixing.[43] (Stones left behind were sold in an online auction when the quarry was abandoned and flooded in 2003.[44]) 10,000 tons of granite blocks were shipped via the Panama Canal to California, then trucked from Long Beach to Arizona. They were used to face a new, purpose-built hollow core steel-reinforced concrete structure, ensuring the bridge would support the weight of modern traffic.[45] The bridge was reconstructed by Sundt Construction at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and was re-dedicated on 10 October 1971 in a ceremony attended by London's Lord Mayor and celebrities. The bridge carries the McCulloch Boulevard and spans the Bridgewater Channel, an artificial, navigable waterway that leads from the Uptown area of Lake Havasu City.[46]

Modern London Bridge

View of London Bridge from a boat passing under Cannon Street Railway Bridge

The current London Bridge was designed by architect Lord Holford and engineers Mott, Hay and Anderson.[47] It was constructed by contractors John Mowlem and Co from 1967 to 1972,[47][48] and opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 16 March 1973.[49][50][51] It comprises three spans of prestressed-concrete box girders, a total of 833 feet (254 m) long. The cost of £4 million (£60.1 million in 2021),[39] was met entirely by the Bridge House Estates charity. The current bridge was built in the same location as Rennie's bridge, with the previous bridge remaining in use while the first two girders were constructed upstream and downstream. Traffic was then transferred onto the two new girders, and the previous bridge demolished to allow the final two central girders to be added.[52]

The current London Bridge in January 1987, with the National Westminster Tower skyscraper (Tower 42) opened six years earlier in the background

In 1984, the British warship HMS Jupiter collided with London Bridge, causing significant damage to both the ship and the bridge.[53]

On Remembrance Day 2004, several bridges in London were furnished with red lighting as part of a night-time flight along the river by wartime aircraft. London Bridge was the one bridge not subsequently stripped of the illuminations, which are regularly switched on at night.

London Bridge from 20 Fenchurch Street

The current London Bridge is often shown in films, news and documentaries showing the throng of commuters journeying to work into the City from London Bridge Station (south to north). An example of this is actor Hugh Grant crossing the bridge north to south during the morning rush hour, in the 2002 film About a Boy.

On 11 July 2009, as part of the annual Lord Mayor's charity appeal and to mark the 800th anniversary of Old London Bridge's completion in the reign of King John, the Lord Mayor and Freemen of the City drove a flock of sheep across the bridge, supposedly by ancient right.[54]

London Bridge with 2017 security barriers and the bulbous Walkie-Talkie building at right

In a terrorist attack on 3 June 2017, three pedestrians on the bridge were driven into with a van and killed. Altogether, eight people died and 48 were injured in the attack. Security barriers were installed on the bridge to help isolate the pedestrian pavement from the road.[55]


The nearest London Underground stations are Monument, at the northern end of the bridge, and London Bridge at the southern end. London Bridge station is also served by National Rail.

In literature and popular culture

  • The nursery rhyme and folk song "London Bridge Is Falling Down" has been speculatively connected to several of the bridge's historic collapses.
  • Rennie's New London Bridge is a prominent landmark in T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land, wherein he compares the shuffling commuters across London Bridge to the hell-bound souls of Dante's Inferno. Also in that poem is a reference to the "inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold" of the church of St Magnus-the-Martyr, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, which marks the northern approach to the bridge, and the poem also ends with the lines "I sat upon the shore/fishing, with the arid plain behind me./Shall I at least set my lands in order?/London bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down".
  • In Charles Dickens' Sketches by Boz, in the story entitled Scotland-yard there is much discussion by coal-heavers on the replacement of London Bridge in 1832, including a portent that the event will dry up the Thames.
  • Gary P. Nunn's song "London Homesick Blues" includes the lyrics, "Even London Bridge has fallen down, and moved to Arizona, now I know why."[56]
  • English composer Eric Coates wrote a march about London Bridge in 1934.
  • London Bridge is named in the World War II song "The King is Still in London" by Roma Campbell-Hunter & Hugh Charles.[57]
  • Fergie released a song titled "London Bridge" in 2006 as the lead single of her first solo album, The Dutchess.[58] The music video for the track features the singer on a boat near London's Tower Bridge,[59] which is not London Bridge, but this error didn't stop the song from reaching number one on Billboard's Hot 100.[60]

