One of the most distinctive visual features of the city of London, and, indeed, the factor which led to the city rising where it did in the first place, is the presence of the River Thames. This iconic waterway winds through the centre of the city and provides the backdrop for many of its most iconic appearances in film and TV, and it also creates the necessity for some of the most famous constructions in London, which is to say the bridges spanning the river. The bridges of London range from the ultra-modern Millennium Bridge to the architecturally striking Tower Bridge, and one of the most famous, not least because of its’ presence in a nursery rhyme about it falling down, is London Bridge. London Bridge joins the City of London with the district of Southwark and, although the current bridge was actually constructed in 1973, there have been other bridges on the same site throughout the history of the city.
The first bridges on the site were wooden bridges built by the Romans at the time of the founding of London, and these were then superseded by a medieval structure which in turn gave way to a stone-arched bridge built in the 19th century. The following are a few interesting facts concerning the bridge which is today known as London Bridge:
• It was designed by the builders Mott, Hay and Anderson and the architect Lord Holford.
• It was built between 1967 and 1972 and opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 17th March 1973.
• It is a box girder bridge made of concrete and steel
• It is 283 metres long
• It originally cost £4 million to build, a figure which, allowing for inflation, would be £47.9 million today
• In 1984, the warship HMS Jupiter collided with the bridge, causing damage to both the ship and the bridge itself.
• On Remembrance Day in 2004, several of the bridges along the Thames were fitted with red lights to mark the occasion. These illuminations were removed from the other bridges, but remained on London Bridge and are now switched on every night.
• The lights on the bridge are made from metal consisting of the melted down remains of Napoleonic cannons.
• The Underground Stations which are nearest to London Bridge are Monument and London Bridge
• The London Bridge which was built in 1831 was sold in 1968 to an American entrepreneur called Robert McCulloch. He paid $2,460,000 for it.
• The old bridge is now a tourist attraction at Lake Havasu City in the USA
• The hollow interior of the bridge provides the perfect nesting place for hundreds of bats
• London Bridge features in two of the novels of Charles Dickens – Great Expectations and David Copperfield
• The gatehouse at the southern end of the bridge, from the year 1305, was used to display the grisly sight of the severed heads of traitors impaled on spikes. Famous victims of this fate included Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell
• Someone who has been honoured as a Freeman of the City of London has the right to drive a flock of sheep across the bridge.