08 May 2009

Thames Crossings 24: London Bridge

Downriver from Southwark Bridge is London Bridge. Often confused with Tower Bridge, it is actually central London's most characterless crossing: a gum-chewing, slack-jawed, adolescent concrete shrug that links Southwark Cathedral on the south bank with Monument on the north. It's a fast, wide road - the A3, in fact - without much to recommend it, except for a fine views downriver of Tower Bridge, especially under evening sun.

It dates only from 1973, and is the latest in a line of constructions on the site. Medieval London Bridge lasted 600 years. To the delight of tourists and locals alike, it featured shops, houses, and a regular display of severed traitors' heads.

Its 19th-century replacement, designed by Rennie, proved inadequate for the weight and volume of traffic. It was sold to a US entrepreneur in 1968 (he didn't think it was Tower Bridge, as an urban myth claims) and now graces an artificial lake in Arizona.

From here you can go right along the riverfront on both north and south sides. North access is past Monument and down Fish St Hill, from where it's stepless (and technically a footpath, so use good judgement) all the way to Tower itself. South access is left along the main road and left up Hays Lane to join the riverside path (again a footpath, again good judgement) past The Scoop (which often has free outdoor entertainment) and the ovoid City Hall. Either way, Tower Bridge is about half a mile away.

1 comment:

  1. The medieval London Bridge was 30 yards downstream of its present location. In those days, the main approach to the bridge from the north was down Fish Street Hill, which was then a direct, straight-line, continuation of Gracechurch Street (the A10 from King's Lynn and Cambridge). See this 1801 map.

    When the bridge was moved upstream in the 19th century, Gracechurch Street was diverted to lead onto the new bridge, which explains the sharp curve - and confusing junction - on the north side of the bridge. See this C21 map.