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London bridge (part nine)
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Discussions continued for another twenty years as to whether the old bridge could be repaired or whether the money should be spent on a new structure. There were many complaints about the dangerous state of the bridge, especially after it was damaged during the severe winter of 1813-14, when the last frost fair was held. A decision was made in 1822, following debate in both the Court of Common Council and in Parliament, to recommend the construction of a new bridge, and the Act was passed in 1823. John Rennie,the architect of Waterloo and Southwark Bridges, had put forward a proposal for the new bridge in March 1821, but he died later that year. In 1823 a competition was held and more than fifty designs were submitted for the consideration of a panel including John Nash and Sir John Soane.The winner was William Fowler, but Parliament was not happy with the decision and opted for Rcnnie's design instead. His son, also called John, took on the responsibility of the bridge's construction, aided by his brother, George.


London bridge (part nine)

One of the eighteenth-century stone refuges from old London Bridge, now in the grounds of Guy's Hospital.



It was decided to build the bridge on a new alignment about 100 feet upstream of the old bridge, so that people could still cross over the old bridge while the new one was being built.The new alignment meant that new approaches had to be built, and there were prolonged discussions and negotiations in Parliament and the City on the matter. On the Southwark side, Borough High Street was widened, opening up views of St Saviour's Church (now Southwark Cathedral), but the Lady Chapel was threatened with demolition and only a determined fight by the church and its supporters saved it. On the northern side, many important buildings had to be demolished, including Wren's Church of St Michael, Crooked Lane, the old Boar's Head tavern in Eastcheap (where Prince Hal and Falstaff caroused in Shakespeare's Henry IV) and Fishmongers' Hall. Compensation paid out to the landowners on both sides of the river added greatly to the cost of the new bridge.

The work of driving in the piles began in 1824 and in June 1825, with much ceremony, the first stone was laid by the Lord Mayor in a coffer-dam, which was accessed by a flight of steps from the old bridge. The bridge took over seven years to build, and forty lives were lost during its construction. In the end it cost nearly 2.5 million to build, including the cost of building the approaches, and a considerable amount of this was provided by a tax on coal. The new bridge was 56 feet wide and 1,005 feet long; it had five elliptical arches made of granite from Scotland and Devon, the central span being 152 feet wide. On both sides at each end were wide stairs leading down to the river, which served as piers for the steamboats that brought thousands of workers into the City each day, and for the pleasure boats that carried large numbers of people on day trips to Margate and Gravesend. During the building work, the river became very constricted and there were a number of accidents, some of them fatal, so two arches at each end of the old bridge were made into larger openings to allow river craft an easier passage.


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