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Introduction (part two)

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London bridge (part thirteen)
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Soon after the plans for the new bridge were announced, the City started receiving letters from people wanting to buy parts of Rennie's bridge, so it was decided to offer the whole bridge for sale instead, as it was felt that it could serve a useful function somewhere else. Even before the prospectus was printed, there was interest from Universal Studios in Hollywood, but in the end the winning bid was from the McCullough Oil Company of the United States, who wanted to re-erect the bridge as the centrepiece of a new tourist attraction at Lake Havasu City in Arizona. They paid £1 million for the bridge and spent a further £100,000 in transporting it across the Atlantic. Over the next three years the facing stones were removed one by one and individually numbered before being shipped to America, where it was reconstructed. On 23 September 1968 the first stone was laid by the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Gilbert Inglefield, and three years later it was officially opened by the then Lord Mayor, Sir Peter Studd. A banquet was held, at which the menu enjoyed by William IV at the opening in 1831 was repeated. In a typical American touch, the master of ceremonies was television star Lorne Greene, from the series Bonanza. There is a much repeated urban myth that the Americans thought they were buying Tower Bridge, but this is complete nonsense, as the company had seen plans and drawings of the bridge before putting in a bid, and there is no way they could have confused the bridge they bought with one of the most recognisable bridges in the world.


London bridge (part thirteen)

Postcard showing London Bridge after it was widened in 1902.



In June 1984 a Royal Navy frigate, which had been moored alongside HMS Belfast, was attempting to turn round near London Bridge. Unfortunately, the captain misjudged the tide and hit the bridge, dislodging a few stones from the balustrade, and causing .£25,000 worth of damage.

A few remnants of Rennie's bridge can still be seen, a few in situ. The most important are the abutment and arch at the southern end, which can be seen in Tooley Street.The stairs up to the bridge on the upstream side are known as Nancy's Steps, after a scene in Dickens' Oliver Twist in which Nancy is overheard giving information about Oliver, which leads to her death. Close by, outside the Mudlark public house, are several large blocks of granite from the old bridge, assembled to commemorate the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, and, at the southern end of the bridge itself, there are two more blocks on the pavement. More unexpectedly, four granite slabs from the bridge can be seen beside the lake in Kew Gardens, where they were once used as a feeding platform for waterfowl. On either side of the northern end of the bridge you can still see the ashlar outer walls of the river steps of the old bridge. Under the first arch on the north side of the bridge, on the parapet alongside the Thames Path, are four lamp standards carrying the emblems of the City of London and the Bridge House Estates. The original bridge had three-branched lamps, but after the bridge's widening the lamps were single ones, much like these, so it is possible that they also come from Rennie's bridge.

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