London Bridge is Falling Down

Everyone knows the old nursery rhyme “London Bridge is falling down” but not many know the Fascinating London Bridge Trivia that the song was based on. Before the famous Tower Bridge was London Bridge, a sturdy 240-270 metres long and 8 metres wide structure that was the focal point of London life right up until its destruction in the late 19th century. The first London Bridge was finished in 1209 and originally built in remembrance of St Thomas Becket after his assassination. It was built with arches to support the structure and a drawbridge in the centre to allow large ships to pass and protective gatehouses at either end.

Image Courtesy: burge5000

By the 14th century, the bridge was already overcrowded with around 140 shops and by the 1500’s that number rose to over 200 buildings, some with seven floors and others with hung over the river and formed tunnels over the road. These buildings caused the road to narrow drastically with two 2 metres lanes forming the road way; this would cause many accidents and congestion that could last over an hour. This bridge was redesigned with 14 alcoves which aimed to protect pedestrians from the weather as well as the constant traffic.

The base of the bridge was built with enough strength to combat the strong currents of the River Thames. Many chose to travel over the bridge but others would travel by boat and, with the tides potential to reach up to six feet, it was a dangerous way to travel and most of the deaths recorded at that time were due to drowning at the base of the bridge.

The bridge was demolished in the 19th century and, even though most of the remains were lost, some can be seen as far as America where a part of the bridge was transported to Arizona in the late 1800’s. Some of the relics can still be seen in London with several of the bridge’s alcoves taking up residence in Guy’s Hospital, Cadogan Gate, Courtlands and in East Sheen. The stones from the bridge can be found in Kew Gardens and outside the church of St Magnus the Martyr which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, while others have been used to build other structures such as garden walls and houses.

The new bridge now connects hotels near Liverpool Street station and, even though the original bridge has long since gone, it is a part of history to walk along there and know that people have been following the same route for hundreds of years.

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