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London bridge (part eleven)When the medieval bridge was demolished, many Roman and medieval coins and other antiquities were discovered, and these are now in the British Museum. Two wooden medieval statues were also found in the river at that time, which had probably decorated the chapel. One, of a monk, is now in the British Museum; the other, of God the Father, is at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. There was also a demand for souvenirs of the historic bridge, and the market was flooded with furniture and knick-knacks made with the wood from the starlings. Unfortunately, the remains of Peter de Colechurch, who had been buried in the crypt of the chapel, were not preserved but were most likely thrown into the Thames. A small casket in the Museum of London is said to contain some of his bones, but modern analysis has proved this to be untrue.
London bridge (part ten)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.
London bridge (part ten)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.
London bridge (part nine)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.
London bridge (part eight)By the eighteenth century the bridge had begun to look rather sad and many of its wealthier occupants had left. When Westminster Bridge opened in 1750, it was highly praised as both elegant and modern, prompting the City authorities to consider rebuilding London Bridge, but financial prudence led them to improve it instead. In 1736 Nicholas Hawksmoor had put forward a plan to replace the four central spans with two larger ones, but it was not until 1756 that it was decided to carry out improvements to the bridge. The radical modifications were the work of George Dance and Robert Taylor from 1757 to 1762.
London bridge (part seven)One of the biggest changes to the look of the bridge came in 1577, when the Drawbridge Gate, which was in a poor state, was demolished and replaced by Nonesuch House, so-called because there was no other like it. It was a highly ornate half-timbered building, with turrets at each corner, each one topped by a cupola and a gilded weathervane. Like many Elizabethan houses, there were so many windows that the walls seemed to be all glass, and it was covered in intricately carved woodwork and colorful decoration. No nails were used in its construction, and it was made in sections in Holland before being shipped across the Channel and put together rather like a modern flatpack.
London bridge (part six)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 five)The profile of the bridge changed greatly over the years as the buildings grew taller to create more living and working space, and by the sixteenth century some were four or five storeys high, with rooms built across the central roadway to create even more space. With buildings being regularly rebuilt, the style of architecture changed too, so that by the eighteenth century the bridge looked very different. The traders paid a high rent for their properties, but there was plenty of passing trade, so they must have done good business. However, the sanitation was fairly basic. As is clearly seen in many of the early depictions of the bridge, the privies were wooden shacks attached to the outside of the buildings, emptying straight into the Thames, which was very functional for the user, but less pleasant for those passing under the bridge. There was also a public privy on the bridge, which, according to Stow, fell into the river in 1481, killing five of its occupants.
London bridge (part four)The Bridge House Estates occupied premises, known as Bridge House, at the southern end of the bridge, housing its administrative offices and a warehouse where they stored materials such as timber and masonry needed to carry out repairs to the bridge. As the operation needed large numbers of staff, including masons, carpenters and administrators, there was also a garden, where fruit and vegetables were grown to feed them, and also to entertain the Lord Mayor on his annual visit to audit the accounts. In 1831 the property was sold off to be redeveloped. The organization, which is part of the City of London, is now a charity and has accumulated so much wealth over the years that its statutes have been amended to allow it to finance many good causes.
London bridge (part three)The first building to go up was a chapel, which was built on the downstream side of the largest island near the centre of the bridge, and it was here that Peter de Colechurch was buried. It was 60 feet high and had two rooms, the upper one at road level and the undercroft in the pier itself, with separate access from the river at low tide for sailors and watermen. The chapel was dedicated to St Thomas the Martyr, a popular London-born saint. Thomas Becket, when Archbishop of Canterbury, had been murdered in his cathedral in 1170 and was canonised in 1173, only three years before work on the bridge started. It is possible that the chapel was the starting and finishing point for pilgrimages to Canterbury, and many of the pilgrim badges found in the Thames near the bridge feature St Thomas, probably thrown into the river to give thanks for a safe return.