How a part of Brunel’s Great Eastern ended up at Liverpool FC

At the South Eastern tip of Millwall near Canary Wharf in the East End of London lie the remains of the SS Great Eastern’s launch ramp. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the SS Great Eastern was no ordinary ship, it was a structure so magnificent people paid just to walk around it. The ship was a massive 22,500-tons and nearly 700 feet in length and was so far ahead of its time that that it would be nearly four decades before the world would see a ship of this magnitude.

Brunel was the greatest engineer of his time, best known for the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the building of the Great Western Railway, connecting London to New York via Bristol and designing a ship which would ferry passengers from Bristol to New York, the Great Western at that time was the largest ship ever built.

Originally called the Leviathan, the Great Eastern had problems from the outset, on the day of her launch in front of 3000 paying customers she failed to launch, she was positioned sideways on iron rails to supposedly make the launch easier but due to technical difficulties she failed to enter the Thames, it would be another three months before the ship entered the Thames, much to the embarrassment of Brunel.  After being fitted out at Deptford, the ship was ready for its trials in September 1859.

Sadly Brunel who had made a final inspection visit on board the ship collapsed with a stroke and later died. From the outset the Great Eastern was plagued with ill-luck, with several fatalities during her construction and several more on the day of her botched launch. In September 1859, the ship was on her maiden voyage in the English Channel when she suffered a major explosion to one of her funnels and another five men were killed.

The Great Eastern struggled to find enough passengers on both the Australian or American route and as a consequence the company liquidated, the ship was put up for sale in 1864, with no one willing to purchase this magnificent vessel she was chartered to the Telegraph Construction Company, for the purpose of laying the first transatlantic telegraph cable.

After the world’s first submarine telegraph cable was laid connecting Dover with Calais in France in 1851 and a longer connection was laid linking Britain and Ireland. The next big target was North America where an attempt to lay a cable across the Atlantic in1858 was initially successful but unfortunately the signal only lasted a week, this however  proved that it was technically possible.

The Great Eastern was the only ship big enough to take the length of cable required for this huge operation, and it took five months just to load it. The first voyage of the new venture took place on 14 July 1865 to connect the 2600 miles of cable between Valentia Island, County Kerry and Newfoundland and although this too proved unsuccessful due to machinery hitches, plans were immediately in place for another attempt the following year in which this proved successful. For the next few years the Great Eastern went on to successfully lay many more submarine cables in many parts of the world, by 1872 she became redundant in this role after the introduction of purpose built cable-laying ships and spent the next 12 years laid up at Milford Haven on the South West Coast of Wales.

In 1885 the now redundant Great Eastern was transferred to the River Mersey and turned into a music hall and fun fair by the department store Lewis’s at a shilling a head, this magnificent structure was also used by Lewis’s as a giant billboard. After exhibition trips to Dublin and the River Clyde she returned to the River Mersey and in 1888 she was auctioned off.

This once great structure that played such a major role in the history of world communications ended its days at the mercy of the breakers, who took 2 years to dismantle her. 200 men worked on her consuming a total of 3.5 million man hours. Apparently skeletal remains were found inside the double hull of the ship, this would have occurred during the construction of the ship.

However, this was not the end for all of the Great Eastern due to the fact that the owners of Everton FC, who were then the custodians of Anfield, where Liverpool FC play today purchased one of the ship’s masts and placed it close to the Kop end at Anfield. The Great Eastern had 7 masts, each of them being called after the days of the week the one that stands proudly close to the entrance of what is now globally known as the Kop is called the Thursday mast

Liverpool FC was formed in 1892 and the original occupants Everton FC moved across Stanley Park to Goodison. Liverpool FC and its fans can proudly boast that they have a rare piece of history, a tribute to the greatest engineer Britain has ever known – Isambard Kingdom Brunel, architect of the SS Great Eastern.

This account came about thanks to the curiosity of an 12 year old Liverpool supporter called Paul Kelly who now lives in Belfast.

