Greenwood's map of 1827
As early as 1801 Telford submitted a design which - well let the picture speak for itself -
NEW LONDON BRIDGE from ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE PUBLIC BUILDINGS OF LONDON, Britton, Pugin & Leeds, 1832 -
THE citizens, as well as the legislature, have at length jointly co-operated to obtain a New Bridge,
which if it be not superior to every thing of the class hitherto produced
- if indeed there be any thing like defect in the edifice itself, or its collateral dependencies,
- we shall be surprised at, and lament over the fallacy of human wisdom.
Designs, plans, calculations, soundings, all the arcana of theoretical and practical science, have been called into requisition, to collect and to concentrate information.
Among other eminent persons directly consulted upon the subject were the following, to whom a series of twenty-one questions were submitted, for their opinions and advice, but principally relating to iron bridges: Dr. N. Maskelyne, Astronomer Royal; the Rev. Dr. Robertson, Savilian Professor at Oxford; John Playfair and John Robeson, Professors at Edinburgh; Dr. Milner, and Dr. Hutton, Professors, of Woolwich; and Mr. Atwood, Col. Twiss, William Jessop, Messrs. John Rennie and James Watt; J. Southern, William Reynolds, J. Wilkinson, Charles Bage, and General Bentham.
Designs and estimates were also obtained from all the eminent engineers, and from some of the first architects of the country. All these proceedings were previous to, and about, the year 1801; and engravings of plans, sections, elevations, with estimates and other particulars, are fully detailed, for the benefit of the public, in three large unwieldy folio volumes of Reports, as published by order of the House of Commons.
Without going into the details of the oppositions and difficulties that were presented to a new bridge, the numerous candidates for the honour of erecting it, and into various circumstances connected with this great undertaking, suffice it to say that a design by the late Mr. Rennie was ultimately approved; an Act of Parliament was obtained in July, 1823; the first pile was driven March 15, 1824; the foundation stone of the first pier was laid, with great ceremony, on the 15th June, 1825.
... The New Bridge was formally opened on the 1st of August, 1831.
1825: Laying of foundation stone for new London Bridge.
The stones were cut and the arches laid out on the Isle of Dogs. The stones were then given a number or letter code indicating their positions so that they could be taken to the site and placed correctly.
This was to finally pay off in 1967 when it facilitated the sale and shipping to America of these same stones
Translation of the Latin Inscription read at the laying of the foundation stone (in Chronicles of London Bridge By Richard Thomson) -
THE FREE COURSE OF THE RIVER
BEING OBSTRUCTED BY THE NUMEROUS PIERS
OF THE ANCIENT BRIDGE,
AND THE PASSAGE OF BOATS AND VESSELS
THROUGH ITS NARROW CHANNELS
BEING OFTEN ATTENDED WITH DANGER AND LOSS OF LIFE
BY REASON OF THE FORCE AND RAPIDITY OF THE CURRENT,
THE CITY OF LONDON,
DESIROUS OF PROVIDING A REMEDY FOR THIS EVIL,
AND AT THE SAME TIME CONSULTING
THE CONVENIENCE OF COMMERCE
IN THIS VAST EMPORIUM OF ALL NATIONS,
UNDER THE SANCTION AND WITH THE LIBERAL AID OF
RESOLVED TO ERECT A BRIDGE
UPON A FOUNDATION ALTOGETHER NEW,
WITH ARCHES OF A WIDER SPAN,
AND OF A CHARACTER CORRESPONDING
TO THE DIGNITY AND IMPORTANCE
OF THIS ROYAL CITY :
NOR DOES ANY OTHER TIME SEEM TO BE MORE SUITABLE
FOR SUCH AN UNDERTAKING
THAN WHEN, IN A PERIOD OF UNIVERSAL PEACE
THE BRITISH EMPIRE
FLOURISHING IN GLORY, WEALTH, POPULATION, AND DOMESTIC UNION,
IS GOVERNED BY A PRINCE,
THE PATRON AND ENCOURAGER OF THE ARTS,
UNDER WHOSE AUSPICES
THE METROPOLIS HAS BEEN DAILY ADVANCING IN ELEGANCE AND SPLENDOUR.
