The London Bridge Story

Engraving of the Old London Bridge showing St. Thomas Chapel during its demolition

There were several old proverbs about old London bridge one said; 'If London Bridge had fewer eyes it would see better,' and 'London Bridge was made for wise men to go over and fools to go under.' Pointing out the dangers of the old passage starlings. The Old London Bridge was by the eighteenth century a dangerous ruin. The houses over-hung the roadway as to cut out the daylight. There were wooden arches across the road to keep the shaky old houses from falling onto each other. The noise of the gushing waters, the clamour of the watermen and the shrieks of drowning wretches was deafening. In 1758, a temporary wooden bridge was built over the Thames while repairs to the old bridge were carried out. This was destroyed by fire (it was supposed by some footman dropping his link among the woodwork). Taylor and Dance the repairers chopped the old bridge in two and built a new central arch, but the join was so insecure that few persons would venture over it. And by 1823, in sheer desperation, a new bridge was built 100 feet westward of the old one. Then in 1824, Mr Rennie began work on removing 182 houses off of the old bridge. There were Roman finds during the dismantling of the bridge; Augustus coins, brass rings, buckles, iron keys, silver-spoons and a guilt dagger.

gateway to old london bridge
The Old entrance to medieval London Bridge in St. Magnus The Martyr churchyard

St. Magnus The Martyr, by London Bridge was once the main entrance to the old bridge. There has been a church on this site before 1302. The present church was built by Wren after the fire of 1666. It was found necessary to provide better accommodation for pedestrians crossing Old London Bridge, an archway was cut through the tower of St Magnus. Wren had anticipated this, so the work was carried out without difficulty. With the newer bridge moved one hundred yards over, the main Fish Street Hill and church entrance became redundant and half its width became incorporated in the churchyard.


Timber from the Roman Wharf 75 A.D

Found opposite in Fish Street Hill during excavation work in 1931. Now on display in St. Magnus The Martyr churchyard

old london bridge alcove

Surprisingly there are still a few pieces of the old London Bridge to be found, alcoves from the old bridge are in the courtyard of Guy's hospital

An alcove seat from Old London Bridge
Two more can be found in a far corner of Victoria Park in east London.

Also on the wall of the Kings Arms in Newcomen Street since 1880 is the coat of arms which once adorned the southern gateway to the Old London Bridge and dates from 1760 and King George III.

On June the 15th 1825, the Lord Mayor laid the foundation stone on the next London Bridge (now rebuilt in Arizona U.S.A.) On August 1st 1831 it was formally opened by King William the IV, accompanied by Queen Adelaide, for the opening of the successor of the old bridge that had been in existence for over 600 years. Who could have thought that the new bridge would last a mere one hundred and thirty years?

From the new London Bridge an artist paints the more Majestic Tower Bridge.

London Time

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