Barmy bridges – 2

The first crossing of the Thames were by boat, but it did not take much thought to realise that it was more convenient, a safer, to build a bridge to across the river.

The first known crossing over the River Thames was near the MI6 building in Vauxhall, where archaeologists have found the remains of Bronze Age bridge piers some 3,500 years old.

[O]ver time a more robust material was sought, no doubt after the wooden London Bridge collapsed, giving rise to the well-known nursery rhyme. Stone would seem to be the material of choice to build sturdy river crossings – that is unless you manufacture glass.

The 1960s was a decade of change teenagers not dressing like their parents, men with long hair, even the word teenager was relatively new. So into this brave new world stepped a group rejoicing in the name ‘The Glass Age Development Committee’.

They proposed building a bridge not far from the early Bronze Age one in Vauxhall. The ‘Crystal Span’ was to be 970 feet long and 127ft wide. Provision for motor vehicles on its lower deck, while above were to be seven levels comprising shops, an extension to the Tate Gallery, a hotel, skating rink all topped off with a roof garden and an open air theatre; a modern vision of the medieval London Bridge.

That all sounds great except for one small design fault, costing an estimated £109 million at today’s prices it was to be built of – glass.

This piece of blue sky thinking was not their only brainwave. Taking their inspiration from the Crystal Palace with its glazed panels (before it burnt down) the committee had wanted to clean up the shambles that was, and still is, Soho. Thankfully this earlier proposed was also abandoned.

Mind you one of their schemes had some merit, they wanted to demolish Staines and build an entire glass city call Motopia.

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