On This Day…1973


On This Day... 16 March 1973

On this day in 1973 Queen Elizabeth II oficially opened the current incarnation of London Bridge.

The current London Bridge was constructed by contractors John Mowlem from 1967 to 1972 and officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 16 March 1973. It was built in conjunction with the careful dismantling of the previous bridge, so that a river crossing was maintained in use at the site at all times.

There have been a number of different London Bridges over the past 2000 years. In 46AD, the Romans built the first bridge across the Thames River; it was a simple wooden construction which was burnt down in 1014. The replacement bridge was destroyed by a storm in 1091, and the next bridge after that was destroyed again by fire in 1136.

Forty years later, a new stone bridge was constructed by Peter of Colechurch between 1176 and 1209. This bridge contained an intricate complex of houses, shops and a chapel, had 19 small arches and a drawbridge with a gatehouse at each end. It was so heavily populated that it was made a ward of the City with its own alderman. Due to the heavy population of the bridge, it suffered damage from many fires over the years, deaths from fire and deaths from drowning as the many arches produced vigorous rapids underneath. The houses were not removed from the bridge until the mid 1700s.

By the early 1800s, traffic congestion and the dangers posed by the bridge prompted the necessity for a new bridge. Engineer John Rennie started construction in 1825 and finished the bridge in 1831. The design was superior, containing only five high arches, and constructed from strong Dartmoor granite. It was opened by King William IV in 1831. However, a necessary widening process some 70 years later weakened the bridge’s foundations to the point where it began sinking at a rate of about an inch every eight years. In 1968, it was auctioned and sold for $2,460,000 to Robert McCulloch who moved it to Havasu City, Arizona, where it was rebuilt brick by brick, and finally opened and dedicated in October 1971.

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