Hello there, I hope you’re all well and have been staying safe. It seems 2020 has been the year for reflections and as I mark the fourth anniversary since I started the London Wlogger, I thought I’d take a look back at all 37 walks of London that I’ve enjoyed doing.
Since 2016, I’ve explored a whole range of areas in London whether that’s North to South, East to West via Central, there aren’t too many places I haven’t yet discovered – and there will still be plenty more in the future! These walks have opened my eyes up to places that I’d not normally walk to unless I was blogging. It has also given me a great opportunity to see the capital’s parks, riverside strolls, bridges, hidden gems, historical landmarks, new architecture and natural wonders, while finding out new fascinating facts about the areas I pass.
On my walks I’ve also taken a vast number of photos, so I’m dipping into my archives and taking a trip down memory lane to look back at some of my highlights from the past four years – starting with the brilliant and beautiful bridges I’ve been able to walk over and visit!
There are 35 bridges that cross over the River Thames in London, and apart from Grosvenor Railway Bridge, I’ve featured them all on my blog. So from East to West in part one of my guide to London’s bridges, here are the first 13 – from Tower Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge!
Back in 2018, my walk began at Tower Bridge and ended at Stave Hill. It’s probably not surprising that Tower Bridge is the most well-known of London’s bridges, with tourists flocking to it every year. Opened in 1894, it was designed by Horace Jones, the City’s Architect, in collaboration with John Wolfe Barry. One of my favourite facts about the bridge is that it was originally painted brown, until it was repainted red, white and blue in 1977 to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
My walks have also given me the opportunity to see Tower Bridge from a couple of different angles. For example, on my walk from the bridge to Stave Hill, I saw it from the Rotherhithe riverside too, and I have to say this is still one of my favourite photos as it featured so many iconic landmarks of the London skyline.
Also when I walked from The Tower of London to the Limehouse Basin in 2019, I saw it from yet another perspective. This for me perfectly illustrated the combination of old and new that London demonstrates so wonderfully.
The best photo of Tower Bridge I’ve taken actually came before I started my blog, when walking to work in 2015 on a cold, crisp December morning!
I can’t help but love Tower Bridge, it just oozes Royalty like Buckingham Palace and has that iconic nature about it, as it has become so synonymous with London, like Big Ben, as it towers over the capital.
When my walk in 2016 began at The Shard and concluded at Monument, I needed to cross over London Bridge to get to my final destination. There have been four renovations to London Bridge throughout the years with the first coming when it opened in AD 50 and the most recent coming in 1973. In that time the bridge has been made from wood and stone, and is currently made of concrete and steel. Until Putney Bridge opened in 1729, London Bridge was the only road-crossing of the Thames downstream of Kingston upon Thames.
I think London Bridge has become far more recognisable in recent years with the opening of The Shard and the Walkie Talkie as you can peer down on it from above. But you do get a great view of Tower Bridge from it also.
Cannon Street Railway Bridge
When I was on London Bridge it wasn’t only Tower Bridge that I could see, but also Cannon Street Railway Bridge. Before the station was there, the site was where the Hanseatic merchants’ steelyard had been based from the 10th century until 1598. In 1860, the South Eastern Railway decided to extend its line and create a terminus in the city. The station and bridge opened in 1866, while the bridge was open to pedestrians between 1872 and 1877.
In my original walk I didn’t really feature Cannon Street Railway Bridge, as it only got a fleeting mention, however, I love the fact it has platforms on it – adds to its character!
The next bridge along the Thames is Southwark Bridge, which I saw on my walk from Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge back in 2018. It was originally built in 1819 by Sir William Arrol & Co, with the design by Ernest George and Basil Mott. Known as Queen Street Bridge, it was redesigned by John Rennie and reopened in 1921 with the new name Southwark Bridge given to it.
For me the most striking aspect of the bridge is the colour more than the design, the golden-yellow fencing at the top of it jumps out of me, as does the prominent green. The lamps across the bridge resembles some kind of pitchfork, which I’ve only really just noticed as it’s easy to miss given that your attention is either drawn to the colour or the towering buildings behind it.
That same walk from Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge saw me pass the Millennium Bridge, which is one of the newest bridges in London. Opened in 2000, it was designed by Arup (engineers), Foster and Partners (architects) and Sir Anthony Caro (sculptor). It was in fact the first bridge built over the Thames for a 100 years.
The greatest aspect of the bridge is that it had two openings! First in 2000 and then again in 2002. On its opening day the bridge had 80,000 people walk across it and 2,000 on it at any one time. However, on the southern and central part of the bridge people felt it swaying and as a result the bridge was closed and given the nickname the ‘Wobbly Bridge’. The bridge lasted only one day and it wasn’t until February 2002 that it reopened to the public!
I think even if you’re new to London and someone asked you, which bridge is one of the most modern? – I think many would guess the Millennium Bridge correctly. The suspension bridge design and the fact it looks quite minimalist, is something associated with new designs. Gone are the days it seems of stone or concrete being used, as appearance seems to be the number one priority nowadays when it comes to new structures.
Blackfriars Railway Bridge
Blackfriars doesn’t have just the one bridge, but two – both of which I discovered on my walk from Covent Garden to Southwark. The first of these bridges is Blackfriars Railway Bridge, although there are two structures located there. The first of these opened in 1864 and was designed by Joseph Cubitt, although today only the abutments of the bridge remain as since the formation of Southern Railway in 1924, services were transferred to Waterloo, which resulted in the bridge’s decline – and removal in 1985.
The second Blackfriars Railway Bridge structure and the one that’s in use today, opened in 1886 and was designed by John Wolfe-Barry and Henry Marc Brunel. The bridge was originally called St Paul’s Railway Bridge before being renamed Blackfriars Railway Bridge in 1937 as a result of the station changing its name to Blackfriars.
