A history of London Bridge

The London Bridge of today, which is one of London’s iconic landmarks, is one of many bridges of the same name that has connected the City of London with Southwark.

How old is London Bridge?

That’s a difficult question to answer as there has been a bridge of some form in that location for centuries. The Romans are thought to have built a pontoon-style bridge at the site at around AD43 which makes London Bridge the oldest road crossing on the River Thames.

London or Londinium as it was then known, was rebuilt in AD60 after the Boudican revolt and London Bridge linked the north and south of the city. When Roman rule ended the bridge fell into disrepair. 

The current London Bridge was constructed in 1973

The current London Bridge was built in 1973 and built in the same location as a previous version called New London Bridge which was completed in 1831. It cost £ 2.5 million to construct which is around £242 million in today’s money.

The New London Bridge replaced a 600-year-old medieval bridge built from stone and before that, bridges were made of timber slightly downstream from the current location. One of the earliest official records of London Bridge dates back to the rule of King Ethelred who was on the throne from 865 until 871. Back then, there was a toll of half a penny for a boat or a whole penny for a large vessel.

A series of fires destroyed London Bridge

London suffered from a series of fires in the 11th and 12th centuries and the bridge was damaged many times with the cost of repair falling on Londoners and those in nearby counties.

London Bridge was built in its current spot in the 12th century where it remained and is now one of the oldest bridges in Europe. The timber construction which was previously enough to house two wide wagons, was replaced with stone. Work on the first stone bridge lasted an incredible 30 years and it was completed in 1209.

Its foundations were built by sinking wooden stakes into the riverbed and filling it with rubble. Stone was brought in from Dorset, Surrey and Kent. It was an impressive structure but it was difficult for vessels to navigate.

Ice once destroyed five of the bridge’s arches

In 1281 the River Thames froze and the ice was so thick, it destroyed five of the bridge’s arches.

In the 13th century 2,000 ships passed by via a drawbridge each paying a toll but by the 15th century, there was only one boat every three days.

From 1282, wardens were responsible for looking after the bridge, and at one point, there were 140 houses on it. The houses were demolished in 1756 so that the bridge could be remodelled and widened. The newly refurbished bridge, however, needed constant repair, it became congested and there were many accidents. For that reason, it was decided that a replacement was needed and a competition to build one was opened in 1799. It was won by John Rennie who built the New London Bridge consisting of five stone arches. When an 1896 survey showed that it was sinking an inch every eight years, it was decided that the bridge should be removed and a new one, the current London Bridge, was built in its place.

If you’re looking for serviced offices in Southwark, a stone’s throw from London Bridge, get in touch for more information on our sociable London Bridge office space.








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