Highbury Barn Tavern and its sumptuous past

Highbury Barn Tavern

For many Arsenal supporters the Highbury Barn Tavern is a place to have a drink or meal before and after a match and to soak up the atmosphere before they stroll to the stadium, but did you know this was one of the most popular and talked about establishments throughout London in the 1800’s.

Highbury Barn started life as a small ale and cake house  in 1840, during these times Londoners flocked to drink milk that was still warm from the cow, and to eat cakes dipped in cream, custards plus many other dairy dishes. Highbury Barn grew into a tavern with tea-gardens and as trade increased the barn was extended and fitted out to the highest standard.

The enterprising owners added a hop plantation and brewery and added a bowling green with trap and ball ( a very old game played in England since the Middle Ages)grounds to compliment the tea gardens. It became widely known as a hub for public dinners for corporate bodies, public charities, clubs, and many other societies and could justly boast  that this magnificent location was one of the most popular venues for food and entertainment anywhere in London or its environs. It is hard to imagine today but over 1,500 guests could be accommodated at this hostelry with 800 people at any one time sitting down to a hot dinner and where you had the sight of seventy geese roasting on the one fire.

Highbury Barn was the scene of many festive celebrations and became renowned for its public entertainment with a hotel, public gardens, and a regularly licensed theatre along with  a sumptuous dancing saloon. Locals in the area did not share or support this place of entertainment and felt the area was becoming run down as a result of the loose morals attached to this establishment. After continuous complaints and petitions from the local residents the dancing licence for Highbury Barn was refused in 1871. It is believed that the final straw came when a riotous party of students from St Bartholomew’s hospital got out of hand.

During the opulent times of Highbury Barn in the 1800’s these were the customs and ettiquette that afternoon entailed:

Cream Tea was a simple tea consisting of scones, clotted cream, marmalade or lemon curd and tea.

Low Tea or Afternoon Tea was an afternoon meal which included sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, curd with 2-3 sweets and tea, it was known as “low tea” because guests were seated in low armchairs with low side-tables on which to place their cups and saucers.

Royale Tea was a social tea that was served with champagne at the beginning or sherry at the end of the tea.

High Tea although perceived  as an idea of elegancy and regal-ness was in fact an evening meal which was most often enjoyed around 6 pm as labourers and miners returned home. High tea consists of meat and potatoes as well as other foods and tea. It was not exclusively a working class meal but was adopted by all social groups. Families with servants often took high tea on Sundays in order to allow the maids and butlers time to go to church and not worry about cooking an evening meal for the family.

The etiquette for those attending tea parties in Highbury Barn would have commenced with a greeting and a handshake, after sitting down the lady puts her purse on her lap or against the chair back, the napkin is then unfolded on the persons lap. Sugar is placed in the cup first and then a thinly sliced lemon however milk and lemon must never be mixed together the milk always goes in after the tea is poured. An old French superstition says that to put milk in your tea before sugar is to cross the path of love and perhaps never to marry.”

The correct order when eating on a tea tray is to eat savouries first, scones next and sweets last. However it is best to eat the scones first while they are hot and then move on to the savouries followed by sweets.

Scones must be split horizontally with a knife and curd and cream is then placed on the plate, the knife is used to put cream and curd on each bite then eat with fingers neatly.

The spoon always goes behind the cup and you should never leave the spoon in the cup. The correct holding of the cup is not to put your pinky finger “up”. A guest should look into the teacup when drinking never over it.

The birth of the raised pinkie goes back to ancient Rome when a cultured person would eat with 3 fingers and a commoner with five, today this 3 fingers etiquette rule is still correct when picking up food with the fingers and handling various pieces of flatware. This pinky “up” descended from a misinterpretation of the 3 fingers vs 5 fingers dining etiquette in the 11th century, in fact tea cups originally did not even have handles. Chinese tea bowls were used as the first European teacups and the English continued to make cups without handles in the traditional Chinese style until the middle 1700’s when a handle was added to prevent the ladies from burning their fingers. The saucer was once a small dish for sauce. In Victorian days, tea drinkers poured their tea into saucers to cool before sipping, this was perfectly acceptable.

