What is the fascinating story behind London’s ancient and near venerated London Bridge?

Answer: Nursery rhymes sung down the ages often have their origin in real historical events. ‘Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of posies, we all fall down’ referred to the effects of the bubonic plague. Likewise, ‘London Bridge is falling down’ is no mere whimsical observation. Indeed, the famous structure across the Thames was partially or fully destroyed many times after its initial construction in 975.

It was first pulled down by the Vikings, in 1010, to ease their access past English soldiers. Six years later, King Canute of Denmark didn’t bother to demolish the bridge when he wanted to invade, but simply dug a canal around it and sailed past. Until there was a second bridge, London Bridge was so crucial to residents that Londoners sometimes bequeathed their money ‘to God and the bridge’.

The first stone bridge was finished in about 1290 and was soon lined with shops, chapels and taverns but it was constantly in need of repairs to prevent its collapse. A fortune was spent on its repair because it was an important source of revenue through the collection of tolls.

The heads of rebels and traitors were boiled and placed on iron spikes on the bridge; in 1661 a German traveller counted nineteen such heads. Remarkably, it remained the only bridge over the Thames until 1750.

Source: Ways of the World: a history of the world’s roads and of the vehicles that used them by M G Lay; London – The Biography by Peter Ackroyd; The Plantagenet Encyclopedia by Elizabeth Hallam

More at: History

Comments are closed.

Back Home