Victorian London - Thames - Bridges - London Bridge

London Bridge.-This noble structure, erected from the designs of the late Mr. Rennie, and commenced by him, were completed under the superintendence of his son, the present Sir John Rennie. The first pile was driven March 15. 1824: the first stone was laid by the Lord Mayor (Garratt), in the presence of the hate Duke of York and several of the nobility, on the 15th of June 1825; and the whole was completed and first opened on the 1st of August 1831,by his late Majesty, who went thither in state from Somerset house by water, and was afterwards entertained at a grand banquet given on the occasion. The bridge, which is executed in Scottish Peterhead and Derbyshire granite, Consists of five elliptical arches, the central one being considered amongst the finest ever constructed. The piers have massive plinths and Gothic pointed cutwaters. The arches are surmounted by a bold projecting block cornice, which, corresponding with the line of roadway, and being covered with a plain blocking course by way of parapet, gives to the whole an air of simple elegance. In connexion with London Bridge may very properly be noticed the approaches to that noble structure. They extend over a space of above a mile in length, the whole of which was covered with houses. In one instance an entire parish, with its church, was swept away, together with several chapels, warehouses, stables, &c. ; in all amounting to many hundred buildings. This long-wished-for, much-wanted, and magnificent improvement was, from its magnitude, for many years in a state of abeyance. The Corporation, long blamed for its continuance, wanted not the will, but the power, to replace, by a new one, the old bridge, which, from its narrow and hazardous approaches by land, and loss of life attendant upon its passage by water, at length became an object of universal execration. The Duke of Wellington's attention having been drawn to this state of affairs. the committee to whose care its erection was confided succeeded in securing his Grace's co-operation, who, with his characteristic zeal and spirit, thenceforth carried it through all its difficulties with a celerity that soon led to its completion. Gratitude for services so signal led to the proposition of erecting, upon an eligible site, an equestrian statue of the Duke; and this is now in a course of execution by Chantry.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

see also J. Ewing Ritiche in About London - click here

   London Bridge, more than any place I know here, seems to be the great thoroughfare for young working women and girls. One meets them at every step: young women carrying large bundles of umbrella-frames home to be covered; young women carrying wooden cages full of hats, which yet want the silk and the binding; costergirls, often dirty and sordid, going to fill their empty baskets; and above all, female sackmakers. These last are peculiar to London Bridge, for they all live in Bermondsey and fetch their work from the warehouses some where near Billingsgate. These girls have a yellow oily look, and are many of them slight & delicate; but they carry immense loads of sacking on their heads. I saw an unusually fine one today, on the Middlesex side...

Arthur Munby Diary 1861

LONDON BRIDGE. This noble structure is a work of great magnitude and skill. On each side a large dry arch is thrown over the streets running east and west; a plan well adapted to so busy a part of the City, as it obviates the destruction which formerly occurred from two constant channels of industry crossing each other. The materials of which the bridge is constructed are Scottish, Peterhead, and Derbyshire granite ; it consists of five elliptical arches, and the central arch (150 ft. span) is generally considered the finest ever executed, for the strength and beauty of its construction. The piers have massive plinths and Gothic-pointed cut- waters. The arches are surmounted with a bold projecting block cornice (corresponding with the line of roadway), covered with a plain blocking-course, by way of parapet, which gives the whole a simple and grand appearance. The cost of the bridge, with the approaches, amounted to 2,566,268l. Length, 920 ft.
    The approaches to the bridge, on both sides of the river, have a noble appearance. That on the south side is called Wellington Street; on the east of which is Duke Street leading to Tooley Street, and the entrance to the Brighton and South-Eastern Railway termini.
    On the north side, King William Street forms part of the grand connecting-line with Islington, by Prince's Street; the line being continued by Moorgate Street to the City Road, and from thence to Islington.

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865

see also London : A Pilgrimage - Chapter 1 - click here

London Bridgeóbuilt 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. 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 vehicles travelling at a 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. NEAREST Railway Stations, Cannon-street and London-bridge; Omnibus Routes,. Cannon-street, King William Street, London-bridge, and Southwark-street.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

    In the morning, quite before sunrise, I sallied forth and directed my steps toward the Thames. I was a few steps from London Bridge,in the heart of the city proper. Very few people were to be seen; profound silence reigned; the sky was grey; it was cold, and a light fog veiled all things without hiding them. I went toward the bridge with rapid steps, knowing that from it one enjoys the grandest view of London. Reaching the middle of the bridge, I looked about, felt an instantaneous cold shock from head to foot and stood motionless. A moment later, the picture of Paris as seen from the Pont Neuf, glowed before me, and seemed to me extraordinarily insignificant. Then I leaned against the parapets, and said in the tone of one who wishes to put his thoughts somewhat in order, 'Now let me see'.
    Beneath is the broad Thames; on one side, vessels as far as the eye can see; on the other,  a sucession of gigantic bridges; along the two bands, near the bridge, massive dingy buildings crowded in disorder together, and overhanging the water in a row. A little beyond, great piles, edifices of sinister aspect, enormous vaulted roofs of railway stations, with long straight lines like enormous vessels. and beyond these a medley of broken outlines and vague shapes, vanishing away into light ashen hues, so far off as no longer presenting anything but a mighty confusion of foggy outlines of chimney pots, towers, cupolas, and steeples, and farther yet, mysterious perspectives as of other distant cities, which one guesses at rather than sees, by an indented outline,very faintly pencilled on the horizon. On all the neighbouring buildings, and also on the bridges and river banks, a dingy factory color, the look of a worn-out city, an air of strength and weariness, something ... clammy and lugubrious, like a city laid waste by a conflagration, an immense sad spectacle.

Edmondo de Amicis Jottings about London (trans), 1883

London Bridge - photograph

George Birch, The Descriptive Album of London, c.1896

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - London Bridge, looking North-West

London Bridge - photograph


The most noticeable thing about London Bridge is the enormous traffic over it - now, however, appreciably relieved by the Tower Bridge a little further east. London Bridge is only 54 feet broad, so that it is not surprising that many projects for widening should have been discussed. The first bridge over the Thames at this point was built about AD. 994 the first stone one was finished in 1208. Since then the bridge has often been the scene of fighting and tumult, as well as of state pageants. In Elizabeth's reign it was restored; afterwards the horrid custom grew up of exposing upon it the heads of traitors. The present bridge was commenced under Rennie in 1824, and cost £506,000.

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - London Bridge, looking North-East

London Bridge - photograph


From no point of view can the vast and unceasing activity of the Metropolis be better appreciated than from London Bridge. Looking across the Pool, in a north-easterly direction, Billingsgate Fish Market is to be seen at the extreme right of our picture. The spire that rises beyond it is that of St. Dunstan's-in-the-East one of the many churches restored by Wren after the Great Fire. The spire seen in the middle of our view belongs to St. Margaret Pattens, Fenchurch Street, Further west again is the cupola and spire of St. Magnus-the-Martyr, a church built by Wren in 1676, and notable as the of Miles Coverdale; while just beyond, the Monument rears its flaming head.