Today you can visit The Highbury Barn Tavern and feast on this locations fantastic history, this traditional iconic London pub offers the finest food and drink and Footie fans can get three chances to eat during match nights with its quickie menu before the game or dining and viewing during the game, or dinner afterwards.

Greenwich Park is no ordinary park.

Greenwich Park is no ordinary park, it takes you on a journey through parts of our royal and scientific past that no other park can equal, this is a quick guide for those who have not been fortunate enough to visit this magnificent location.

With its magnificent views from the top of the park you can see the City of London, the Docklands and of course the River Thames and is the setting for several historic buildings, including the Old Royal Observatory, the Royal Naval College, the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House.

Henry VIII introduced deer to the park and in the early 1600’s when the park was laid out in the French style, many trees were planted, some of which remain today. After James I gave the palace and the park to his wife, Queen Anne, she commissioned Inigo Jones to design a special home which became known as the Queen’s House.

Charles II’s whose great interest in science resulted in the founding of The Royal Society in 1661. This led to the building of The Royal Observatory by Sir Christopher Wren, calling it Flamsteed House after the first Royal Astronomer John Flamsteed.  This is now part of the National Maritime Museum.

During World War II, there were anti-aircraft guns in the Flower Garden and the tips of some of the trees were cut off to widen the field of fire. Evidence of this can still be seen in the truncated shape of some of the trees. After the war, the park was restored to its former glory.

There has been a settlement on this site since Roman times, but Greenwich has always been strongly associated with royalty. Since the land was inherited in 1427 by the Duke of Gloucester, brother of Henry V, generations of monarchs have taken this magnificent park to their hearts.

Greenwich Park is not flat like most of the other Royal Parks and has been used to provide a wide range of landscapes to provide a setting for numerous and diverse uses from an observatory to a deer park. In the northern part of the park closest to Greenwich Town Centre you can see the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House which faces towards the Old Naval College to the north.

The Rose Garden which is located on the eastern side of the park and forms the backdrop to the Ranger’s House. This is an elegant Georgian villa which was originally the residence of the Park Ranger. It now belongs to English Heritage and houses the Wernher Collection, which is a collection of works of art amassed by diamond magnate Sir Julius Wernher (1850-1912).

The Rose Garden was originally planted in 1960-61 and was enlarged and replanted in 1993-4 at which time it was enclosed on a yew hedge. The beds are laid out in a semi-circular design and planted with predominantly hybrid tea and floribunda roses, the rose garden peaks in flowering during June and July.

Another garden well worth visiting is the Flower Garden which was laid out in the late 1890’s. As one of the horticultural show pieces of Greenwich Park the Flower Garden has magnificent Cedar trees and Tulip trees set in fine lawns with seasonal beds of spring and summer flowers that are the classic Edwardian Garden. The Flower Garden is situated close to the lake and deer park.

The Herb Garden is located close to the St. Mary’s gate entrance to the park and beside St. Mary’s Lodge, it has an ornate pattern of box hedges that surrounds a central fountain, these are planted up with a wide variety of culinary herbs, this quiet corner of Greenwich Park offers an escape for park visitors.

The Queen’s Orchard is an enclosed area of approximately 0.3 hectares where fruit and vegetables are grown. It is located in the north-eastern corner of Greenwich Park. The Queen’s Orchard has a variety of heritage fruit trees that dates back to the 1500’s. The Queen’s Orchard has two ponds, a formal pond at the centre of the vegetable area and an informal pond by the fruit tree meadow.

The Queen’s Orchard has been part of Greenwich Park since the 17th century. It has been restored to its former glory with help from local volunteers and members of Greenwich Park Friends Group, in 2011 a variety of fruit trees were planted, with the earliest dating back to the 1500’s, pathways and planting beds were restored using timber and brick and two ponds were installed, a formal pond at the centre of the vegetable area and an informal pond by the fruit tree meadow. The Orchard’s name was found on records dating back to 1693 and has been incorporated into the new decorative gate.

