Image credit: Christ Osburn (Author)
London Bridge is one of the world’s most historic bridges


Spanning the River Thames, London Bridge not only connects the City of London on the north with the South London area of Southwark on the river’s south bank, it also serves as a link to London‘s past.


However, this is not the iconic bridge with the massive towers that tourists arriving on flights to London flock to. That’s Tower Bridge a little further to the east of town. No, London Bridge is the less attractive but considerably more historic bridge just west of Tower Bridge and east of Cannon Street Railway Bridge.


For some 2000 years, a bridge has existed at or near the present site of London Bridge. The first of which was constructed by the Romans in 50 AD. Made of wood, this Roman bridge was a pontoon, most likely used by the military.  Destroyed in the revolt led by Queen Boudicca in 60 AD, the bridge was rebuilt by the Romans, but after the Roman era, the bridge was left abandoned until the Saxons reconstructed this Thames crossing, with archaeological evidence suggesting the newer bridge came into existence around 1000 AD.


The famous “London Bridge is falling down” nursery rhyme is believed to refer to the action of the Norse prince Olaf, who defeated Danish invaders by pulling down the wooden bridge in 1014.  Less than a century after Olaf’s episode, King William and the Normans invaded London riding over a rebuilt London Bridge from the south and with them bringing a charger allowing the city to self-rule.


The first stone bridge on the site was built in 1190 by Norman monk Peter de Cole and remained for more than 600 years.  The medieval stone bridge featured 19 small arches with a drawbridge and defensive gatehouse at its south end. Based upon contemporary images, it is believed the bridge had several multi-story buildings of up to seven stories in height running its length.


Consistent with so much of London’s brutal and bloody history, London Bridge was used to discourage any thoughts of rebellion by having the heads of traitors displayed on spikes. The first person to hold the dubious distinction of having his head on view for all to see was Scottish independence fighter William Wallace in 1305.


A less grizzly fact about London Bridge is its significance in why the British drive on the left side of the road.  So heavily travelled was London Bridge in the 18th Century that in an attempt to regulate the flow of traffic (and more effectively collect tolls for crossing the bridge) a rule was imposed in 1722 insisting all those crossing the bridge keep to the left, a rule which was later adopted across Britain.


The modern London Bridge was constructed in 1971 and opened by Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II opened in 1973.  It forms part of the A3 road and is maintained by the Greater London Authority and owned by the bridge itself is owned by an independent charity overseen by the City of London Corporation.


Image Credit: Chris Osburn (Author)

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