THE FIRST STONE OF THIS WORK
BY JOHN GARRATT, ESQUIRE,
ON THE 15TH DAY OF JUNE,
IN THE SIXTH YEAR OF KING GEORGE THE FOURTH,
AND IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD, 1825.
JOHN RENNIE, F.R.S. ARCHITECT.
1826: New London Bridge in course of building -
London Bridge as seen in September 1826. © 1999 Motco Enterprises Ltd
Old London Bridge from 'ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE PUBLIC BUILDINGS OF LONDON -
Old London Bridge with piling work for the new bridge
1827: Metropolitan Improvements -
NEW LONDON BRIDGE, WITH THE LORD MAYOR'S PROCESSION
PASSING UNDER THE UNFINISHED ARCHES
NOVEMBER 9, 1827.
The upper surfaces of the arches were decorated with flags of the principal nations of both hemispheres, and crowded with spectators, who cheered and loudly greeted the splendid and novel procession as it passed under and between the timbers of the centres which supported the huge masonry of the arches.
The workmen cheered, and the watermen and other persons connected with the river service added their voices and their hearts to the united shouts, as the stately barges glided nobly through the narrow aperture of the centre arch.
This ceremony was repeated on the following Lord Mayor's Day, with equal splendour, and less difficulty, as more of the centres were removed from beneath the arches.
London Bridge, 1827
with the Lord Mayor's Procession passing under the unfinished Arches.
W J Linton's Memories
A thing to be remembered was the first passing over New London Bridge, between Southwark ("the Borough") and the City ... and looking down on the old bridge by the side of the new and many feet below it, the old bridge with its wide wooden abutments to the piers, and on each side of the roadway the half-cupola niches with seats, in which one could hear a conversation in the niche on the opposite side, the like of what was to be heard in the "Whispering Gallery" round the inside of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.
[ You can see the cupolas on the old bridge in this next picture. ]
Old and New London Bridges in 1827
Notice in the above picture that the old bridge is seriously in trouble. The parapets zig zag unevenly showing that the foundations are slipping. The fifth arch has already had to be demolished and replaced by a temporary wooden structure. The starlings are well seen in this picture which is probably taken at low tide. The wood was mainly 600 years old - no wonder it was all beginning to slip.
The difference between the old and new bridges can be seen in this architects drawing comparing the two -
Plan of Old and New London Bridges
See what a narrow gap there was between the starlings
1831: New London Bridge opened by King William & Queen Adelaide; 1831:
The grand opening of London Bridge by William IV and Queen Adelaide
on 1st August 1831
Flags and a marquee on the bridge, state and livery barges on the river,
cheering crowds, the old London Bridge, a little downstream,
seen through the arches of the new.
Engraved by Thomas Abiel Prior (1809-1866) for the "Art Journal"
from the original painting by Clarkson Stanfield.
After the opening the Old London Bridge was removed. The removal lowered the levels at Teddington by two and a half feet – solely due to the weir like effect of the old bridge.
1832: Old London Bridge during its demolition February 1832 -
Wood engraving after Robert Seymour
Old London Bridge during its demolition Feb 1832
1832: Old London Bridge during its demolition as in 1832 -
Old London Bridge during its demolition as in 1832
Wood engraving after Robert Seymour
New London Bridge, Mechanics magazine 1832
1830: The Thames and Medway, Tombleson, text by W.G.Fearnside
The view which now meets the astonished gaze
at once impresses the mind with the prodigious extent of the commercial interests of Great Britain.
The numberless vessels moored in the pool seem, in the mazy windings of the stream, to become a dense forest of lofty masts, beyond which the eye cannot penetrate.
The AVERAGE NUMBER OF BRITISH SHIPS AND VESSELS LYING IN THE RIVER AND DOCKS IS ESTIMATED AT 13,000 TO 14,000, and for which 3,000 to 4,000 barges and other small craft are employed in loading and unloading. Nearly 3,000 barges and other craft are engaged in the inland trade, and 3,000 wherries and small boats for passengers. About 10,000 labourers are employed in lading and discharging ships, and 8,000 watermen in navigating wherries and small craft. About 20,000 coasting vessels annually enter the port of London; 7,000 of which, it is calculated, are laden with grain, 6,000 with coals, and 7,000 with various goods.