The Queen’s Orchard now hosts ‘Meet the Expert Days’, where past and present Royal Parks staff are on hand to draw on their wealth of experience to help you with any allotment related questions and queries you may have.

The man who brought us drinking chocolate and his Chelsea past.

Sir Hans Sloane 

Sir Hans Sloane is remembered in place names throughout the Chelsea area, from Sloane Square to Hans Town to the Botanist pub. Hans Sloane was a physician and philanthropist and is best known for bringing to the nation a vast collection of natural specimens, books, coins, manuscripts and artefacts. But did you know he also introduced us to drinking chocolate.

Hans Sloane was born in County Down Northern Ireland in 1660 and studied botany at the Chelsea Physic Garden and chemistry at the Apothecaries’ Hall. He travelled around Europe to learn more about medicine and botany, and passed his Doctorate of Physic in 1683. Sloane became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1685 at the age of 25 and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1687.

It was during his many visits to Jamaica that Sloane encountered cocoa where the locals were drinking it mixed with water. Sloane found the taste of this nauseating and decided to mix it with milk instead this made the drink much more pleasant. On returning to London he prescribed the milk for medicinal purposes as a beverage with health-giving properties, sometime later it came to the attention of the Cadbury brothers who purchased the recipe that Sloane had discovered in Jamaica. Cadbury produced their milk chocolate drink based on Sir Hans Sloane’s recipe between 1849 and 1875 and added their own milk chocolate bars in 1897.

Sloane was appointed the physician to three different monarchs during his life: Queen Anne in 1696, George I in 1716 and George II in 1727 and was knighted in 1716. He married Elizabeth Rose, a widow, in 1695, and they had two daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth.

Sloane became president of the College of Physicians in 1719 and succeeded Sir Isaac Newton as president of the Royal Society in 1727. As a socially-minded man he used some of the fortune to give free services to the poor.

Sloane purchased the Manor of Chelsea from Charles Cheyne to house and exhibit his growing collections in 1712. This also gave him the freehold of the Chelsea Physic Garden, which he supported by leasing it to the Society of Apothecaries in 1722 for £5 a year in perpetuity on the condition that ‘it be forever kept up and maintained as a physic garden’ and that 50 plant specimens a year were delivered to the Royal Society until 2,000 pressed and mounted species had been received. By 1795, the total had reached 3,700. The peppercorn rent is still paid to Sloane’s heirs at the Cadogan Estate by the charity that runs the Chelsea Physic Garden today.

Sloane retired to the Chelsea house that had been built for Henry VIII, where he remained until his death in 1753 at the age of 92 and was buried at Chelsea Old Church. In his will, Sloane offered his vast collection which consisted of over 71,000 natural history specimens, books, coins and medals to the nation for a fraction of its estimated value.

The collection was acquired by Parliament and used to found the British Museum and later the Natural History Museum. When he died, Sloane’s property was divided between his two daughters as his wife, Elizabeth, had died 29 years previously, in 1724.


London Bridge, more than just a bridge!


London Bridge

London Bridge can trace its roots back to when the Romans first arrived on our shores and developed a settlement along the River Thames over two thousand years ago, calling it Londinium. The Romans built a wooden bridge close to the site of the present London Bridge, in fact the original structure was located 60 metres downstream of the current structure, a pier support was excavated in 1981 on the northern bank of the Thames.

For the next six hundred years the wooden structure that was built by the Romans fell into disrepair and the crossing varied from ferries to timber constructions.

After the construction of three more timber bridges a priest named Peter de Colechurch decided to construct the bridge in stone, the bridge took 33 years to build, during which three reigning monarchs, Henry ll, Richard the Lionheart and King John served on the throne, it was…

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The story of Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

London Bridge was originally the only crossing for those who wanted to cross the river Thames, however as London grew more bridges were added, the only problem with this was that they were all west of London Bridge. With the increase of population in the East End the need for a new bridge on the eastern part was becoming critical. The City of London Corporation, responsible for that part of the Thames, decided the problem could be delayed no longer and in 1876 set about the challenge of building a bridge that would still allow traffic on the Thames to flow as normal.