See also


  1. ^ "Statutory Instrument 2000 No. 1117 – The GLA Roads Designation Order 2000". Government of the United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 5 March 2022. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  2. ^ "About us". TeamLondonBridge. Archived from the original on 8 December 2008. Retrieved 21 November 2008.
  3. ^ Merrifield, Ralph, London, City of the Romans, University of California Press, 1983, pp. 1–4. The terraces were formed by glacial sediment towards the end of the last Ice Age.
  4. ^ D. Riley, in Burland, J.B., Standing, J.R., Jardine, F.M., Building Response to Tunnelling: Case Studies from Construction of the Jubilee line Extension, London, Volume 1, Thomas Telford, 2001, pp. 103 – 104.
  5. ^ The site of the new bridge determined the location of London itself. The alignment of Watling Street with the ford at Westminster (crossed via Thorney Island) is the basis for a mooted earlier Roman "London", sited in the vicinity of Park Lane. See Margary, Ivan D., Roman Roads in Britain, Vol. 1, South of the Foss Way – Bristol Channel, Phoenix House Lts, London, 1955, pp. 46 – 47.
  6. ^ "Engineering Timelines - Roman Bridge, London, site of". Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  7. ^ Margary, Ivan D., Roman Roads in Britain, Vol. 1, South of the Foss Way – Bristol Channel, Phoenix House Lts, London, 1955, pp. 46–48.
  8. ^ Jones, B., and Mattingly, D., An Atlas of Roman Britain, Blackwell, 1990, pp. 168–172.
  9. ^ Merrifield, Ralph, London, City of the Romans, University of California Press, 1983, p. 31.
  10. ^ Jeremy Haslam, 'The Development of London by King Alfred: A Reassessment'; Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, 61 (2010), 109–44. Retrieved 2 August 2014
  11. ^ Snorri Sturluson (c. 1230), Heimskringla. There is no reference to this event in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. See: Hagland, Jan Ragnar; Watson, Bruce (Spring 2005). "Fact or folklore: the Viking attack on London Bridge" (PDF). London Archaeologist. 12: 328–33.
  12. ^ See Battle of Brentford (1016)
  13. ^ a b c Thornbury, Walter, Old and New London, 1872, vol.2, p.10
  14. ^ Gerhold. London Bridge and its Houses. pp. 4, 11–12, 16.
  15. ^ Pierce, p.45 and Jackson, p.77
  16. ^ Rev. John Ray, "Book of Proverbs", 1670, cited in Jackson, p.77
  17. ^ Gerhold. London Bridge and its Houses. pp. 13, 19–21, 36, 45–46.
  18. ^ Gerhold. London Bridge and its Houses. pp. 60–75.
  19. ^ Gerhold. London Bridge and its Houses. pp. 26–32.
  20. ^ a b Dunton, Larkin (1896). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett. p. 23.
  21. ^ "Vision of Britain – Paul Hentzner – Arrival and London".
  22. ^ Home (1932). "Old London Bridge". Nature. 129 (3244): 232. Bibcode:1932Natur.129S..16.. doi:10.1038/129016c0. S2CID 4112097.
  23. ^ Timbs, John. Curiosities of London. p.705, 1885. Available: Accessed: 29 September 2013
  24. ^ Gerhold, London Bridge and its Houses, pp. 32-3; Sabine, Ernest L., "Latrines and Cesspools of Mediaeval London," Speculum, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Jul. 1934), pp. 305–306, 315. Earliest evidence for the multi-seated public latrine is from a court case of 1306.
  25. ^ Jackson. London Bridge. pp. 30–31.
  26. ^ Gerhold. London Bridge and its Houses. pp. 57, 82–90.
  27. ^ Ways of the World: A History of the World's Roads and of the Vehicles That Used Them, M. G. Lay & James E. Vance, Rutgers University Press 1992, p. 199.
  28. ^ Gerhold. London Bridge and its Houses. p. 93.
  29. ^ Pierce 2001, pp. 235–236
  30. ^ Pierce 2001, p. 252
  31. ^ Pierce 2001, p. 252–256
  32. ^ Gerhold, London Bridge and its Houses, pp. 100–101.
  33. ^ Pierce 2001, p. 260
  34. ^ Pierce 2001, pp. 261–263
  35. ^ Pierce 2001, p. 278–279
  36. ^ "Article on Iron Bridges". Encyclopedia Britannica. 1857.
  37. ^ Smiles, Samuel (October 2001). The Life of Thomas Telford. ISBN 1404314857.
  38. ^ A fragment from the old bridge is set into the tower arch inside St Katharine's Church, Merstham.
  39. ^ a b UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  40. ^ A dozen granite corbels prepared for this widening went unused, and still lie near Swelltor Quarry on the disused railway track a couple of miles south of Princetown on Dartmoor.
  41. ^ "How London Bridge was sold to the States". Watford Observer. 27 March 2002. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  42. ^ "How London Bridge was sold to the States (From This Is Local London)". 16 January 2012. Archived from the original on 16 January 2012.
  43. ^ "London Bridge is still here! – 21/12/1995 – Contract Journal". Archived from the original on 6 May 2008.
  44. ^ "Merrivale Quarry, Whitchurch, Tavistock District, Devon, England, UK".
  45. ^ Elborough, Travis (2013). London Bridge in America: The tall story of a transatlantic crossing. Random House. pp. 211–212. ISBN 978-1448181674. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  46. ^ Wildfang, Frederic B. (2005). Lake Havasu City. Chicago, IL: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 105–122. ISBN 978-0738530123. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  47. ^ a b "Carillion accepts award for London Bridge project". Building talk. 14 November 2007. Archived from the original on 20 April 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  48. ^ "Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide". Archived from the original on 12 April 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2008.
  49. ^ "London's new bridge— Open today: the latest in a line that goes back 1000 years", Evening Standard (London), March 16, 1973, p. 27
  50. ^ "Rooftop vigil as the Queen opens bridge", Leicester Mercury, 16 March 1973, p. 1
  51. ^ "Queen Hails New London Bridge", by Tom Lambert, Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1973, p. I-3 (Queen Elizabeth opened the newest London Bridge Friday, saying it showed no signs of falling down.")
  52. ^ Yee, plate 65 and others
  53. ^ Morris, Rupert (14 June 1984). "Frigate hits London Bridge". The Times. No. 61857. London. col E-G, p. 1.
  54. ^ "The Lord Mayor's Appeal | A Better City for All | The Lord Mayor's Appeal 2019/2020".
  55. ^ "'Van hits pedestrians' on London Bridge in 'major incident'". BBC. 3 June 2017. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  56. ^ "London Homesick Blues". International Lyrics Playground. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  57. ^ Huntley, Bill. "The King is Still in London". International Lyrics Playground. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  58. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer. "Black Eyed Peas' Fergie Gets Rough And Regal In First Video From Solo LP". MTV News. Retrieved 9 August 2021.
  59. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Fergie - London Bridge (Oh Snap) (Official Music Video), retrieved 9 August 2021
  60. ^ "Fergie". Billboard. Retrieved 9 August 2021.


