Old London Bridge

Completed in 1209, finally demolished in 1832, this famous construction was for more than five hundred years—until the opening of a new bridge at Westminster in 1750—London’s only thoroughfare across the Thames. By R.B. Oram.

Soon after early Celtic settlement was made in London, at the point where the Wallbrook joined the Thames, the first primitive bridge was built across the River. It is known that Aulus Plautus in A.D. 43 crossed a rude bridge in pursuit of the retreating Britons, and Roman coins up to the time of the last Western Emperor have been dredged from the river bed in a line a little way down river from the present bridge.

Early structures were eventually replaced by the famous stone bridge, completed in 1209, and not finally demolished until 1832, a year after the present London Bridge was opened to the public. For six turbulent centuries the old bridge carried the traffic from the southern counties and from the channel ports into an expanding metropolis.

The flow of the Thames, even up to the Middle Ages, was not embanked and completely controlled, as it is today, but merely partially held by rough earthen walls. Regular flooding took place, particularly in areas south of the river, and the uncharted stream meandered through the Essex and Kent marshes, in marked contrast to the present well-buoyed channel.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email digital@historytoday.com if you have any problems.