A Special Bridge Committee was formed and the design for the new crossing was offered to the public to come up with the best design. Over 50 designs were submitted for consideration, some of which are on display at the Tower Bridge Exhibition. It wasn’t until October 1884 however, that Horace Jones, the City Architect, in collaboration with John Wolfe Barry, offered the chosen design for Tower Bridge as a solution.

It took 8 years, 5 major contractors and the relentless labour of 432 construction workers to build Tower Bridge. Two massive piers were sunk into the river bed to support the construction and over 11,000 tons of steel provided the framework for the Towers and Walkways. This framework was clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone to protect the underlying steel work and to give the Bridge a more pleasing appearance.

When Tower Bridge was built it was the largest bridge of its kind ever completed. The bridge was operated by hydraulics, using steam to power the enormous pumping engines. The energy created was stored in six massive accumulators so as soon as power was required to lift the Bridge, it was always readily available with the accumulators feeding the driving engines.

Despite the complexity of the system, the bridge only took about a minute to rise to its maximum angle of 86 degrees. Today, the bridge is still operated by hydraulic power, but since 1976 they have been driven by oil and electricity rather than steam. The original pumping engines, accumulators and boilers are now exhibits within the Tower Bridge Exhibition.

In 1910 the high level Walkways were closed to the public due to lack of use, due to the pedestrians preferring to wait at street level for it to close rather than heading up the stairs carrying their heavy loads. In 1982, as part of the new Tower Bridge Exhibition, visitors to the bridge could once again enter the walkways, now fully covered, and experience the amazing panoramic views.

Although Tower Bridge is now powered by oil and electricity, the original steam engines maintained by a dedicated team of technical officers remain in their original location for all to see. This area is known as the Victorian Engine Rooms.

The exhibition has been developed to keep pace with modern day needs without losing its Victorian essence. Through interactive kiosks and video walls along with knowledgeable Guides, visitors can learn about key events in the Bridge’s history, ranging from Royal visits to dare devil stunts.

A few interesting facts about Tower Bridge:

1910 – The high-level walkways, which were designed so that the public could still cross the bridge when it was raised, were closed down due to lack of use.

1912 – During an emergency, Frank McClean had to fly between the bridge and the high level walkways in his short biplane to avoid an accident.

1952 – A London bus driven by Albert Gunton had to leap from one bascule to the other when the bridge began to rise with the number 78 bus still on it.

1977 – Tower Bridge was painted red, white and blue to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. (Before that, it was painted a chocolate brown colour).

1982 – Tower Bridge opened to the public for the first time since 1910, with a permanent exhibition inside called The Tower Bridge Experience.

The view today from the high level Walkways has changed dramatically, although there are still signs of the area’s amazing history. With the aid of photographs and interactive kiosks, visitors to Tower Bridge Exhibition can gain a greater understanding of how life would have been when the idea of a new bridge was originally conceived.

A visit to Tower Bridge Exhibition clearly explains how the Bridge works and describes its fascinating history.

Finsbury Park – More than just a park

Finsbury Park

Finsbury Park can trace its roots back to the 1860’s when a much needed green space was required for the local area that had become overcrowded with the growth of newly built houses for the new middle classes that had recently moved into the area. It took over 20 years for locals to persuade the authorities the need for a park in the area.

However long before the park was even thought about this area had a rather illustrious past. The landscape would have had a major covering of woodland with small pockets of community. In the middle of all of this stood a public house called the Hornsey Woodhouse Tavern which was located on the edge of what is now Finsbury Park.

It was originally a small roadside public-house with a small lake where the weary wayfarer could rest and refresh himself. It was run by two sisters who by all accounts were cheery talkative women. After the sisters passed away the old tavern was pulled down and replaced with a much larger watering hole. The lake was enlarged making it popular with anglers and during the summer months the lake played host to those who wanted board a boat and serenely pass the time on the lake.