The value of merchandise annually received and discharged is computed at between £60,000,000 and £70,000,000, and the official value of goods warehoused is about £19,000,000.
[That was in 1830 - in present day  values those figures would be £173 billion to £202 billion, and £55 billion.
( Using share of GDP ) ]
The scene of this enormous traffic occupies a space of more than four miles in length, reaching from London-bridge to Deptford, and from 400 to 500 yards in average breadth, consisting of the upper, middle and lower pools and the space beteen Limehouse and Deptford; the river also averaging in depth about twelve feet; the navigation of which, exclusive of the constant arrival and departure of the numerous vessels, is now annually obstructed by about 11,000 voyages performed by various steam-boats.
1834: Fourth Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Edinburgh -
1836: What is now London Bridge Railway Station was first opened, the oldest railway station in London.
1837: The Knickerbocker -
Forty-five miles westward from the North Sea, in the lap of a broad and pleasant valley watered by the Thames,
stands the Great Metropolis, as all the world knows, It comprises the City of London and its Liberties,
with the City Liberties of Westminster, the Borough of Southwark,
and upwards of thirty of the contiguous villages of Middlesex and Surry.
East and west, its greatest length in about eight miles; north and south, its greatest breadth about five:
its circumference from twenty to thirty. Its population is estimated at two millions. ...
More striking still is the Thames. Above the town, ... [see Richmond] ...
In and below London the whole scene is changed. Let us view it by night: Lamps are gleaming alongshore, and on the bridges, and a full moon rising over the Borough of Southwark. The moonbeams silver the rippling, yellow tide, wherein also flare the shore lamps, with a lambent, flickering gleam.
Barges and wherries move to and fro; and heavy-laden luggers are sweeping up stream with the rising tide, swinging sideways, with loose flapping sails. Both sides of the river are crowded with sea and river craft, whose black hulks lie in shadow, and whose tapering masts rise up into the moonlight like a leafless forest.
A distant sound of music floats on the air; a harp, and a flute, and a horn. It has an unearthly sound; and lo! like a shooting star, a light comes gliding on; it is the signal lamp at the mast-head of a steam vessel, that flits by, like a cloud above which glides a star.
And from all this scene goes up a sound of human voices, - curses, laughter, and singing, - mingled with the monotonous roar of the city,
'the clashing and careering streams of life, hurrying to lose themselves in the impervious gloom of eternity.'
And now the midnight is past, and amid the general silence the clock strikes - one, two. Far distant, from some belfry in the suburbs, comes the first sound, so indistinct as hardly to be distinguished from the crowing of a cock. Then close at hand the great bell of St. Paul's, with a heavy solemn sound - one, two. It is answered from Southwark; then at a distance like an echo; and then all around you, with various and intermingling clang, like a chime of bells, the clocks from a hundred belfries strike the hour.
But the moon is already sinking, large and fiery, through the vapors of morning. It is just in the range of the chimneys and house-tops, and seems to follow you with speed, as you float down the river, betweeu unbroken ranks of ships. Day is dawning in the east, not with a pale streak in the horizon, but with a silver light spread through the sky, almost to the zenith. It is the mingling of moonlight and daylight. The water is tinged with a green hue, melting into purple and gold, like the brilliant scales of a fish. The air grows cool. It comes fresh from the eastern sea toward which we are swiftly gliding; and dimly seen in the uncertain twilight, behind you rises -
A mighty mass of brick, and smoke, and shipping,
Dirty and dusky, but as wide as eye
Can reach; with here and there a sail just skipping
In sight, then lost amid the forestry
Of masts; a wilderness of steeples peeping
On tip-toe, through their sea-coal canopy;
A huge dun cupola, like a foolscap crown
On a fool's head,-and there is London town.
1843: Martin Chuzzlewit, at London Bridge Steam Wharf, Charles Dickens -
Many a pleasant stroll ... down among the steamboats on a bright morning.
