Ice damage destroyed a portion of the bridge in 1281, and it was weakened by repeated fires in the 1600s, notably the Great Fire of London in 1666. Despite all of its structural flaws, London Bridge lasted 600 years and never "came down," as the nursery rhyme suggests.
The London Bridge is the oldest surviving wooden bridge in Europe. It is estimated to have taken 100 men a year to build it. The first stone bridge was built only five years later, but it is now believed that this second bridge may have been designed by the same man as the first: John Rennie.
The idea of building a bridge across the River Thames dates back at least to Roman times when there were bridges over most of the major rivers. But it was not until the 17th century that the first modern bridges started to be built.
The first London Bridge was a wooden structure that was built in 1538 by order of King Henry VIII to help control traffic in the capital city. It was about 300 feet long and had 25 arches. The new bridge was an enormous success and within a few years there were reports of overcrowding. In 1566, the second London Bridge was opened to ease the pressure on the original bridge. This one was also made of wood and had 29 arches. It was about 500 feet long and became known as "the little bridge" because it was smaller than the original bridge.
Apart from that, it withstood one fire in 1633 and the Great Fire of London in 1666. In the late 1820s, it was ultimately dismantled and replaced by a modern bridge. That bridge was demolished in the early 1970s and sold to an American who, according to legend, thought he was purchasing Tower Bridge. He later disassembled it piece by piece and sent the parts to all 48 states plus Canada and Europe.
The rumor is not true but it does show how many people know about the Tower Bridge story. Today's visitors can see photos and drawings of the two bridges on display in the Museum of London.
The original bridge was built between 1849 and 1883. It was an iron bridge with four large central pillars supporting the road deck. The Tower Bridge as we know it today was built in the following years. It features three large central piers instead of four, and has two narrower side towers rather than one larger one. The main difference between the old and new bridges is that the old one had its roadway raised up above the level of the river while the new one has its roadway set deep into the waterway.
Tower Bridge was a revolutionary design at the time it was built. No other bridge of its age had three central supports, and it remained the largest central-support bridge for nearly 100 more years when it was replaced by the London Eye. The oldest surviving section of the original bridge is the central tower, which is over 150 years old.
The homes on the northern end of the bridge were destroyed by fire in 1633. Because the gap was only partially filled by new dwellings, there was a firebreak that kept the Great Fire of London (1666) from spreading to the remainder of the bridge and Southwark. The southern section remained intact because it was used as a site for public executions.
After the fire, the area was not rebuilt. The gap was finally filled in by 1672.
There are many theories about why the houses were removed. Some say they were made obsolete by the coming of the railway and the motor car, but this is not true. The need for the firebreak showed that the loss of the houses did not harm the integrity of the bridge.
Another theory is that the houses were demolished to make way for an expansion of the Thames Tunnel. However, this theory is also false. The tunnel project was cancelled in 1845 after only half its length had been dug.
Yet another theory is that the houses were removed to make room for a market. But there were markets held on Blackheath Hill near where the houses used to stand, so this theory is also incorrect.
Finally, some people think the houses were taken down because they were old and rotten, but again, this is not true.
The London Tornado of London Bridge has a long history of "coming down"; on this occasion, William the Conqueror's wooden bridge was one of the victims of the London Tornado of October 17th, 1091. The tornado ripped through the city's centre, causing extensive damage. It began near Charing Cross and ended near Southwark Cathedral. The storm blew away parts of the bridge, which was then repaired under Bishop Odo of Bayeux's direction.
The original London Bridge was made from timber and had been damaged by fire in 993. This disaster forced the construction of a new bridge. The present-day version of the bridge is based on the design of Bishop Odo's bridge but uses metal for its main structure instead of wood. The first section of the new bridge was opened in 1088. It was a great success and led to more bridges being built using this material technology advancement. The last part of the old wooden bridge was taken down in 1831.
The destruction of the old bridge caused great hardship for many people since there were no alternatives for transportation at the time. A new road bridge was planned as part of Peterborough City Centre development. Its construction started in 2009 and was completed in 2013. The new bridge is made of steel and has three central arches. It replaces the old bridge that collapsed in 1917.
The current London Bridge is a much newer structure, built in the 1960s. The dismantled bridge in 1831 was sold, and it was relocated and reassembled stone by stone in Lake Havasu, Arizona. London Bridge "came down" countless times throughout the years, only to be rebuilt stronger each time. The last complete section was put up in 1969.
Have you ever heard the expression "as dead as a doornail"? That's how people described the London Bridge after it fell into the River Thames on February 15, 1831. At the time, doorknobs were made of brass, so they survived the crash intact. The bridge was demolished until its new owner, Thomas Webster, decided to move it to America. He hired an engineer to design a special carriage for the job. The carriage was made of wood, had iron bands to hold the bridge together while it was being moved, and had a roof so the cargo could be unloaded without damaging the goods.
The original shipment left England on April 23, 1831. By May 1, they had reached Buffalo, New York, where they stopped for several months while repairs were done on the roadbed. In September, the bridge arrived in Chicago, where it stayed for three years while other parts of the country were settled. After the town grew enough, the bridge was transported back to London where it was re-erected in its original location.
It is estimated that at least 3,000 people died. As if it wasn't enough, portions of the bridge fell on 1281, 1309, 1425, and 1437. The collapse in 1281 was caused by growing ice from the frozen Thames, which physically destroyed five of the arches. This is because they were made of wood, which grows trees about twice as fast as it can be harvested. Thus, the growing bridge threatened the stability of the remaining structures.
The one in 1309 was due to damage caused by a fire that broke out under the central section of the bridge. This fire burned for several days, causing much of the central portion of the bridge to collapse. The one in 1425 was probably due to damage caused by an explosion. This explosion may have been caused by ammunition being loaded incorrectly into gunpowder kegs that were used as fuel for the fireworks that were set off during celebrations on May 13th and June 16th of that year.
The one in 1437 was probably also due to damage caused by an explosion. This time it was probably caused by coal or oil being put into damaged barrels of gunpowder instead of stone or timber, which would have prevented the explosion.
All in all, the London Bridge collapsed due to damage caused by fires, explosions, and natural disasters. These events destroyed parts of the bridge, causing it to become unstable.