The grounds were laid out as teagardens and the grounds were used for pigeon shooting, all this at a cost of 10,000 pounds, a considerable amount of money at the time. Both the Wood and the “Wood House” were swept away, and the sites where Finsbury Park is today.

The park was opened in 1869, as a public recreation-ground and promenade for the working classes.  It was originally supposed to be named Albert Park however in the end Finsbury Park so called after the location of where the benefactors lived. Many locals felt it should have been called Hornsey Park after Hornsey Wood in which it was developed on.

So what was originally known as Hornsey Wood became a park for the locals with its sumptuous lake in the centre of the park and its two islands which gave the similar appearance of the Ornamental Waters in St James’s Park, due no doubt to the abundant quantity of ducks and other water-fowl parading them self around the lake.

The park which had many pleasurable walks and drives increased in popularity with its close proximity to the Railway it became a hub for Londoners looking for a place of relaxation and exercise and where visitors could admire the beautifully manicured park. Many political meetings were held in the park especially during the First World War when pacifist campaigners held rallies against the war these had a tendency to end in violence. During the Second World War, it hosted anti-aircraft guns and was one of the gathering points for heavy armour prior to the Normandy Landings on 6 June 1944.

During the 1970’s the park fell into neglect and it was not until the dawn of the new millennium that the park’s fortunes took an upturn, today Finsbury Park looks better than ever, after undergoing a £5million makeover thanks to the National Lottery. It provides a rich variety of landscapes and a variety of facilities now catering for twenty first century needs.

New facilities include an enclosed, dog free play area with an exciting water feature, designed by children, for children. A new and improved cafe building housing public toilets and open all year round and the construction of two Victorian styled seating shelters. There is bird seed available to purchase to feed ducks on lake.

It is now a very pleasant north London park, containing tennis courts, a running track, an occasional art gallery, a softball field and many open spaces for various leisure activities. It is also one of the most diverse places in London, with many different communities making use of the facilities. The park became an established music venue with notable artists including Morrisey, Sting, the Corrs, The Sex Pistols, Oasis plus many more.

The Seven Sisters Road on the south side of Finsbury Park, was constructed in 1832, prior to which time there was no thoroughfare through Holloway and Hornsey to Tottenham.

London Bridge, more than just a bridge!

London Bridge

London Bridge can trace its roots back to when the Romans first arrived on our shores and developed a settlement along the River Thames over two thousand years ago, calling it Londinium. The Romans built a wooden bridge close to the site of the present London Bridge, in fact the original structure was located 60 metres downstream of the current structure, a pier support was excavated in 1981 on the northern bank of the Thames.

For the next six hundred years the wooden structure that was built by the Romans fell into disrepair and the crossing varied from ferries to timber constructions.

After the construction of three more timber bridges a priest named Peter de Colechurch decided to construct the bridge in stone, the bridge took 33 years to build, during which three reigning monarchs, Henry ll, Richard the Lionheart and King John served on the throne, it was to stand for some 622 years.

The new bridge was supported by 20 gothic arches and had a span of 26 feet (8 metres) and was 300 yards (275 metres) in length, in order to withstand the tremendous weight of London Bridge on the soft river bed, each arch was supported on either side by enormous starlings (supports for the bridge and shaped to ease the flow of water), these acted as giant ‘feet’ and allowed the culvert load to be spread, preventing the bridge from sinking into the mud. These starlings also varied in size and became far more substantial than was entirely safe. The consequences of these arches, was that water-speed slowed significantly along the Thames, causing it to freeze during harsh winters. Also when the tide was on the way out, the culverts became ‘white-water’ rapids and exceptionally hazardous to navigate.

Boats generally stayed up-river of the bridge, or down-river. As the saying went London Bridge was for wise men to pass over and for fools to pass under. Though what was called “shooting the arches” was attempted by the brave, foolhardy or drunk, often resulting in disastrous consequences.

