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Southwark Bridge (part two)

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Westminster bridge (part six)
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As early as 1872 there were proposals to run horse-drawn trams over Westminster Bridge and along the new Embankment, though there was much opposition to the scheme, which was seen by some as being an underhand way of getting trams into the West End, whose richer inhabitants, who had their own carriages, considered the working-class trams to be a nuisance. Several attempts to get Parliamentary approval for the plan were made by the London Tramways Company and the London County Council, which took over responsibility for most of the tram network in 1899. Opposition also came from the City of Westminster and various omnibus companies, who were concerned about the competition, and there were also concerns about the tram service causing congestion on the bridge and its approaches. Approval was finally granted in 1906, allowing a circular route, which included Blackfriars Bridge, and was linked to the northern tram network via the Kingsway subway. The first part of the route, across Westminster Bridge and along the Embankment to a terminus on the north side of Blackfriars Bridge, opened in December 1906. The full service was delayed until September 1909, when the widened Blackfriars Bridge reopened.

Originally the bridge was painted bronze green, but during the Second World War it was repainted grey. In 1962, to celebrate its centenary, it was given a new coat of paint and in 1967 it was redecorated in green, gold, black and white. The predominant colour is green, which is the colour of the seating in the chamber of the House of Commons, which is located at this end of the Houses of Parliament.


Westminster bridge (part six)

This curious little building by Westminster Pier was once used to measure the tides.




Over the years a number of minor repairs have been carried out, but, despite the increase in traffic and especially the weight of modern vehicles, the bridge has survived with few problems. In 2003 Transport for London began a massive overhaul of the structure, including strengthening the piers to protect them from scour, and replacing the cast-iron fascias, which have received many knocks from river traffic. The latter work was carried out from floating cranes, and the bridge remained open during much of the work, which is due to be completed in 2009.

Westminster Bridge, because of its central location, has been the scene of many interesting events, some of national importance, others of a more ordinary, or occasionally eccentric, nature. It was often used for the pageantry of royal weddings and coronations, when the bridge was specially decorated for the occasion, and in 1922 GeorgeV and Queen Mary crossed the bridge in an open carriage on their way to the opening of County Hall. It has also been a viewing point for significant events, such as the display of captured U-boats in 1918 and the sad procession of river boats up the Thames after the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. In August 1912 a seaplane piloted by Frank McClean caused quite a stir by flying under all the bridges from London to Waterloo before reaching Westminster Bridge. In 1953 sixty-one-year-old Major Draper, who had flown in both World Wars, ended up in court after an even more daring escapade. He flew a plane under fifteen of the eighteen bridges from Waterloo to Kew.

In 1893 it was feared that there had been an attempt to blow up the bridge when a 'bomb' was found on one of the pier buttresses, but it turned out to be an unexploded shell that its owner had tried to dispose of by dropping it into the Thames from the bridge. A rather more curious incident happened in 1899, when police found seventeen silver ingots and some silver cutlery on several of the pier abutments, so low down they could only be seen at low tide. The cutlery was found to be from a burglary, but the owners of the ingots were never found.


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