Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I caught up on some of my favorite British TV series. Tina reviewed the classic novel, The Secret Garden. Jean is reading along with the Lord of the Rings series. Becky reviewed The Queen’s Handbag, a children’s book that will appeal to Anglophile adults, and a nonfiction book in graphic novel format about the Beatles.
I first learned about the attack at the London Bridge and Borough Market in an odd way. One of my Facebook friends was complaining that US reporters don’t know the difference between Tower Bridge and London Bridge.
I think that’s common for Americans — I remember confusing those bridges before I got serious about planning a trip to London. So, for any reporters that read my blog and other Americans, Tower Bridge is the fanciest bridge across the Thames in London and was opened in 1894. I remember its name and location by reminding myself that Tower Bridge is near the Tower of London.
The modern London Bridge, opened in 1973, is a much more conventional-looking bridge built of concrete and steel.
According to Wikipedia’s article on the London Bridge, the first bridge to cross the Thames in what is now London was built by the Romans. Medieval history is murky, but there were likely times when there was no bridge and other times when it was rebuilt.
William the Conqueror rebuilt the bridge and we have better documented history from that time forward. There were a series of timber bridges, one destroyed by tornado and another by fire.
It took 33 years to build the “old” London Bridge of stone that opened in 1209. A chapel dedicated to the martyred Thomas Becket was built at the center of the bridge (and became the traditional starting point for pilgrimages to Canterbury, made famous by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales). The bridge was lined with shops and houses.
The “new” London Bridge was built in the early 1800s because, really, 600 years is about as long as you can expect any bridge to last. Also, contemporary river travel needed wider arches to function. By the early 20th century, though, that bridge was sinking in an uneven way. I wonder if Londoners looked at their 100-year-old bridge and said, “well, they just don’t build them like they used to!”
That bridge lasted a few more decades before it was bought by an oil magnate and moved to Arizona. The current bridge replaced that one. I am touched by this story about how Arizona residents around Lake Havasu are paying tribute to London at their bridge: US City’s Citizens Honor Victims at Their Own London Bridge.
London Bridge has fallen down several times in history for a variety of reasons. Tower Bridge has a much shorter history that doesn’t include catastrophic failure.
Sending my love to London in this post today.