On 23 June 2018, 120 WasteAid supporters will be crossing the 16 historic bridges of London to help WasteAid “bridge the global recycling gap”.
Here are some fascinating bridge facts, starting at Putney in the west and ending at Tower Bridge in the east (google map):
1. Putney Bridge ( North to South )
Since 1845, the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race has started from here.
2. Fulham Railway Bridge ( South to North )
Great for cyclists, so watch out!
3. Wandsworth Bridge ( N – S )
Crossed by 50,000 vehicles a day, it is painted blue: this was originally as camouflage against air raids in World War 2.
4. Battersea Bridge ( S – N )
The narrowest of London’s bridges, it replaced the very last wooden bridge to cross the Thames.
Battersea Railway Bridge ( no pedestrian crossing )
This is a Grade II listed bridge. It has had to be reconstructed several times because of damage from accidents and collisions.
5. Albert Bridge ( N – S )
This bridge has never been replaced since it was built in 1873. The only other original structure is Westminster Bridge. Albert Bridge has a dog urine problem, causing the timber decks to rot. This is likely to be a result of the lack of open spaces north of the river here. Dog-walkers have to cross the bridge to get to Battersea Park. How many dogs can you spot?
6. Chelsea Bridge ( S – N )
This was originally called Victoria Bridge. When it was built in 1851, many Roman and Celtic weapons and human skulls were excavated. Could this be where Julius Caesar first crossed the Thames?
7. Vauxhall Bridge ( N – S )
In the 1840s, when Vauxhall Railway Station was newly built, it was considered so impressive by a visiting delegation of Russians that it is claimed a new word entered the Russian language : voksol, meaning railway station!
8. Lambeth Bridge ( S – N )
Charles Dickens saw it and pronounced it “the ugliest ever built”. What’s your verdict?
9. Westminster Bridge ( N – S )
The oldest road bridge. It is painted green to match the colour of the seats in the House of Commons.
1) you are not allowed to enter wearing a suit of armour and
2) you are not allowed to die there – because if you did, you would be entitled to a state funeral.
10. The Golden Jubilee Bridges ( S – N ) and ( N – S )
If you ever crossed before 2002, you will remember the single pedestrian bridge attached to the side of the Hungerford Bridge.
11. Waterloo Bridge ( S – N )
Also known as ‘Ladies Bridge’ because it was mainly built by women during the war. It was opened in 1945.
12. Blackfriars Bridge ( N – S )
Roberto Calvi was found hanging here in 1982. He was the Vatican Banker and there had been a huge scandal about Vatican finances. The Masonic Lodge to which he belonged referred to themselves as ‘Frati Neri’ – Black Friars, hence the choice of bridge.
13. Millennium Bridge ( S – N )
Opened on 10th June 2000, its famous tremor has now been fixed. If it still feels as if it’s wobbling, it’s not the bridge, it’s you! Drink some water!
14. Southwark Bridge ( N – S )
Apparently the bridge with the least traffic. What’s your opinion? You may have seen it in films – notably “Mary Poppins” and “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”
15. London Bridge ( S – N )
The first crossing here was built of wood by the Romans. It has been rebuilt many times, sometimes with houses on, once with a chapel in the middle – that bridge was made of stone and took 33 years to build. It cost a fortune. The King who commissioned it died before it was finished. Pilgrimages to Canterbury started from here. It stood from 1209 to 1831 when it had to be replaced.
The new stone bridge was then sold in 1967 to an American Oil Company. They took it apart, brick by brick and flew it to the Arizona desert where it was carefully rebuilt as a tourist attraction.
The replacement took until 1972 to build and twelve years later a British warship smashed into it.
Trivia: There are now said to be many bats living in the crevices underneath the bridge. Hopefully, you’re crossing before they come out!
16. Tower Bridge ( N – S )
Join the 40,000 people who cross this bridge every day. In 1952, bus passengers on the bridge had a hair-raising experience. The bridge began to rise while their bus was still on it. Driver Albert Gunton accelerated quickly and jumped the gap. Watch out for the dividing line!
Bus trivia: a 19th century law made it illegal for ladies to eat chocolate on public transport!
If you are ever granted the Freedom of the City of London, you would be allowed to come back with a flock of sheep and herd them across the bridge. In 2009, 500 Freemen led a flock across in aid of charity. Sadly, WasteAid was not in existence then.
Thanks to WasteAid supporter Julie Lenkiewicz for the fascinating facts!