Anyone who has ever taken a trip down the River Thames in London will eventually notice that London really does have a lot of bridges. And each of them is truly remarkable in its detail and history. Some are strikingly modern, while others are practically a giant piece of art. The best bridges are the historic ones, some of which date back as far as the Roman occupation of the area.

London Bridge

London BridgeFlickr/BastiV (CCbySA2.0)

Ah, London Bridge. This bridge is perhaps the most confusing bridge in the world. Yes, all bridges in London are London bridges, but is there really a London Bridge? Many believe that the London Bridge is actually Tower Bridge, but the actual London Bridge is located a little further up the River Thames. It is often a disappointing affair compared to the Tower Bridge, but it has its history.

A bridge has sat on this spot in the river for 2,000 years. The Romans built the first wooden bridge over the waters in 1st century, and the bridge has been rebuilt constantly in improved structural styles. However, by the end of the 18th century, the current bridge was nearly 600 years old and decrepit that the city decided to rebuild it yet again. However, by 1924, that bridge was sinking into the river and needed to be replaced yet again. In 1967, the city decided to sell the bridge to American Entrepreneur Robert P McCulloch. Rennie's bridge was taken apart in pieces, shipped to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and reassembled. There is a claim that stated McCulloch thought he was buying the Tower Bridge, but the entrepreneur denied it constantly.

The modern London Bridge was designed by architect Lord Holford and was constructed shortly after the previous London Bridge was removed. It was completed in 1972. It has since remained, but who knows when London will next need a new London Bridge.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge LondonSusan Yin 

London locals always joke that the Tower Bridge should be renamed to the London Bridge just to ease the strain on the hordes of baffled tourists that stand on its walkways. Tower Bridge is that iconic bridge that visitors see in all the tour guides. This suspension-bascule hybrid bridge was built in 1886 to fill the need for a new crossing downstream of the actual London Bridge due to the increased commercial development of the East End. However, a traditional fixed bridge could not be built because it would cut off the tall-masted ships that needed to enter port facilities in the Pool of London. In order to find a solution to the problem, the Special Bridge Committee was formed and designs were submitted by 50 different architects. The design chosen was that of Sir Horace Jones who, conveniently, also sat as a judge on the committee.

The idea was to build the end parts in the way of a structurally sound suspension bridge, but host a bascule bridge between two towers in the centre. This way, the two sides could be raised for the passing ships while not compromising structural integrity.

The bridge has hosted a variety of colour schemes throughout the ages. It was original painted blue and green, but was repainted red, white and blue for Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee. However, during its facelift from 2008 to 2012 it was repainted blue and white.

Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriars BridgePixabay

Today, Blackfriars Bridge runs across the Thames carrying the A201 road across the river between Inns of Court and Temple Church. However, the beautiful bridge that stands there today is not the original.

The original bridge was a toll bridge designed in the Italianates style by Robert Mylne in 1760 that was originally called the William Pitt Bridge. It took a whopping nine years to build. The bridge was eventually made toll free and gained the informal named of Blackfriars Bridge after the Blackfriar Monastery that was located nearby.

Though the original bridge was built of sturdy Portland stone, the workmanship was quite faulty. Extensive repairs had to be made to the bridge over the years, but eventually it was decided that a new bridge would need to be built. On the same site, a new bridge was built which coincided with the creation of the Thames Embankment's junction with the new Queen Victoria Street. This new bridge was designed by architect Joseph Cubitt and featured five wrought iron arches.

Due to the high volume of traffic, the bridge was widened in the early 20th century and painted a vibrant red and white. The bridge also hosts carvings of water birds on its piers. The carvings on the east side are of sea birds while the carvings on the west side are of freshwater birds, reflecting the tidal turning point around the Blackfriars. There is also a statue of Queen Victoria on the north end, to whom the bridge was dedicated to.

Westminster Bridge

westminster bridgeHugo SousaThe Westminster Bridge was proposed in 1664 but it was heavily opposed by the Corporation of London. Despite this opposition, the bridge received parliamentary approval and was built between 1739 and 1750 by Swiss architect Charles Labelye.

The Westminster Bridge was essential for traffic from the expanding West End to the developing South London, which previously would have had to negotiate the already congested London Bridge. However, the original bridge, like many of the first bridges in London, proved to be expensive to maintain and badly built. Westminster Bridge was torn down in 1862 and replaced by the current bridge, which was designed by architect Thomas Page.

Today the bridge links Westminster on the north side and Lambeth on the south side, providing excellent views of the Westminster Palace. It hosts seven arches of wrought iron with Gothic style detailing that was added by architect Charles Barry, who also designed the Westminster Palace. The bridge has since been painted green to match the seats within the House of Commons.

Richmond Bridge

PixabayPixabay

The Richmond Bridge was built in 1777 to replace a ferry route that travelled between Richmond town centre on the east bank and the neighboring district of East Twickenham to the west. The Richmond Bridge is the oldest surviving bridge in the area that has not been rebuilt.

Originally the bridge was meant to be a simple wooden bridge, but those plans proved unpopular. Instead the Richmond Bridge Act passed by parliament deemed that a stone bridge would be built and paid for not with taxes, but with tolls. The bridge was designed in a joint effort by James Paine and Kenton Couse, who settled on a simple stone arch bridge design made of Portland stone. It hosts five elliptical arches of varying heights with a wide central span to allow for ships to pass. This gives the Richmond Bridge its distinctive humpback appearance. The bridge was widened and slightly flattened in the late 1930s, but it still conforms majorly to its original design.

 

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