  • Gerhold, Dorian, London Bridge and its Houses, c.1209-1761, London Topographical Society, 2019, ISBN 978-17-89257-51-9; 2nd edition, Oxbow Books, 2021, ISBN 1-789257-51-4.
  • Home, Gordon, Old London Bridge, John Lane the Bodley Head Limited, 1931.
  • Jackson, Peter, London Bridge – A Visual History, Historical Publications, revised edition, 2002, ISBN 0-948667-82-6.
  • Murray, Peter & Stevens, Mary Anne, Living Bridges – The inhabited bridge, past, present and future, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1996, ISBN 3-7913-1734-2.
  • Pierce, Patricia, Old London Bridge – The Story of the Longest Inhabited Bridge in Europe, Headline Books, 2001, ISBN 0-7472-3493-0.
  • Watson, Bruce, Brigham, Trevor and Dyson, Tony, London Bridge: 2000 years of a river crossing, Museum of London Archaeology Service, ISBN 1-901992-18-7.
  • Yee, Albert, London Bridge – Progress Drawings, no publisher, 1974, ISBN 978-0-904742-04-6.

External links

20 Annotations

First Reading

Phil  •  Link

In Pepys' day this was the only bridge across the Thames below Kingston, some miles to the west. The structure then consisted of "19 arches and a wooden drawbridge built 1176-1209 in place of an earlier wooden bridge ... The road across it carried a line of houses on each side with shops at the road level." (Latham and Matthews, Companion).

In 1831 it was replaced with a new bridge 180 feet upstream, and this was later replaced in 1973.

Roger Miller  •  Link

I was interested to see the refererence to souvenirs made from the pilings of the original London Bridge in the article linked to above by Susanna.

We have in our family two wooden egg cups, one of which has a label on the bottom with the following hand written inscription: "This cup is formed out of a portion of the oak Piles on which the orginal London Bridge was built in the year 1016 making at this time (1850) 834 years since the Piles were placed".

