London’s architectural landscape is rivalled by no other and is what makes the British capital the utterly unique city it is. The many bridges that extend over the mighty River Thames are an inherent part of London’s fascinating landscape and undoubtedly contribute into making it a world-recognisable setting.
Not only do London’s bridges play a leading role in crafting the capital’s recognisable landscape, but they also boast compelling histories.
Archaeologists have found stumps in the River Thames, which nowadays can only be seen two times per year, when the tide is extremely low. These bridge posts have been carbon dated to 1500 years BC. 1600 years later the Romans made a bridge linking the two sides of the river and it was these fine world-leading engineers who got the city of London off the ground as a major world trading port.
The original London Bridge of medieval times is probably the most talked about and historic of all of London’s bridges. Although today the most photographed bridge is undoubtedly Tower Bridge, which is used regularly as the image to promote London to the world.
London Bridge must have been something else down through the ages. At the height of its powers it contained many shops and dwellings, some of which were three stories high. It became congested and forced the authorities to pass a “keep left” law to allow a steady controlled flow of persons and coaches. Interestingly, the law, passed in the 18th century, is the reason why Britons drive on the left hand side of the road to this day.
The Millennium Walkway Bridge is, as its name suggests, only for pedestrians. It is a lovely piece of art but wasn’t without its problems when it was built, as hundreds of people on it created a huge swaying and oscillating motion. The problem was soon fixed and is yet another wonderful addition to London’s bridge collection.
Next to Tower Bridge is probably the second most photogenic of the London bridges, is the Hammersmith Bridge.
Designed in the late 19th century to replace the weakened suspension bridge of 1825, Sir Joseph Bazalgette certainly came up with a wonderful Victorian engineering feat. As traffic has increased over the years so has the necessity to repair the bridge. In 2008 Hammersmith Bridge was declared a Grade II listed building so is unlikely to ever be demolished.
The modern London Bridge, whilst doing an important job, does not look at all like a piece of architecture that one would campaign to preserve. The former London Bridge was sold to America, shipped out and rebuilt brick by brick in the US.
There are some 24 bridges between Hammersmith and Tower Bridge. All of them are important and many are stunning pieces of architecture, which have opened up and defined the city to make it what it is today.