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Millennium Bridge (part three)


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St Paul's Cathedral (part one)

Waterloo suicides


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Introduction (part five)
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As for the future, it is unlikely that there will be any more new bridges in central London, but the planning authorities are considering proposals for two new crossings east of Tower Bridge, including one which would form part of the Thames Gateway development, and a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists which can be lifted to allow ships to pass through.

The story of London's bridges is not confined solely to the work of the architects and engineers. It is also about the pilots who have flown under them, the daredevils who have dived off them, and the artists and writers who have been inspired by them. It is also, more sadly, a story of the desperate people who have chosen to end their lives by jumping off them. Most of the bridges have been used for this purpose, but Waterloo Bridge, quite unfairly, gained such a reputation, especially in the 1840s, that the newspapers referred to 'Waterloo suicides' and the bridge became known as the 'Bridge of Sighs'.

Many artists have been fascinated by the Thames, and in particular its bridges. The earliest image of London Bridge is in the background of an illuminated text of the poems of Charles d'Orleans, written while he was a prisoner in the Tower. Later, many artists painted or engraved the bridge in detail, and from various angles, and, although not always reliable, these depictions help us to see how the bridge changed during its life of six hundred years. News of the new bridge at Westminster travelled far and wide, and it attracted the Venetian artist Canaletto to London, where he painted the most iconic images of the bridge. English artists, such as Samuel Scott and William Marlow, were inspired by him and painted views of the bridges at Westminster and Blackfriars. In the nineteenth century, Constable painted the opening of Waterloo Bridge, and Turner depicted Westminster Bridge in his dramatic painting of the burning of the Houses of Parliament. Many lesser artists, including Henry Pether and John Atkinson Grimshaw, loved to paint the river by moonlight, with various bridges in the background. The topographical artists George Scharf and Edward William Cooke have left us an invaluable record of the construction of the new London Bridge and the demolition of the old bridge. James McNeill Whistler painted the Thames many times, especially old Battersea Bridge, and he also made drawings of old Waterloo Bridge and the demolition of old Westminster Bridge. His pupil Walter Greaves also painted old Battersea Bridge, but his best-known work is a vivid painting of a dangerously overcrowded Hammersmith Bridge on Boat Race Day. Probably the most famous paintings of Waterloo Bridge are the forty painted by Monet from his balcony at the Savoy Hotel. He was drawn to London by its celebrated fogs, and his depictions of Waterloo Bridge, and the thirty or so pictures of Charing Cross Railway Bridge, are really studies of the changing light and the effects of the fog. Probably the most extraordinary paintings of London bridges are those painted by the Fauvist Andre Detain, who visited London in 1906.The results are vibrant but unrealistically coloured views of almost all the bridges from Westminster to Tower Bridge.

London has regularly appeared as a backdrop in feature films, and a number of the better-known bridges have appeared in them, usually as a location-setting shot, mostly of either Westminster Bridge or Tower Bridge. As London has become more popular as a location for filming, certain bridges, such as Hammersmith Bridge and the Albert Bridge, have played a more prominent part, but more often than not, they appear fleetingly. At the time of writing, the Millennium Bridge has become one of the most popular London locations for film-makers, including 'Bollywood' directors. Waterloo Bridge is probably the only bridge to have given its name to a film, which was so successful that there are two versions of it.

Introduction (part five)

The emergency bridge put up for the duration of the Second World War near Vauxhall Bridge being taken down in 1948.

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