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London bridge (part ten)
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The bridge was opened on 1 August 1831 by William IV and Queen Adelaide in a magnificent ceremony, which was captured on canvas by the artist Clarkson Stanfield, in a painting now in the Guildhall Art Gallery. The royal party drove from Buckingham Palace to Somerset House, where they boarded the Royal Barge, and were conveyed to the City in a procession of barges reminiscent of a scene from one of Canaletto's paintings. More decorated barges lined the riverbanks, including those of the City livery companies, all filled with spectators, and the quays and bridges were also packed with curious onlookers. The King and Queen were met at the steps of the bridge by the Lord Mayor, the Aldermen and members of the Bridge Committee, all dressed in their robes and uniforms. The Lord Mayor handed the City sword to the King, who returned it to him, in a traditional ceremony that still takes place when the monarch visits the City. The parties then walked across the bridge to the Southwark side to open it officially. There they were entertained by a balloon ascent by Charles Green before returning to the Royal Tent, which had been erected at the City end, for a banquet.


London bridge (part ten)

The double bridge proposed by George Dance the Younger in 1800 to replace the old London Bridge.



The whole bridge was decorated with flags of all nations, and the tables for the guests stretched halfway across the bridge. After the banquet there were toasts, but, somewhat unusually, no speeches. The royal party returned by river, accompanied by other boats, including the Lord Mayor in his barge, as far as Somerset House, and thence by carriage to Buckingham Palace. At 9 p.m. the barriers were removed and the public were allowed on to the bridge for the first time. The following day over 200,000 people crossed over it, but from the City side only, as the crowds were too great to allow people to cross in both directions. John Rennie junior was knighted for his work on the bridge, an honour his father was offered but had refused.

Now that the new bridge was open, the old bridge could be demolished, a task that took nearly two years. Concerns were voiced by such eminent engineers as John Smeaton and Thomas Telford that its removal would affect the tidal flow of the river so much that sluice gates would be required on the new London Bridge, and probably Westminster Bridge as well, to ensure that there would be enough water at low tide for ships to navigate the river. The tidal flow was, indeed, changed by the demolition of the bridge, but its effects were felt much further upriver, as explained in the chapter on Richmond Lock.


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