There they lay, alongside of each other; hard and fast for ever, to all appearance, but designing to get out somehow, and quite confident of doing it; and in that faith shoals of passengers, and heaps of luggage, were proceeding hurriedly on board. Little steam-boats dashed up and down the stream incessantly. Tiers upon tiers of vessels, scores of masts, labyrinths of tackle, idle sails, splashing oars, gliding row-boats, lumbering barges, sunken piles, with ugly lodgings for the water-rat within their mud-discoloured nooks; church steeples, warehouses, house-roofs, arches, bridges, men and women, children, casks, cranes, boxes horses, coaches, idlers, and hard-labourers; there they were, all jumbled up together, any summer morning, far beyond Tom's power of separation.
In the midst of all this turmoil there was an incessant roar from every packet's funnel, which quite expressed and carried out the uppermost emotion of the scene. They all appeared to be perspiring and bothering themselves, exactly as their passengers did; they never left off fretting and chafing, in their own hoarse manner, once; but were always panting out, without any stops,
'Come along do make haste I'm very nervous come along oh good gracious we shall never get there how late you are do make haste I'm off directly come along!'
Even when they had left off, and had got safely out into the current, on the smallest provocation they began again; for the bravest packet of them all, being stopped by some entanglement in the river, would immediately begin to fume and pant afresh,
'oh here's a stoppage what's the matter do go on there I'm in a hurry it's done on purpose did you ever oh my goodness DO go on here!'
and so, in a state of mind bordering on distraction, would be last seen drifting slowly through the mist into the summer light beyond ...
The New Bridge with the old almost completely removed -
London Bridge 1840?
The Waterman's complaint
... people may talk as they like about what's been the ruin of us [watermen] - it's nothing but new London Bridge.
When my old father heard that the old bridge was to come down,
'Bill', says he, 'it'll be up with the watermen in no time'.
If the old bridge had stood how would all these steamers have got through it all? At some tides, it was so hard to shoot London Bridge that people wouldn't trust themselves to any but watermen. Now any fool might manage.
London Bridge, Sir, depend on it, has ruined us!
1840: The Thames and its Tributaries, Charles Mackay -
And now, reader, thou hast only to fancy thyself at London Bridge, on board the Richmond steam-boat, awaiting the bell to ring as the signal for starting.
Here we are, then, over the very spot where the old bridge stood for nearly a thousand years.
The waters roll over its site, steam-boats, barges, and wherries are moored over its foundations, and its juvenile successor, a thing of yesterday,
rears its head proudly, close alongside.
In the interval of time that separates the erection of the two structures, how vast are the changes the world has seen! The physical world has seen none; the tides still roll, and the seasons still succeed each other in the same order; but the mind of man — that world which rules the world — how immense the progress it has made! Even while that old bridge lasted, man stepped from barbarism to civilization. Hardly one of the countless thousands that now pour in living streams from morning till night over the pathway of its successor, has time to waste a thought on the old one, or the lesson it might teach him. Its duration was that of twenty generations of mankind; it seemed built to defy time and the elements, and yet it has crumbled at last. Becoming old and frail, it stood in people's way; and being kicked by one, and insulted by another, it was pulled to pieces without regret, twenty or thirty years, perhaps, before the time when it would have fallen to ruin of its own accord.
All this time the river has run below, unchanged and unchangeable, the same as it flowed thousands of years ago, when the now busy thoroughfares on either side were swamps inhabited only by the frog and the bittern, and when painted savages prowled about the places that are now the marts of commerce and the emporium of the world. A complete resumé of the manners and character of the people of England might be made from the various epocha in the age of the old bridge.
First, it was a crazy wooden structure, lined on each side with rows of dirty wooden huts, such as befitted a rude age, and a people just emerging from barbarism. Itinerant dealers in all kinds of goods, spread out their wares on the pathway, making a market of the thoroughfare, and blocking it up with cattle to sell, or waggon-loads of provender. The bridge, while in this primitive state, was destroyed many times by fire, and as many times built up again. Once, in the reign of William Rufus, it was carried away by a flood, and its fragments swept into the sea.
The continual expense of these renovations induced the citizens, under the superintendence of Peter of Colechurch, to build it up of stone.
