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London bridge (part six)
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As the only entrance to London from the south, the bridge was often the scene of royal pageantry. In 1357 the Black Prince crossed it on his return from his victory at Poitiers, bringing with him the captured French king. In 1390 a jousting match was held on the bridge in the presence of Richard II, between an English knight and a Scottish opponent, the Scotsman winning. When Richard II arrived with his new French bride, Isabella,in 1396,huge crowds thronged the bridge to see her,and in the crash nine people were killed. On three occasions connected with the short life of Henry V the bridge was magnificently decorated for important events. In 1415 it welcomed him home after his famous victory at Agincourt, and again in 1421 when he brought back his French bride, Catherine. After his death in 1422 at Vincennes, his body was accompanied over the bridge by an impressive retinue of noblemen, bishops and soldiers, along with three hundred torch-bearers. During the Tudor period the bridge welcomed many important visitors, including Catherine of Aragon in 1501, on her way to marry Prince Arthur, and, in 1522, Emperor CharlesV on a diplomatic visit. In 1660 Charles II crossed the bridge in a magnificent procession to claim his throne, accompanied by hundreds of soldiers and musicians.


London bridge (part six)

Old London Bridge by Samuel Scott, painted shortly before the buildings were removed.



In 1581 Pieter Morice, a Dutch engineer, was granted a five-hundred-year-lease to supply water to the city from a waterwheel in the first arch of the bridge. He had earlier demonstrated the capabilities of the new machinery by sending a jet of water over the steeple of St Magnus' Church. The operation was so successful that he was soon offered the lease of the second arch as well. Both wheels were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, thus hampering attempts to put out the fire, but they were rebuilt soon afterwards. In 1701 the concern was sold to a goldsmith by the name of Richard Soame, and by 1761 four arches were in use. One of these wheels supplied water to Southwark via pipes over the bridge, but later a new wheel was installed for the purpose under the second arch at the southern end. In the early nineteenth century, the company's heyday, it was supplying ten thousand customers with 4 million gallons of water a day, but in 1822 the operation was forced to close, as the wheels were considered to be a hazard to navigation. Although the original lease was for five hundred years, no new wheels were added to Rennie's new bridge as the water flow was much reduced, and the City refused to allow waterwheels inside the arches. The lease does not expire until 2082 and Thames Water still pays dividends to a number of shareholders.

As the narrow openings in the bridge acted as a barrier, slowing down the tidal flow, the Thames often iced up, and ice floes caused regular damage to the bridge. In severe winters the river was completely iced over upstream of the bridge, and frost fairs were held on the river, with all sorts of food stalls setting up shop, and entertainments such as skating and bull-baiting taking place. Printing presses were set up, where one could buy a souvenir ticket with one's name on - the Museum of London has a ticket issued to Charles II. The first frost fair took place in 1607, and the last one was in 1814. By then the bridge had been given a wider central arch, which allowed the river to flow faster, so it no longer iced up as completely as before.


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