I have always been rather sceptical of the authenticity of these egg cups but I suppose it is possible that they really were made from the remains of the bridge.

The cups were inherited from my great uncle Jack (Charles John Munk) who was killed on the Somme in 1916 aged 22. They were almost his only possessions and are mentioned in the letter that he wrote to be given to his parents in the event of his death.

Sam Sampson  •  Link

The London Bridge Museum & Educational Trust
Are planning a Museum in the southern abutment space of Sir John Rennie's London Bridge. Their website has an excellent history of the bridge, and the museum proposal looks fascinating.
There's a view of London Bridge circa 1600 on the 'Shakespeare Sonnets' site. "From a photo-chromolithograph made for the New Shakspere Society, from a drawing in Pepys' Collection at Magdalene College, Cambridge. This is reputed to be the earliest genuine view of London Bridge."

Peter Roberts  •  Link

There is an informative, illustrated page about the Inhabited Bridge, that links & complements Sam`s ref. above. Its by The Old London Bridge Society that I founded! We`ve more news when our own web site is up and running. For now, I`m a grateful `Guest contributor` at the address below, please check it out:

Glyn  •  Link

This picture depicts the Frost Fair of 1683.…

On the left bank you can see St Mary-le-bow church with its dragon weathervane, the Monument and the Tower of London just beyond London Bridge. Southwark Cathedral is on the right bank. Apparently the Temple gardenwall is on the left which means that (a) there is a lot of foreshortening in the perspective, and (b) the ice extended a long way. If Pepys (then aged 49 or 50) is anywhere in this drawing, I suspect him to be the man on the lower left walking with the lady.

Sjoerd  •  Link

Interesting to read the explanation of the "booths" on the ice;for instance there is a "Duke of York Coffee House" and a "Tory Booth". Interesting when you read about the politics of the time, see

Thanks Glyn

Glyn  •  Link

For the record, there are at least three models of old London Bridge on display in London.

Absolutely the best one is in the entrance to the Church of St Magnus the Martyr (can anyone take a photo of this one?). To find the church, stand at the Monument and look downhill to the river and it is the church that's directly across the road. If it is closed, you can still see fragments of the later London Bridge in the churchyard, and a wooden Roman harbour post from 2000 years ago.

The biggest model is in the Docklands Museum.

The third is badly lit and displayed, and nothing special, but is the most accessible because it is in the Museum of London.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

London Bridge (old), a stone bridge over the Thames from London to Southwark, 926 feet long, 60 feet high, and 40 feet broad, built between 1176 and 1209, under the superintendence of Peter of Colechurch, chaplain of the former church of St. Mary Colechurch, in the Old Jewry. This bridge stood about 200 feet east of the present structure in the line of Fish Street Hill, just by the church of St. Magnus, and consisted of twenty arches, a drawbridge for larger vessels, and a chapel and crypt in the centre, dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury, and in which the said Peter of Colechurch was buried in 1205.
---London, Past and Present. H.B. Wheatley, 1891.

Bill  •  Link

When the first editions of this Diary were printed no note was required here. Before the erection of the present London Bridge, the fall of water at the ebb tide was great, and to pass at that time was called "Shooting the bridge." It was very hazardous for small boats. The ancient mode, even in Henry VIII.'s time, of going to the Tower and Greenwich, was to land at the Three Cranes, in Upper Thames Street, suffer the barges to shoot the bridge, and to enter them again at Billingsgate. See Cavendish's Wolsey, p. 40, ed. 1852 Life of the Duke of Somerset in Fox's Acts, vol. vi., p. 293; Life of Bp. Hall, in Wordsworth's Eccl. Biog., iv., 318, ed. 1853.
---Diary and correspondence of Samuel Pepys, the diary deciphered by J. Smith. 1854.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

London Bridge was residential shopping mall as well as a major thoroughfare. The advantage of being on the bridge was that shops quickly became widely known, they were part of clusters of shops in the same trade, and the location was prestigious. Rents were especially high at the northern (London) end.

The typical bridge shop throughout history was the haberdasher’s, selling a wide range of goods including paper and parchment, hats, under-garments and almost any small items. But there were also grocery shops, glovers, cutlers, bowyers or fletchers.

These gave way in the late 17th century to a more miscellaneous range of shops, selling, among other things, stationery, pins and durable goods such as scales and trunks.