This was some improvement; but the houses on each side remained as poor and miserable as before, dirty outside, and pestilential within.
Such was its state during the long unhappy centuries of feudalism.
What a strange spectacle it must have afforded at that time! — what an emblem of all the motley characteristics of the ruled and the rulers! Wooden huts and mud floors for the people, — handsome stone chapels and oratories, adorned with pictures, statues, and stained glass, for the clergy, — and drawbridges, portcullises, and all the paraphernalia of attack and defence at either end, to show a government founded upon might rather than right, and to mark the general insecurity of the times; while, to crown all, the awful gate towards Southwark, but overlooking the stream, upon which, for a period of nearly three hundred years, it was rare for the passenger to go by without seeing a human head stuck upon a pike, blackening and rotting in the sun. The head of the noble Sir William Wallace was for many months exposed from this spot. In 1471, after the defeat of the famous Falconbridge, who made an attack upon London, his head and nine others were stuck upon the bridge together, upon ten spears, where they remained visible to all comers, till the elements and the carrion crows had left nothing of them but the bones. At a later period the head of the pious Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, was stuck up here, along with that of the philosophic Sir Thomas More. The legs of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the son of the well-known poet of the same name, were exhibited from the same spot, during the reign of Mary.
Even the Mayors of London had almost as much power to kill and destroy as the Kings and Queens, so reckless was the age of the life of man. In 1335, the Mayor, one Andrew Aubrey, ordered seven skinners and fishmongers, whose only offence was rioting in the streets, aggravated by personal insult to himself, to be beheaded without form of trial. Their heads were also exposed on the bridge, and the Mayor was not called to account for his conduct.
Jack Cade, in the hot fervour of his first successes, imitated this fine example, and set up Lord Saye's head at the same place, little thinking how soon his own would bear it company. The top of the gate used to be like a butcher's shambles, covered with the heads and quarters of unhappy wretches.
Hentzner, the German traveller, who visited England in the reign of Elizabeth, states that, in the year 1598, he counted no less than thirty heads upon this awful gate. In an old map of the city, published in the preceding year, the heads are represented in clusters, numerous as the grapes upon a bunch!
The following is a view of the gate as it appeared previous to its demolition in 1757.
Southwark gate, London Bridge in 1757 in "The Thames and its Tributaries", Charles Mackay, 1840.
How different are the glories of the new bridge.
It also is adorned with human heads, but live ones, thousands at a time, passing and repassing continually to and fro.
Of the millions of heads that crowd it every year, busy in making money or taking pleasure, not one dreads the executioner's knife.
Every man's head is his own ; and if either King or Lord Mayor dare to meddle with it, it is at his peril.
We have luckily passed the age when law- makers could be law-breakers, and every man walks in security.
While these human heads adorn, no wooden hovels disfigure the new bridge, or block up the view of the water.
Such a view as the one from that place was never meant to be hidden.
The "unbounded Thames, that flows for all mankind", and into whose port "whole nations enter with every tide", bearing with them the wealth of either hemisphere,
is a sight that only needs to be seen to be wondered at.
And if there is a sight from John o' Groat's house to the Land's End of which an Englishman may be proud, it is that.
Other sights which we can show to the stranger may reflect more credit upon the land, but that does honour to the men, and is unequalled among any other nation on the globe.
The history of the New Bridge is soon told. The narrowness of several of the arches of the old bridge — it contained nineteen in all — caused the tide to flow through them with a velocity extremely dangerous to small craft, and accidents were of daily occurrence. It was at first contemplated to repair the bridge and throw two or three of these small arches into one, but this idea was soon abandoned, and it was resolved to build a new one. On the 6th of June 1823, the House of Commons voted the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand pounds for the purpose, and an extra tax of sixpence per ton having been imposed upon all coals entering the port of London, to provide additional funds, the works were soon afterwards commenced.
The plan of Mr. Rennie, was adopted, and the foundation-stone was laid with all the pomp usual upon such great occasions, by the Lord Mayor, Mr. Garratt, in the presence of the Duke of York and a great assemblage of distinguished persons, and all the city functionaries.
The bridge was completed in six years, and was opened in great state by King William the Fourth on the 1st of August 1831.
