London’s beautiful skyline has changed dramatically over centuries of development and growth. The Great Tower of London, once the most imposing structure on London’s, skyline, now gives way to the height of The Shard and the striking wheel of the world famous London Eye, outshines it’s much forgotten predecessor – The Great Wheel.
But like The Tower of London, (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), there are many precious landmarks throughout London that have survived the sands of time. From St Paul’s Cathedral to Westminster Abbey, London’s architectural wonders make outstanding visitor attractions, as well as enriching examples of our British heritage.
Although lacking the lasting imprint of the St Paul’s and grandeur of Buckingham Palace, London’s bridges are steeped in history and should be credited for the spectacular feats of civil engineering they represent. The River Thames has, in total, 34 bridges crossing it and many were built and opened during the 1800s, in the height of the industrial revolution.
Below is a quick look at how the magnificent structures of London’s most famous bridges were constructed, and how they look today.
London Bridge: (AD 70, 10th century, 1209, 1831, 1972)
Remarkably there has been a bridge at this site for almost 2000 years. The Romans first crossed the Thames here, and timber bridges were built then and through to the medieval ages until Henry VIII commissioned a stone structure in place of the old. The present London Bridge was constructed during the late 60’s and opened in 1973.
Waterloo Bridge: (1817, 1942)
The new Waterloo Bridge we see today is nicknamed the “Ladies Bridge”, because during the Second World War the structure was mainly constructed by women. The original bridge was designed by John Rennie and opened in 1817 as a toll bridge, although reinforcements and repairs led to it being demolished in place for the current structure opened in 1945.
Albert Bridge: (1873, 1884, 1973)
Built as a toll bridge, the two toll booths still stand at each end of the Albert Bridge designed by Rowland Mason Ordish in 1873. Sir Joseph Bazalgette incorporated elements of a suspension bridge in the late 1880s when the bridge became structurally unsound, and in 1973 two concrete piers were added.
Tower Bridge: (1894)
Stretching 800ft long, and soaring 213ft high, the Tower Bridge is crossed by 40,000 people a day. It’s prominent towers support two lanes of road traffic and two low level pedestrian walkways. The entire hydraulic system along with the gas lighting system of the bridge was installed by William Sugg & Co.
Blackfriars Bridge: (1769, 1869)
“In 1865 the old Blackfriars Bridge across the Thames, a fine Portland stone structure began in 1760 and completed ten years later, was being demolished and a new bridge, the ornamented wrought iron, cast iron, granite, Portland stone “Venetian Gothic” structure, designed by Mr Joseph Cubitt, which we have with us today, was being erected.” From The Engineer 1925/02/27
The original bridge was completed in 1770, but the foundations were not substantial enough and the bridge we see today constructed by P. A. Thom and Co was completed in 1869.