In 1633, a maidservant left a bucket of hot ashes under a staircase overnight and all the houses on the northern part of the bridge were burnt down. It was not fully rebuilt until 1682–83, by which time the roadway there had been widened to 20ft.

The City of London was determined to widen the rest of the bridge, but wanted to keep the houses and also not to pay anything (a familiar refrain throughout history in every country!).

The City achieved this by indicting the leaseholders for ‘nuisance’ caused by the fronts of their houses and the cross buildings (making large sections of the bridge into mini-tunnels). If the leaseholders rebuilt, leaving 20ft for the roadway and with cross buildings at second-floor instead of first-floor level [Americans: add one floor], they could have 61 year leases at the existing low rents.

The leaseholders complied, with appropriate complaints, and the new houses were somewhat more regular than their predecessors, with a consistent back line. They compensated for lost ground in front by extending further backwards over the river on mostly sturdy carpentry.

In 1695, there were 551 inhabitants, comprising 101 heads of household (92 men and nine women), 84 wives, 67 sons, 87 daughters, 75 male servants (probably all apprentices), 82 female servants and 55 others, such as lodgers.

Most of the leases granted in the 1680s ended in the 1740s, which coincided with a slump in the property market. The creation of the West End meant that the importance of the bridge had declined as a shopping street as well.

Much more information and some great illustrations at…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Terry F reports having a problem with the link about London Bridge link (above). It works fine for me ... if you have a problem seeing the pictures, or something else, please speak up so we can give Phil clues about what is happening (it's not the first time we have noticed this problem).

Since I don't want to deprive you of the pictures, here's the link again:…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


This book is about London Bridge, which was lined with houses from end to end and was one of the most extraordinary structures ever seen in London for over 500 years. It was home to more than 500 people, perched above the broiling Thames waters, and it was one of the area’s main shopping streets. It is among the most familiar images of historic London, but little has previously been known about the houses and the people who lived and worked in them.

This book uses recently discovered evidence, including detailed descriptions of nearly every house, to tell the story of the bridge and its houses and inhabitants.

With this new information it is possible to map the bridge and houses in the 17th century, to trace each house through rentals and a survey back to 1358, revealing the original layout, and to date most of the houses which appear in later views to show how the buildings and their occupants changed over the centuries.

The book describes what stopped the houses from falling into the river, how the houses were enlarged over the years, their interior layouts, what goods were sold at different times, the extensive rebuildings of 1477-1548 and 1683-96, and the removal of the homes around 1760.

There are many new revelations - about the structure of the bridge, the width of the roadway, the original layout of the houses, how the houses were supported, the size and internal planning of the houses, the quality of their architecture, and the trades practiced on the bridge.

The book includes five new reconstruction drawings showing what we now know about the bridge and its buildings.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Reconstructing the bridge and its houses
Chapter 3 The houses from c. 1209 to 1358
Chapter 4 The major buildings
Chapter 5 The houses form 1358 to 1633
Chapter 6 Inside the houses in the seventeenth century
Chapter 7 Fires and rebuildings 1633-82
Chapter 8 Trading on the bridge
Chapter 9 Families and community
Chapter 10 The great rebuilding of 1683-96
Chapter 11 From the fire of 1725 to the removal of the houses

The Survey -- A Survey of the houses on London Bridge, 1604-83

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

During Cosmo, the future Grand Duke of Turin's visit to London, he went to Southwark.
I've standardized the spelling of names I know, corrected the scanning errors I could figure out, and increased the number of paragraphs. Sometimes I got confused making the N.S./O.S. date conversions, so I apologize if they are wrong:

On the morning of 17/27 May, 1669 after hearing mass, his Highness went through the city as far as London Bridge, on which are erected many large buildings, almost half of which escaped the fire there, and those which were consumed have been rebuilt of smaller size, the upper part being used as dwellings, and the lower part as mercers' shops, all of which are abundantly filled with goods of various sorts.


Having crossed the bridge with some difficulty, owing to the number of carts which are constantly passing and repassing, he went to see the South side of the city, which, in comparison, is very inconsiderable, and inhabited for the most part by the lower orders.


He continued to see a prison in Southwark, which I think was the Marshalsea. That entry is in PRISONS in our encyclopedia…


His highness, Cosmo, must be considered only as a traveler. Under his direction, the narrator of the records was Count Lorenzo Magalotti, afterwards Secretary to the Academy del Cimento, and one of the most learned and eminent characters of the court of Ferdinand II.

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