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. It was finally demolished in 1831.
In addition to ice and fire, modern engineering has also been responsible for weakening bridges over time. The main cause of failure for most bridges is damage to their joints—the connections between their components (girder beams, walls, and so on). As these areas are subjected to heavy traffic loads, they can become loose or even broken altogether. Less common causes include corrosion (which can lead to metal fatigue), deterioration due to environmental factors such as heat or moisture, and error during construction.
When joint damage is severe, it can allow girders to bend out of shape, causing other parts of the structure to fail as well. For this reason, regular maintenance is essential to ensure that bridges remain stable and able to carry traffic. Some repairs may be possible without shutting down traffic, but often the best option is to replace certain components. For example, when an entire section of girder is found to be missing, it can be replaced with a new piece cut to match the original dimensions.
Over time, heavy use of bridges can also cause surface damage.
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 disappearance of the original tower bridge. It has been said that the man who owned the bridge tried to sell it piece by piece but no one would buy them. So he decided to dismantle it.
Another story says that the man who owned the bridge took apart because he wanted to go to the Olympics in Athens. But either way, it's not known for sure why he took it apart.
The last part of the bridge to be dismantled was the northern section near Westminster. This was done in two stages in 1972 and 1973. The main body of the old bridge was sunk into the River Thames near where it meets up with the River Ouse, while the head of the bridge remains at its former location.
You may have seen photos or film clips of the old tower bridge being destroyed by fire. That was actually three separate fires over several days in 1933.
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 end remained intact because it was used as a site for public executions.
After the execution ground closed in 1772, the road leading up to it became known as Tyburn Road. The southern end of the bridge is now defined by London Bridge Street which runs along the base of the remaining arches. These days, tourists can visit the remains of the houses on the eastern side of the bridge.
The street names indicate how the area developed after the fire: "Copperas Walk" refers to copper mining near Ratcliff Cross; "Mortlake Market" comes from a market held here until 1825 when the bridge was replaced; and "Cheapside" is an old name for North Woolwich.
There are several theories about what happened to the people living in the burned-out houses. Some historians think they may have moved down into cheaper accommodation in Southwark while others believe many of them might have gone back to Poland or Russia where their families came from.
The buildings were not replaced because they were expensive to repair and replace.