King George V

The antique arcades

Gaol Fever

London Eye Barracuda

Westminster bridge (part seven)

Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-95), tiger screen

Tower Gateway

Madeira Cake

West Acton

London bridge (part eleven)

A day in the life

Westminster bridge (part four)


Jade terrapin

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London bridge (part two)Wooden bridges constantly required attention, as the wood decayed and needed replacement, and there was the constant risk of damage by floods or other natural disasters. The bridge had to be rebuilt after a storm severely damaged it in 1097, and again in around 1136 after it was badly burnt in a fire that destroyed most of the port. By the late twelfth century London was a prosperous community, making its money from the export of wool and cloth, so it was decided to replace the old wooden bridge with a more permanent stone structure, which would be much more expensive to build, but cheaper to maintain.This was a time when massive castles and cathedrals were being built, so there was plenty of experience available for such a major construction as the new bridge. The building of bridges in the Middle Ages was considered a work of piety, and the Church was often involved in their construction. London's new stone bridge was built under the guidance of Peter de Colechurch, priest of St Mary Colechurch, who had carried out the last rebuilding of the wooden bridge. Although the start of the construction is not recorded, it is thought that it was begun in 1176 and lasted over thirty years, being completed in 1209, four years after Peter's death. It is quite likely that the old timber bridge was retained during at least some of its construction. It has been said that the bridge was built on woolpacks, as Henry II imposed a tax on wool to fund its construction, though further funds were supplied by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Papal Legate.
London bridge (part one)There has been a bridge on or near the site of the present London Bridge for nearly two thousand years.The first bridge was built by the Romans soon after their invasion of AD 43, at a point about 200 feet east of the modern bridge. We do not know exactly when the first bridge was built, but Londinium was an important city at the centre of a network of roads, so some sort of river crossing would have been needed. Archaeological evidence suggests that there were three bridges, the first being a wooden bridge erected possibly as early as AD 50, the last a more permanent structure probably in place by the end of the first century. This last one probably had stone abutments and brick piers, with a wooden superstructure, and it may later have had a drawbridge added, to allow ships to sail through. There may also have been a temple or shrine on the bridge, as many coins and small figurines have been found in the Thames near the site, presumably thrown into the river as votive offerings.

Cannon street railway bridgeIn 1861 the South Eastern Railway Company obtained an Act of Parliament to extend its line from London Bridge station across the Thames to a new station on Cannon Street, right in the heart of the City. Sir John Hawkshaw, as consulting engineer to the company, designed the station, the bridge and the viaducts leading up to it. The bridge was originally called the Alexandra Bridge after the Danish princess who married the Prince of Wales shortly before work began in 1863.
Jolliffe & BanksEdward Banks (1770-1835) was a Yorkshireman of humble descent, who began his working life as a labourer in the construction industry, though his talent and determination saw him rise to the very top of the profession. Aged only twenty-one, he was the contractor for the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and he first worked with John Rennie in 1793 on the Lancaster and Ulverston canals. In 1803 he was in Surrey building the Croydon to Merstham extension of the Surrey Iron Railway, whose trucks were pulled by mules. One of the users of the railway was the quarry at Merstham, whose stone had been used in the rebuilding of London Bridge after the Great Fire of 1666.The owners of the quarry were the Jolliffe family, and Colonel Hylton Jolliffe MP went into partnership with Banks. In 1807 his place was taken by his brother, the Reverend William Jolliffe (1774-1835),and they were soon one of the most important contractors in the country, building canals, docks, lighthouses and bridges.
Southwark Bridge (part three)The bridge was officially opened on 6 June 1921 by George V, accompanied by Queen Mary.There had been suggestions that the new bridge should be renamed as either the Victory Bridge or the King George Bridge, but the King requested that it retain its old name. The bridge cost -£375,000 to build, all of the money coming from the funds of the Bridge House Estates.
Southwark Bridge (part two)The bridge was an amazing engineering achievement and was much praised. Robert Stephenson was particularly fulsome, calling it 'unrivalled as regards its colossal proportions, its architectural effects and the general simplicity and massive character of its details'. Financially, however, it was never a great success, and the shareholders made little, if any, interest on their investment. The bridge's approaches were inadequate, as it was not on a through route, its roadway was too steep for horse-drawn vehicles and, being privately built, it was a toll bridge and could not hope to compete with either London Bridge or Blackfriars Bridge, which were both free.

Southwark Bridge (part one)By the early nineteenth century London Bridge and the relatively new Blackfriars Bridge were both becoming congested and there were demands for a new bridge between them to relieve the pressure. As this was a fairly narrow part of the river, there was considerable opposition from the City of London and the Thames Conservators, as it was considered that a bridge there would be an impediment to river traffic. However, a Southwark Bridge Company was formed and it managed to obtain an Act of Parliament in 1811 allowing it to build a new bridge. John Rennie was appointed engineer and he designed a three-arched cast-iron bridge, which would allow the widest possible waterway. The central arch, at 240 feet, was the largest cast-iron span ever-built. It was, however, only 43 feet wide, including two footpaths 7 feet wide.

Millennium Bridge (part three)It had been hoped the bridge would open in early May 2000, at the same time as the opening of Tate Modern, but work fell behind schedule. However, on 9 May the Queen, accompanied by the Lord Mayor of the City of London and the Mayor of Southwark, walked on to the still incomplete bridge to dedicate it. On 8 June the lighting of the bridge was celebrated with a spectacular firework dispay and on Saturday 10 June it was officially opened to the public. The embarrassing events of that day were reported around the world and have given the bridge a name it will retain forever.
Millennium Bridge (part two)It was not until the 1990s that new plans for a bridge on this stretch of the Thames were put forward. The new bridge was the brainchild of David Bell, who worked for the Pearson media group, and who, as managing director of the Financial Times, had once worked in its offices overlooking the Thames by Southwark Bridge. In 1996 he approached the Royal Institute of British Architects about a proposal for a bridge and they suggested a competition to find a suitable design/ As the first new bridge over the Thames in over one hundred years, there was great interest and there were 227 entries from all over the world. The winning design was from architects Foster & Partners, engineer Ove Arup and the sculptor Sir Anthony Caro. It was chosen because of its clean, simple lines, allowing it to blend in with the riverscape.
Millennium Bridge (part one)Following its dramatic opening and embarrassing closure in 2000, the Millenium Bridge has become one of London's best known bridges and is now one of its most popular film locations. Less well-known is the fact that there had been plans for a road bridge at this spot 150 years earlier. The first proposal for a bridge here was put forward in 1853, and ten years later there were discussions about a pedestrian bridge at the same location. Nothing more was heard of the idea until 1909, when a more serious proposal was put forward to build a bridge that would relieve the congestion on London and Blackfriars Bridegs and provide a new major route through central London. The cost, estimated at nearly 2 million pounds, would be borne by the Bridge House Estates, though the London County Council was willing to contribute if the bridge could be built to carry trams, thus linking the systems north and south of the river.