The King was accompanied by his Queen Adelaide, by her present Majesty, then Princess Victoria; and her illustrious mother, the Duchess of Kent,
the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland, the Duke of Sussex, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Wellington, and a long array of noble and celebrated individuals.
A short detail of the ceremonies observed may not be uninteresting. Every vessel in the river, every steeple, every house-top, every eminence that commanded a view was crowded with spectators, and to increase the beauty of the scene, the day was remarkably fine. When the King and Queen arrived on the bridge they were met by the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress, the former of whom presented his Majesty with the Sword of State, the Lady Mayoress at the same time presenting the Queen with a flower. According to the old formality, the Lord Mayor was desired to keep his sword, as it was in such good hands, and the procession began. Preceded by the Duke of Devonshire (the Lord Chamberlain) walking backwards according to the etiquette, his Majesty arm-in-arm with the Queen, and followed by the royal family, the great officers of state, and his court, the members of the corporation of London, and the ambassadors, or other illustrious visitors, walked slowly over the bridge to the Southwark side, amid the firing of cannon, and the joyous ringing of all the bells in the metropolis. Here his Majesty witnessed the ascent of a balloon, and then returned to the city side to a pavilion erected on the bridge, where a sumptuous collation was prepared at the expense of the City. After the repast, and when the usual toasts had been given, the Lord Mayor, with a suitable address, presented the King with a golden cup; on receiving which his Majesty made the following short but very appropriate speech:
"I cannot but refer on this occasion to the great work which has been accomplished by the city of London. The city of London has ever been renowned for its magnificent improvements; and we are commemorating a most extraordinary instance of their skill and talent. I shall propose the source from which this vast improvement sprung — The trade and commerce of the city of London."
The toast, of course, was enthusiastically honoured, and soon afterwards the festivities terminated. His Majesty then entered the barge prepared for him, and was rowed up the river to Somerset house, where he disembarked.
The demolition of the old bridge was immediately commenced, and within a few months not a vestige of it remained.
But the signal-bell has rung, and our steamboat proceeds up the ancient highway of the city towards Westminster, in the track of all the Lord Mayors since Norman, in the year 1454. This worthy functionary was very fond of the water, and first began the custom, regularly continued since his day, of proceeding to Westminster Hall by water, with a grand city pageant. The boatmen took him in great affection in consequence, and one of them wrote a song upon him, the burden of which was,
Row thy boat, Norman,
Row to thy Leman.
I wonder if the eminent Victorian Charles Mackay knew what "Leman" means?
1841: London Bridge from the Pool. The brand new London Bridge -
London Bridge from the Pool.
Published November 1841 by Henry Brooks, 319 Regent Street Portland Place. M. & N. Hanhart lith Printers.
Through an arch of the sparklingly new London Bridge, Southwark and Blackfriars Bridges are glimpsed
1842: London Bridge &c from Southwark Bridge. An almost surrealist painting -
It must have been a scramble trying to sail a barge upriver.
In the picture above I imagine the tide is low
but has begun to flow upriver (otherwise there would seem little point in trying to take
that nearest barge up through the bridge).
The wind direction is defined by the nearest two boats and by the smoke from the chimneys and funnels. It is blowing from right to left. The nearest boat is on a port tack (the wind on the far side of the sails from us) as close to the wind as possible. She is doing this to get into position to be able to go through the bridge on the next tack (other vessels permitting - which currently it looks as if they won't!)
The boat immediately towards the bridge from her stern is on the starboard tack, and if she can make good that course looks well set to make the bridge. Notice that the angle between them is considerably less than 90° which means that both boats are very well adapted for sailing as close to the wind as possible. But the buildings around must make the wind very fluky.
Sailing under the bridge must have been chancy. The sloping mast probably indicates that the nearest boat is rigged so that the mast and sails can be lowered towards the stern without taking the sails down. They were probably very dependent on the tide taking them through.
With a fairly vigorous tide lighters were often handled by one or two men with poles or sweeps. They simply anchored when the tide was against them and floated with the tide when it was with them. The art of managing a boat of many tons with only manual propulsion has, thank God, no doubt been lost. It must have involved a high degree of philosophy (don't fight it, steer it and let the tide and wind do the work, patience ... ) They must have been a hazard to the new fangled steam boats.
