Anybody who’s ever spent time wandering around London will understand the importance bridges play in shaping the city. Without them, boroughs north, south, east and west would sit disconnected, separated by the winding snake that is the River Thames. Many of London’s bridges date back hundreds of years, with a rich history tied to empire and monarchy. They’ve endured wars, floods, closure, regeneration and, in turn, facilitated the movement of traffic and trade.
When the Romans established Londinium in 50 AD, the only way to get across the Thames was by boat. And so it was that a pontoon style military crossing was built – replaced shortly after by a timber piled one – in what has come to be known as the very first version of London Bridge. Since then, another 30 have joined the list, providing fast connections across the city and equally impressive views.
For many, London’s bridges are simply a way to get from A to B, but we think the rich and interesting history of these feats of engineering deserves a bit more recognition. So, here are 31 fascinating facts about London’s bridges:
Did you know that more than 400 construction workers were required to build Tower Bridge, along with 11,000 tons of steel?
Did you know that London Bridge is reportedly home to a large number of bats, said to hide in the crevices of its hollow exterior?
Cannon Street Railway Bridge
Did you know that Cannon Street Railway Bridge was the site for the Marchioness disaster of 1989: a fatal collision involving two vessels which resulted in the death of 50 people?
Did you know that Southwark Bridge has famously appeared in a number of films including Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Mary Poppins?
Did you know that there are more than 400 works of art adorning Millennium Bridge? Street artist Ben Wilson’s masterpieces are a unique combination of chewing gum and acrylic paint.
Blackfriars Railway Bridge
Did you know that there have been two structures sharing the title of Blackfriars Railway Bridge? One which opened 1864, as part of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, and a second in 1886, originally named St Paul’s Railway Bridge?
Did you know that Blackfriars Bridge, in its original form, took a total of nine years to the build, and was the third bridge in London to cross the Thames?
Did you know that Waterloo Bridge also bears the nickname, Ladies’ Bridge, on account of it being built by a largely female workforce during the Second World War?
Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges
Did you know that Hungerford Bridge is almost fifteen hundred feet long, while the adjoining Golden Jubilee Bridges were named in acknowledgement of the Elizabeth II’s fiftieth anniversary as Queen?
Did you know that Westminster Bridge was painted green to reflect the colour of the seats in the House of Commons?
Did you know that the stone pinecones mounting Lambeth Bridge’s obelisks at either end are commonly mistaken for pineapples? Rumour has it they actually are pineapples, and were created in tribute to John Tradescant the Younger: a Lambeth resident said to have grown the first pineapple in Britain.
Did you know that the piers of Vauxhall Bridge feature eight vast bronze statues, each representing a different theme? The eight themes are agriculture, architecture, engineering, pottery, science, fine arts, local government and education.
Did you know that Grosvenor Bridge was the very first railway bridge in central London? Were you also aware that it’s been expanded three times in the last 150 years, in 1866, 1907 and 1967?
Did you know that a number of Roman and Celtic artefacts and skeletons were discovered during the construction of Chelsea Bridge (formally Victoria Bridge) in the mid-nineteenth century?
Did you know that Albert Bridge has a big dog urine problem? Lack of open-spaces on the north-end of the river has given dog walkers no choice but to visit Battersea Park (to the south), and therefore cross Albert Bridge in the process. Severe rotting can be observed on the bridge’s timber deck structure.
Did you know that Battersea Bridge has had to be reconstructed several times as a result of the great many accidents and collisions it’s seen down the years? An 1885 version of the bridge famously appears in a beautiful painting by Victorian artist, John Atkinson Grimshaw.
Battersea Railway Bridge
Did you know that Battersea Railway Bridge is a Grade II* Listed structure, meaning it’s protected from unsympathetic development?
Did you know that Wandsworth Bridge was originally painted drab blue as camouflage against air raids? It retains the same colour scheme to this day.
Fulham Railway Bridge
Did you know that Fulham Railway Bridge doubles both as a rail crossing and pedestrian crossing? This makes it great for cyclists.
Did you know that Putney Bridge is one of the many observation points for the annual Oxford vs. Cambridge boat race?
Did you know that Hammersmith Bridge is officially the lowest bridge on the Thames, with a water clearance of just 12 feet?
Barnes Railway Bridge
Did you know that plans are underway to turn Barnes Railway Bridge into a fully-fledged garden crossing – similar New York’s High Line – with varied plantings and carefully placed benches?
Did you know that Chiswick Bridge is an important transport route, and listed among London’s 20 busiest Thames road bridges?
Kew Railway Bridge
Did you know that Kew Railway Bridge is the place where Doctor Who’s TARDIS materialises in a 1964 episode of the BBC sci-fi series?
Richmond Lock and Footbridge
Did you know that Richmond Lock and Footbridge came about as a result of a law being passed in parliament to bring water levels under control between Richmond and Teddington?
Did you know that Britain’s first speed camera was installed on Twickenham Bridge in 1992?
Richmond Railway Bridge
Did you know that Richmond Railway Bridge was met with great health & safety concerns upon construction? The three 100-foot cast iron girders used in the original bridge aroused fears for their structural integrity. They’ve since been replaced with steel girders.
Did you know that Richmond Bridge is the oldest surviving bridge running across the Thames in greater London?
Teddington Lock footbridges
Did you know that between the two Teddington lock footbridges lies a small beach overlooking the Thames?
Kingston Bridge and Kingston Railway Bridge
Did you know that Kingston Bridge and Kingston Railway Bridge borrow their names firstly from the English “kings” crowned in the area, and secondly from the coronation “stone” visible near Kingston Guildhall?
Hampton Court Bridge
Did you know that Hampton Court Bridge is often referred to as one of the ugliest bridges in England, on account of its look and design against the surrounding area?