By the late 1400’s there were over two hundred buildings on the bridge some were seven stories high, others overhung the river by over six feet while others overhung the road of the bridge which formed a dark tunnel for travellers to pass through. The shops were on the ground floor with window displays, and the traders lived in the quarters above. Each would have a sign to display the goods on offer for the illiterate, which would be hung at a height allowing riders on horseback to pass beneath. London Bridge with its tightly knit community became a small village within a city.

Navigating London Bridge during this period was a time consuming exercise, taking up to an hour to get from one side to the other and by 1722 congestion was becoming so serious that it was decided issue an order to all carts, coaches and other carriages coming out of Southwark into the City to keep along the west side of the bridge and all carts and coaches going out of the City keep along the east side of the bridge, many believe this was where the practice of traffic in Britain driving on the left originated from.

From the south side of London Bridge you were met with the imposing South Gate which was three stories high and became the scene of one of London’s most notorious and hideous sights through the practice of attaching the heads of executed prisoners on to spikes on top of the building, the heads would be preserved in pitch and then speared by a pike. There was over 20 heads at a any giving time positioned on this structure, it eventually petered out in the 18th century.

Although the bridge escaped any serious damage during the great fire of London in 1666 concerns were being raised about the stability of the bridge and the lack of access for ships, leading to the unloading and reloading of the cargo to access the other side of the Thames.

By the mid 1700’s an act of parliament of parliament decreed that all buildings be demolished, allowing the opportunity for engineers to remove two of the central arches and replacing it with a larger opening thus  improving navigation along the river for shipping. A wooden temporary wooden bridge was erected on the west side of the bridge during this time and was used both for pedestrians and carriages. A year after being built the wooden bridge was deliberately set on fire another temporary bridge was erected a month later.

With the works now completed, the church of St Magnus the Martyr, which was located at the north end of the bridge projected so far over the foot-way that it was deemed necessary for a passage to be made under the steeple and with the supervision of Sir Christopher Wren arches in the tower were opened to accommodate the footpath.

After nearly six hundred years London Bridge was falling into decline and it was decided a new bridge was required. A competition was set up to see who would come up with the best design for the new bridge. The competition was won by John Rennie with his design of 5 arches.

The new bridge was positioned 100 feet (30 metres) upstream and was completed in 1831 the old bridge which had remained open during the construction of the new bridge was sadly demolished, bringing to an end one of the most iconic sights in London.

John Rennie’s bridge did last the test of time in comparison to the old bridge, by the 1960’s plans were in place to build a new modern bridge. The old bridge was basically sinking into the London mud and was unable to cope with modern traffic.

The bridge was put up for sale and sold to an American from Arizona for over 2 million dollars, plans were then put in place to move and rebuild the bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Each piece was marked with four numbers, indicating the span, the row of stones, and the last two numbers indicated which position in that row. While dismantling the bridge it was discovered that there were code numbers on each stone when it was originally built indicating that John Rennie must have used the same system when he was drawing the stone from the quarry.

The New London Bridge was opened on the 16th March by HM Queen Elizabeth II who arrived by river at the quay of the adjacent Fishmongers’ Hall, where the Water men lined up to greet her. She saw then a temporary exhibition on the long history of London Bridge. A plaque on the bridge commemorates the opening.

The new bridge is concrete and has a huge hollow water tight chamber which allows essential services to cross the river and is the only hollow bridge crossing the Thames, the bridge has polished granite panels and a wide stainless steel hand-rail sweeping across its whole width, as well as heated pavements for winter.

The new bridge continues the long history of a bridge over the Thames close to this spot and where as many as ten bridges have crossed the river and played a key part on London’s eventful history.

Did you know?

A battle that took place in 1014 between the Norse King Olav and the Danish invaders, led to the wooden bridge being pulled down after King Olav attached cables to the bridge and their boats. The famous nursery rhyme ‘London Bridge is falling down’ came as a result of this battle.

London Bridge is falling down, 

Falling down, falling down.

London Bridge is falling down

My fair lady.

 William Wallace was the first man to have his head displayed on London Bridge in 1305.

The Normans invaded in 1066 and rode over London Bridge from the south, King William I gave the city a charter to rule itself.