From the foot of London bridge what a rush of life; what an incursion of cabs; what a rattle of wagons; what a surge of population; what a chaos of clamour;
what volcanic volumes of everlasting smoke rolling up against the unhappy face of the Adelaide Hotel; what rushing of porters, and trundling of trunks;
what cries of every species utterable by that extraordinary machine, the throat of man; what solicitations to trust myself for instant conveyance to the remotest shores of the terraqueous globe !
"For Calais, sir? Boat off in half-an-hour."—
"For Constantinople? in a quarter."—
"For Alexandria? in five minutes."—
"For the Cape? bell just going to ring."
In this confusion of tongues it was a thousand to one that I had not jumped into the boat for the Niger, and before I recovered my senses, been far on my way to Timbuctoo.
In a feeling little short of desperation, or of that perplexity in which one labours to decipher the possible purport of a maiden speech from "a promising young member," I flung myself into the first steamer which I could reach, and, to my genuine self-congratulation, found that I was under no compulsion to be carried beyond the mouth of the Thames.
I had now leisure to look round me. The bell had not yet chimed: passengers were dropping in. Carriages were still rolling down to the landing-place, laden with mothers and daughters, lap-dogs and band-boxes innumerable. The surrounding scenery came, as the describers say, "in all its power on my eyes."—
The church of St. Magnus, built by Sir Christopher Wren, as dingy and massive as if it had been built by Roderic the Goth;
St. Olave's, rising from its ruins, as fresh as a fairy palace of gingerbread;
the Shades, where men drink wine, as Bacchus did, from the bung-hole;
the Bridge of Bridges, clambered over and crowded with spectators, as thick as bees hiving!
But, prose was never made for such things. I must be Pindaric.
Adieu, adieu, thou huge, high bridge,
A long and glad adieu! I see above thy stony ridge
A most ill-favour'd crew.
The earth displays no dingier sight;
I bid the whole—Good-night, good-night!
There, hang between me and the sky
She who doth oysters sell,
The youth who parboil'd shrimps doth cry,
The shoeless beau and belle,
Blue-apron'd butchers, bakers white,
Creation's lords !—Good-night, good-night!
Some climb along the slippery wall,
Through balustrades some stare,
One wonders what has perch'd them all
Five hundred feet in air.
The Thames below flows, ready quite
To break their fall.—Good-night, good-night!
What visions fill my parting eyes!
St. Magnus, thy grim tower,
Almost as black as London skies!
The Shades, which are no bower;
St. Olave's, on its new-built site,
In flaming brick.—Good-night, good-night!
The rope's thrown off, the paddles move,
We leave the bridge behind;
Beat tide below, and cloud above;—
Asylums for the blind,
Schools, store-houses, fly left and right;
Docks, locks, and blocks—Good-night, good-night!
In distance fifty steeples dance;
St. Catherine's dashes by,
The Custom-house scarce gets a glance,
The sounds of Bow-bell die.
With charger's speed, or arrow's flight,
We steam along.—Good-night, good-night!
Where impious man makes Cheltenham salts,
We shave the sullen shore;
The Tower seems whirling in a waltz,
As on we rush and roar;
Putting the wherries all in fright,
Swamping a few.—Good-night, good-night!
We brave the perils of the Pool;
Pass colliers chain'd in rows;
See coalheavers, as black and cool
As negroes without clothes,
Each bounding like an opera sprite,
Stript to the skin.—Good-night, good-night!
And now I glance along the deck
Our own live-stock to view—
Some matrons, much in fear of wreck;
Some lovers, two by two;
Some sharpers, come the clowns to bite;
Some plump John Bulls.—Good-night, good-night!
A shoal of spinsters, book'd for France,
(All talking of Cheapside ;)
An old she-scribbler of romance,
All authorship and pride;
A diner-out, (time-worn and trite,)
A gobe-mouche group.—Good-night, good-night!
A strolling actor and his wife,
Both going to "make hay;"
An Alderman, at fork and knife,
The wonder of his day;
Three Earls, without an appetite,
Gazing, in spleen.—Good-night, good-night!
