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Underneath the Arches – The Bridges of London


In a previous post I wrote about the forthcoming exhibition called Bridge at the  The Museum of Docklands. To give some insight into the exhibition, the museum organised a trip on the river by Thames Clipper to have a closer look at some of London Bridges.


With renown architectural historian Dan Cruikshank as our guide, we departed London Bridge Pier and were made aware that it was once London Bridge that dominated the Thames for over 1700 years.

It was in the 18th and 19th century that a series of bridges were built  over the Thames that  meant that London Bridge lost its unique position in London and when the medieval bridge was finally pulled down  in 1830  to be replaced by an elegant but not iconic stone bridge, it lost  most of its historical significance.


The bridges opened up the city to encourage development of the South of the River and enable freedom of people to move  between the North and South especially when tolls were done away with.

When your on the river and get past Tower Bridge heading west, you quickly realise how many bridges there are, ranging from  pedestrian, railway  and multi purpose bridges.


A few surprising facts are given by Dan Cruikshank  such as the solid-looking London Bridge is actually  hollow inside, in fact in the exhibition is a photograph by Lucinda Grange  which illustrates this.

Luncinda Grange - Inside London Bridge

Inside London Bridge (copyright Lucinda Grange)

A couple of rather unusual facts was that Waterloo Bridge is known as the ‘Ladies Bridge’ because it was said it was mostly built using the labour  of women in the Second World War , it also has a more melancholy reputation due to the high number of people who have committed suicide throwing themselves from it.


The exhibition will have a large number of exhibits that will show existing and demolished bridges in paintings, prints and photographs, however it will also look at the way artists and writers have used bridges in their work.

It is perhaps with some irony that the Bridge Exhibition will take place in a warehouse in the West India Dock area because it was the shipping trade that curtailed any suggestion of bridges east of Tower Bridge.

The only major crossings attempted in this area were the tunnels at Wapping, Rotherhithe and Blackwall.

For those who cannot make the exhibition, I will be writing a review next week.

The Bridge Exhibition will run from 27th June – 2nd November at the Museum of Docklands

For more information visit the Museum website here

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