The story of London Bridge is a fascinating one.
London, as we all know, is the capital city of England and is divided north and south by the river thames which flows through London City and out into the English Channel to the east.
The bridge is the subject of of one of the most famous childrens nursery rhymes of all time entitled ‘London Bridge is Falling Down, My Fair Lady’ which was first published in 1744.
There have, in fact, been four different ‘London Bridge’ constructions at pretty much the same spot between the raised northern bank and Southwark Cathredal on the south side.
The first ‘London Bridge’ was probably built by the Romans during their occupation of the land which they called Britannia around the second or third century.
The bridge was a simple structure made of wood and served to transport soldiers from the Kent ports to the Roman capital at modern day Colchester.
It may surprise many to know that London was never the capital city during the Roman occupation.
The second ‘London Bridge’ was constructed several centuries later of stone by the Normans, initially by William the Conqueror (who established London as the capital city of England) and then a bit later by Henry II in 1167.
This second ‘London Bridge’ lasted for nearly six hundred years, despite numerous fires and collapses. It was 275 metres long, 8 metres wide and supported by twenty gothic arches.
The bridge during this time was a whole living community with numerous shops and houses as high as seven storeys, a gatehouse and a drawbridge all traversed twenty four-seven by horses, carts, livestock and pedestrians.
Many a famous head has been exhibited on spikes above the stone gatehouse, notably William Wallace, Thomas More, Guy Fawkes, Oliver Cromwell and Mary Queen of Scots.
A third ‘London Bridge’ was constructed (and the second one demolished) in 1832 based on the design of architect John Rennie.
In 1967, this was not demolished but dismantled block of stone piece-by-piece. The bridge was bought from the City of London by an entrepeneurial American named Robert P. McCulloch and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States where it was reconstructed as a tourist attraction in Lake Havasu City Arizona.
The fourth ‘London Bridge’ is a road bridge built in 1973 and is in regular use today as part of the Uk road network.
So what of the nursery rhyme ‘London Bridge is Falling Down, my Fair Lady’
There are many verses to this nursery rhyme and many variations to it.
‘My Fair Lady’ is taken to mean Queen Elizabeth I who ruled England from the middle of the sixteen century until her death in 1603.
The nursery rhyme was probably written a couple of centuries before her reign but was adapted as adage to her and to perhaps send a message to whom it might concern that London Bridge really was falling down and was in desparate need of reconstruction and/or restoration.
London Bridge is Falling Down, my Fair Lady.