Ye dear, delicious memories!
That to our midriffs cling,
As children to their Christmas pies,
(So doth "Young England" sing,
In collars loose, and waiscoats white,)
All, all farewell!—Good-night, good-night!
1850: London Bridge -
London Bridge, 1850
1850: London Bridge at half tide -
London Bridge at Half Tide
1856: The removal of the old bridge changed the tidal currents around the bridge (and placed several other bridges in peril). A survey showed that the increased currents had scoured away a considerable amount of sediment -
1856: The changes to the river above the 1823 London Bridge
Notice that the low water mark above the bridge has gone down considerably;
that some five feet of silt has gone from above the bridge;
and that a foot or so of silt has gone from the flat area below the bridge.
The size of the bank (bar) below the old bridge was quite alarming and implies that the river could have been forded at low tide!
William McGonagall (1830?-1902) had something to say about every feature of his country. He is such a excruciatingly bad poet that there is a certain nostalgia in recognising his voice! Descriptive Jottings of London -
As I stood upon London Bridge and viewed the mighty throng
Of thousands of people in cabs and 'busses rapidly whirling along,
All furiously driving to and fro,
Up one street and down another as quick as they could go:
Then I was struck with the discordant sound of human voices there,
Which seemed to me like wild geese cackling in the air:
And the river Thames is a most beautiful sight,
To see the steamers sailing upon it by day and by night.
And the Tower of London is most gloomy to behold,
And the crown of England lies there, begemmed with precious stones and gold;
King Henry the Sixth was murdered there by the Duke of Glo'ster,
And when he killed him with his sword he called him an impostor.
1870s: The Thames below London Bridge, Atkinson Grimshaw -
London Bridge, Atkinson Grimshaw 1870s
1872: London Bridge photographed in 1872 by Horatio Nelson King.
1885: Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames -
London Bridge - built in 1824-27 from the designs of John Rennie, architect of Southwark and Waterloo Bridges,
partly by himself, partly on his death by his son, Mr J Rennie.
Altogether some eight or nine designs for London Bridge were prepared by members of the Rennie family.
The cost, from various causes, was enormous, and a good deal of misapprehension seems to exist upon this point; some authorities placing it at a little under a million and a half, while others give it at over two and a half millions.
It is built of granite in five arches; the centre arch being 152 ft., the two next 140 ft., and the two shore arches 130 ft., each in span.
In order to facilitate traffic, police-constables are stationed along the middle of the roadway, and all vehices travelling at walking pace only are compelled to keep close to the curb. There are still, however, frequent blocks, and the bridge should be avoided as much as possible, especially between 9 and 10 a.m. and 4 and 6 p.m.
Seen from the river it is the handsomest bridge in London.
1890: London Bridge -
London Bridge, 1890
1896: London Bridge -
Before the opening of Tower Bridge, the crossing of London Bridge in a [horse drawn] omnibus or cab was a dreadful ordeal for a busy man. Over the bridge poured a never ending stream of vehicles of every description - a stream that flowed only at spasmodic intervals, and amidst a mighty uproar. Even now it is something of an undertaking to cross London Bridge between nine and twelve o'clock in the morning.
London Bridge, 1896
The present [1832-1967] London Bridge - there have been many - is situated 33 yards higher up the river than its immediate predecessor,
which was removed in 1832. It is 928 feet in length and 54 feet in breadth, its cost, including the approaches,
being something like a couple of millions.
It is an interesting fact that the lamp-posts on London Bridge were cast from the metal of French cannons captured in the Peninsular War.
Looking down the river we survey the Port of London, the part immediately below the bridge being known as the Pool. To this portion of the river sea-going vessels of the largest size have access. On the right and left, as far as the eye can penetrate the ordinarily smoky atmosphere, are seen veritable forests of masts; while high above, and behind the houses on both banks, rises the rigging of large vessels in the various docks.
1902-4: London Bridge widened from 52 to 65 feet.
Unfortunately this extra weight was too much for the foundations.
1924: London Bridge really was falling down, again! The downstream side of the bridge had settled some 3 or 4 inches.
It lasted till 1967