Crossing The Thames: London Bridges that might have been
'London is rich in historic buildings and monuments, but behind most familiar landmarks lurk the ghosts of abandoned designs and rejected projects.' In this extract from their book London as it might have been, Felix Barker and Ralph Hyde consider bridges which were planned for the Thames.
Most London bridges clearly assert that they are practical feats of engineering, not works of art. Except for the girder-Gothic splendour of Tower Bridge, any hint of monumental grandeur is generally repressed. Beauty is invariably sacrificed to utility. All of which is strange, because over the last 200 years there has been no lack of ingenious and elaborate proposals.
Old London Bridge, that prodigious flowering of the medieval imagination, was a wonder of the world but unfortunately did not set a precedent. Until the middle of the eighteenth century it was the only bridge that London possessed, and to this day there are only six vehicle and pedestrian bridges between the Pool and Westminster. This compares with a bridge every 580 yards across the Seine in Paris, a difference that outraged a Victorian City Councilman who pointed out that instead of a miserly six bridges London, in proportion to its population, deserved at least forty-four.