Ladbroke Grove

Fine luggage, furniture and curios - Dee Zammit

Jack the Ripper walk (part three)

Blackfriars Bridge (part one)

Black Death and Rebellion

South Wimbledon

Waterloo bridge (part two)

Portobello Road, 1904 - 2009


Wooden guardian figure


Blueberry and vanilla financiers

Sword from the armoury of Tipu Sultan (1750-99)

St Bartholomew the Great (West Smithfield)

East Putney

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Westminster bridge (part seven)
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It has long been thought that the Romans crossed the Thames by a ford at Westminster, but there has never been any definite proof. In 1952 Lord Noel-Buxton decided to test the theory, and crowds lined the bridge to watch the attempt, but after walking halfway he was forced to swim the rest of the way. In 1967 another attempt was made by an accountant called Ian Spofforth, who was 7 feet 2 inches tall. He took an hour to walk across with the aid of a pole, and occasionally hanging on to a dinghy. Neither of them really proved anything, as the Thames at this point in Roman times was much wider and shallower than it is today.

Westminster bridge (part seven)

Thornycroft's dramatic statue of Boadicea and her daughters at the north end of Westminster Bridge. The scythes on the chariot wheels are historically inaccurate.

Although security around Westminster, including the bridge, is now very strict, in previous decades the bridge was occasionally blocked by protesters trying to make a point by causing disruption. In 1980 a pacifist parked his car on the bridge and looked as if he was about to blow himself up, but it turned out to be a hoax. In 1990 a dozen gay campaigners padlocked themselves to a pink chain that was attached to both parapets of the bridge, and in 2004 banners were draped over the side of the bridge by campaigners for increased funding for research into myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).

Today the bridge is usually thronged with visitors from all over the world, taking photographs of one another in front of Big Ben or views downriver of Hungerford Bridge and the London Eye. Few stop and look at Thomas Thornycroft's dramatic bronze statue of Boudicca (or Boadicea) at the Westminster end of the bridge, erected there, somewhat controversially, in 1902. Boudicca was famous for leading a revolt against the Romans in AD 61, during which the city of Londinium was burnt to the ground. Below the statue, beside the pier, is a curious octagonal copper structure, which seems to serve no useful function. In fact, it once housed scientific instruments that were used to measure the tides.

Westminster bridge (part seven)

The South Bank Lion, at the south end of Westminster Bridge, originally stood on top of the Lion Brewery, where the Royal Festival Hall now stands.

At the Lambeth end of the bridge is the South Bank Lion, which has been here since 1966 but is much older. From 1837 it stood, painted bright red, on top of the Lion Brewery, which used to be where the Royal Festival Hall now stands. It was made of the artificial Coade stone, which is impervious to pollution, at Coade's Artificial Stone Manufactory, which was also based on the South Bank. During the Second World War the brewery was badly damaged and it was demolished to make way for the 1951 Festival of Britain.The lion was saved, however, on the instructions of George VI, and placed outside the entrance to Waterloo station. It was moved to its present location in 1966, when the station was redeveloped.

Because of its close proximity to the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Bridge has been much used as a film and television location. In a scene in the 1953 film Genevieve one of the cars in the London to Brighton veteran car run gets stuck in the tramlines, though, as the tramlines had already been removed, the scene was shot in Lewisham, with only background shots filmed on the bridge. (The run still takes place every November and the route still crosses the river at Westminster Bridge.) In the 1950 Boulting brothers' science-fiction film Seven Days to Noon, London is evacuated because of the threat of an atomic explosion, and they include a scene of an empty Westminster Bridge. A rather more dramatic use of the bridge occurred in Danny Boyle's 2002 thriller 28 Days Later, in which the hero wakes up in St Thomas' Hospital to find that London has been decimated by a man-made virus, and he is seen walking around an empty city, including a deserted Westminster Bridge.

Westminster bridge (part seven)

A drawing by Lawrence Wright of the Lion Brewery, made in 1949, shortly before the brewery demolished to make way for the Festival of Britain.

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