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London Bridge

Building  From 1831  To 1967

Categories: Transport

Countries: USA

Four stone bridges have spanned the Thames at this point. The first was built in about 1210 and lasted right through the medieval period. This was the one that had the spikes and is shown in some detail on this map. The houses and shops on it were removed in 1760 and the roadway was widened. We've counted this as a second bridge but as far as we can tell this was more a "recladding" than a total demolish and rebuild job. This second design was by Sir Robert Taylor and George Dance the Younger and included 14 stone alcoves, four of which are known to survive: two in Victoria Park, one in a courtyard of Guys Hospital and one in the gardens of a 1930s block of flats, Courtlands, East Sheen. We've collected all of these - see our "Commemorated at" section on this page. See Hackneywick.blogspot for a picture of the bridge with these alcoves in situ. Note: alcoves were not unique to London Bridge, the current Southwark Bridge, from 1912, has them.

It is said that it was here that the "keep left" rule of the road was first adopted, made necessary by the sheer weight of traffic. In the early 1800's it was clear that a replacement was needed. This, the third bridge, built a few yards upstream, was designed by John Rennie and finished by his son of the same name, opening 1 August 1831. To get an idea of what it looked like go see the Rennie bridge between the Serpentine and the Long Water - it is very similar. The Rennie London Bridge was widened in 1902-4.

By the 1960s the Rennie bridge was in its turn considered inadequate for the traffic and had to be replaced. Here's some footage of the old bridge being dismantled, brought to our attention by the magnificent Londonist. The elevational stonework was sold for $2,460,000 to the American entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch and re-erected over a canal in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, USA, in 1971. McCulloch strongly denied that he thought he was buying Tower Bridge.

Remnants of the two previous bridges (Taylor/Dance and Rennie) are scattered across London and the world - see our "Commemorated at" section on this page. One such remnant is declared on the Duke of Wellington inscription. Substantial parts of the arch, abutments and walls of the Rennie bridge are preserved as part of the fabric of the southern end of the current bridge, including the two large granite stair chambers at Nancy's Steps. There is also some of the original balustrading on the northern bank to the west, either side of Fishmongers' Hall. London My London used to have a list of various other scattered bits and pieces but that link is now dead. Londonist says "Woodberry estate near Stoke Newington. Rumour has it that the nearby flagstones are remnants of the Old London Bridge." And Ian Visits has visited Christ Church in the Isle of Dogs (built by William Cubitt, not the titled one) which may have parts of the Rennie bridge incorporated into its structure. Recently we found a huge lump of old worked stone which we think is probably a remnant, in St Thomas Street just east of the junction with Weston Street. 2016 Londonist has a whole post tracking down the remnants. 2017 Londonist tells of a bench atop "four granite slabs ... on the banks of the big lake near where the Sackler Crossing is now" in Kew Gardens.

The new, current, bridge was opened by the Queen on 15 March 1973.

2014: the BBC report on the sale at auction of a Victorian corkscrew made with parts from Old London Bridge.

2017: Londonist found some sections of the old medieval bridge - in the form of a chair on display in Fishmongers' Hall.

2019: A painting at the Guildhall had the following caption " {referring to the demolished medieval bridge} Much of the bridge was floated down the river to Greenhithe to be used to build Ingress Abbey. Other portions of it were shipped to Minster on the Isle of Sheppey, stone balustrades used on  Herne Bay pier ...".

See other memorials in this area

This section lists the memorials where the subject on this page is commemorated:
London Bridge

Information Commemorated at

Show all 20

Borough Market Bell (1)

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall carried out the first ringing...

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Bridges - Montague Close

The pale palque between the two dark ones carries some near-illegible etching...

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Duke of Wellington statue - EC2

Unveiled in Wellington's presence, this is one of only a handful of statues i...

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Fish Street Hill plaque

First known as Brigge Street, then New Fishe Street, Fish Street Hill has bee...

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Frost Fairs

Our close-up photo shows one of the scenes depicted, this one being a market ...

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