The important cities of Europe were always on rivers because transportation was easier than the hazardous Medieval and ancient roads and trails. Paris is on the Seine, Rome is on the Tiber, and London is on the Thames. As the city grew from an ancient outpost capital called Londinium to the bustling city we see today, the necessity for crossing the Thames became urgent. Even today, if you have tried to cross Chelsea Bridge or Albert Bridge, you understand what congestion is. Each bridge has its own story. Several bridges today replaced earlier bridges which were taken down because of the demands of a growing city. In Medieval times, there was only one bridge crossing the city: London Bridge. During Victorian times, the city was bursting at its seams requiring several new bridges to be built across the Thames. In recent years, we have added two walking bridges because of the growing demand for people walking to revived areas on the South Bank. It is wonderful to see the South Bank come alive and become more connected to the north side of the river.
As if we were taking a boat ride down the Thames, let’s start our trip at Battersea Bridge and enjoy the beautiful images which dazzle eyes as we under one bridge after another until we finally reach Tower Bridge where we can pop off the boat and have a rest in Sir Raleigh’s bed in the Tower of London. So, let’s get started.
First, we have Battersea Bridge–not very exciting, but much in the news in the past years when a barge hit it and put it out of commission for sometime. Beautifully restored. The design reminds me of India.
Then on to my favorite of all the bridges Albert Bridge where soldiers have to break step when crossing. When lighted at night, the bridge is magical.
We are now in view of Chelsea which is like Albert Bridge in that it is light with hundreds of lightbulbs. When I think of driving down Lower Sloane Street and crossing Chelsea Bridge, all that comes to mind is traffic, traffic trying to cross this gorgeous bridge. Beauty first, so the bridge stays and the traffic crawls!
Seeing Vauxhall Bridge from the river is the best way to enjoy this beautiful bridge. The wonderful bronze figures that decorate this bridge are stunning. This bridge is little appreciated because its wonderful decorations are not visible when crossing the bridge. So, we are happy we are traveling down the river by boat.
Lambeth Bridge gets its name from Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s residence on the south side of the river. I remember this bridge very well from the hours and hours I stood in line to enter Westminster Hall for the Queen Mother’s lying in state in 2002. What an experience.
I love coming up to Westminster Bridge because the Palace of Westminster with the House of Lords with red and white awnings and the House of Commons with the green and white awnings glittering in the sun. Victoria Tower and Big Ben dominate the scene, and it is all so beautiful. Westminster Bridge is magnificent, still carrying the coats of arms of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on the lamp posts. Beautiful. Enjoy the early Canaletto painting showing the old bridge and the Palace of Westminster before the great fire which destroyed the old palace. Fabulous image with the royal barges.
Suddenly a bridge out of a space movie comes in view. Hungerford Bridge is a walking bridge which is very helpful when walking down from Trafalgar Square to cross the river to visit London Eye. It is really spectacular at night. Not my cup of tea, though!
Waterloo Bridge is next in our view. I am going to post an aerial view of this bridge. We know the history for the name of this bridge. Right?
Blackfriars is a favorite. I love the fat, chunk stone marble bases which decorate the very red bridge. You can image that there is a long history to this crossing by the name BLACKFRIARS. Beautiful to see from the river.
The Millennium Bridge is coming up. It is another modern spaceship walking bridge. It is perfect for walking from the North Bank near St. Paul’s and Monument over the river to Tate Modern. But for heaven’s sake, look back and see the dome of St. Paul’s from the South Bank when you have crossed the bridge.
We are coming up to Southwark Bridge which I always remember because it is the “green” bridge in my mind. I have walked over this bridge many times on my way to the memorial to Shakespeare in the Southwark Cathedral and to attend performances at the Globe. The best reason to cross over the Southwark Bridge is to go to the old coaching inn called THE GOERGE INN where the food is absolutely fantastic–roast beef and yorkshire pudding and steamed peas. To die for. Well, enough of that. This entire south side of the river has developed so much in recent years with renewed interest in the Globe Theater and the appointment of Southwark Cathedral with its bishop.
Now we are coming to London Bridge. We all know about London Bridge because we have sung LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN all our lives. We know about the old bridge being moved to the middle of the Arizona desert –and that’s quite a story. But the real story of the bridge is ancient. At one time this was the only bridge crossing the Thames. At one time, it was like the bridge in Florence with shops and residences atop. If the king thought you were particularly naughty, you had the particular honor of having your head placed on the end of a long stick and put up on the south side of London Bridge. Sir Thomas More had such an honor, and I have reminded myself of this story many times. I will post a wonderful period image for your enjoyment. Today, it is just a modern bridge, much widened to accommodate cars and traffic rushing to get into the City. All in the name of progress! Those damn cars!
And finally we come up to our 13th bridge, Tower Bridge. I suppose when people think of London, they think of London Bridge. They certainly like to call it London Bridge, but we know better because we have just passed London Bridge. This magnificent, colossal bridge looks like a Medieval structure, but in fact it was built during the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign and dedicated by her son the Prince of Wales – later Edward VII and Queen Alexandra just before Victoria’s death. I don’t think there is anything more spectacular as Tower Bridge lighted up at night with its drawbridge pulled so boats can pass under. We will end our ride on the Thames here so you can hop off to visit the Tower of London or the Tower Bridge Museum which explains the workings of this beautiful bridge.
Ah, London, the city of wonderful bridges. I hope you have enjoyed our ride down the Thames. If you want to stay on the boat, you can go all the way down to Greenwich to see THE QUEEN’S HOUSE or the ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
I have loved writing this post.
Thomas Moore email: TMooreSr@me.com Telephone: 801.791.9918