Tag Archives: London bridge

It hasn’t fallen down

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.

London’s most famous bridge has never fallen down, but it has been replaced several times over the centuries, and the latest incarnation was opened by the Queen 50 years ago this week on 16th March 1973.

Whether by accident or a deliberate nod to the late Queen’s age, Operation London Bridge was the code name for the funeral plan for Queen Elizabeth II, which of course swung into action a few months ago.

London Bridge’s predecessor, famously shipped off to the Arizona desert, had been there since 1831 when it replaced ‘Old’ London Bridge, the medieval one with the houses down it.

Where London Bridge is today is 50 yards upstream from its predecessor.

Have you ever wondered why the Monument feels off-centre and Gracechurch Street terminates with an awkward curve? This piece of poor urban planning is because this was the original alignment of the former bridge, and the introduced curve aligned the road to the modern bridge.

In particular, the northern roadway used to pass the west door of St Magnus the Martyr, a church which for six centuries was the spiritual guardian of this crucial bridgehead. It was one of the first churches to be destroyed in the Great Fire of London so what now occupies the site is Wren’s magnificent replacement. Its clock once projected out above the roadway, and when traffic increased a pedestrian walkway had to be cut through the bottom of the tower.

St Magnus’s importance vanished when the bridge shifted, and its churchyard is now a flagstoned dead end, barely trodden, with a small flowerbed at one end. It’s still worth a visit, though, to see two chunky stones from the Old London Bridge which were relocated here in 1921.

London Bridge and the Shard by Christine Matthews. The top of the Shard is being decorated with different coloured lights designed by local children. (CC BY-SA 2.0)