The most distinct feature of Blackfriars Railway Bridge is the 4,400 roof-mounted solar panels, which makes up 50% of the power for the station. I really do like the impact that the solar panels have on the station and bridge, gives it an amazing futuristic feel and ensures you certainly can’t miss this bridge!
Right beside the railway bridge is Blackfriars Bridge, which first opened in 1769, before the current bridge we see today opened in 1869 – and was designed once again by Joseph Cubitt. In 1972 the bridge was granted Grade II listed status to help preserve it. The pattern on the bridge is visually stunning and although the design and shape is simplistic, this only adds to its beauty.
All three bridges together looking splendid!
One of the my earliest walks in 2016 was Waterloo Station to The London Eye, which saw me stroll past Waterloo Bridge. Until the beginning of the 19th century, Blackfriars was the only bridge between Westminster and London Bridge. John Rennie was the engineering mastermind behind the first stone bridge which was laid out in 1811.
Originally called the Strand bridge, it was renamed Waterloo Bridge as a lasting legacy of the victory achieved in the Battle of Waterloo and opened in 1817. However, as the years went on the bridge gradually started to deteriorate and was demolished in the 1930s, before a newer bridge – and the one we see today – officially opened in 1942, but wasn’t fully completed until 1945.
Although Waterloo Bridge is in a prime tourist location, I do feel like it doesn’t deserve to be there. The design is pretty bland and let’s be honest, it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing bridge to look at! But its name and history behind it puts it up there as one of the most famous bridges in the capital.
Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges
On the same walk from Waterloo Station to The London Eye, you don’t have far to go before you meet two more bridges, which are located in the same location – The Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges. Designed by Sir Isambard K. Brunel, the first Hungerford Bridge opened in 1845 and was named after the then Hungerford Market.
In 1859, the Charing Cross Railway Act authorised the construction of a railway to cross the Thames near Charing Cross Station and the suspension bridge was removed. A new railway bridge was completed in 1864 with a walkway either side.
However, the footbridge next to the Hungerford Bridge gained a reputation of being narrow, dilapidated and dangerous, so in the mid-1990s a decision was made to replace the footbridge with a new structure. To help with the design a competition was held in 1996, with Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands and engineers WSP Group winning it! The structures were completed in 2002 and named Golden Jubilee to honour the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne.
I think we might sometimes forget that there’s a railway in-between the Golden Jubilee Bridges as it’s quite hidden away. Like with the Millennium Bridge, its design is very modern and shows how far bridge architecture has come down the years as the suspension appearance becomes more prominent.
Perhaps one of the most famous bridges in London – along with Tower Bridge – is that of Westminster Bridge, which I discovered in 2018 on my touristy walk from Westminster Abbey to Vauxhall Bridge. The first Westminster Bridge was completed in 1750 and engineered by Charles Labelye to help relieve the capital’s congestion.
By the middle of the 19th century the bridge began to subside and was redesigned by Thomas Page and replaced in 1862 with the bridge we see today. Since the removal of Rennie’s New London Bridge in 1967, it’s the oldest road structure bridge which crosses the Thames in Central London.
What makes Westminster Bridge so special and attractive to tourists is the fact it’s right beside Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament, with a view of The London Eye on the other side. You’d say it’s every tourists dream location for a picture! Its colour and elegant design stand out for me – something so smooth and soothing about it.
That same walk from Westminster Abbey to Vauxhall Bridge saw me visit the next bridge down the Thames – Lambeth Bridge. Designed by Peter W. Barlow, the first bridge opened in 1862 on the site of a horse ferry between the Palace of Westminster and Lambeth Palace on the Southbank.
Opened in 1932, it was designed by engineer Sir George Humphreys and architects Sir Reginald Blomfield and G. Topham Forrest and built by Dorman Long & Co. One interesting fact is that constructors – Dorman Long & Co – also built the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle; the Chien Tang River Bridge in Hangzhou, China; the 3km long Storstrøm Bridge in Denmark; and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia!
Lambeth Bridge is painted red to match the seats in the House of Lords, the part of the Palace of Westminster closest to the bridge. The crests on the sides of the bridge honour the London County Council who were responsible for its construction.
I feel as if Lambeth Bridge is kind of forgotten and is the understudy to Westminster Bridge, a warm up act you may say. The focus is always on the tourist icon, but we don’t appreciate what a marvellous pattern and colouring Lambeth Bridge has.
The final destination from Westminster Abbey was Vauxhall Bridge, which replaced an older bridge called Regent Bridge (Old Vauxhall Bridge) that was built in 1816. The bridge we see today opened in 1906 and was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie & Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice. A fascinating fact is that it was the first of London’s bridges to carry trams! The bridge’s piers are decorated with 8 vast bronze statues, designed by Alfred Drury and Frederick Pomeroy. The statue titles include, Agriculture, Architecture, Education, Engineering, Pottery, Science, Fine Arts and Local Government.
The bold red colouring is something I love about this bridge when I first saw it – and the golden yellow complements it nicely. Sometimes you wonder whether people forget that there’s so much to see beyond Westminster Bridge and unless you live or work in the area, you might not explore Lambeth or Vauxhall Bridges.
Well folks that’s the first part of my guide to the bridges of London complete, I hope you’ve enjoyed reminiscing with me! I’d love to hear what your favourite bridge in London is – please let me know in the comments section!
In the next edition, I’ll be looking back at more of the bridges I’ve discovered as we meander our way round the Thames and head South-West!
Thanks for reading and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! And you can also read my very special walk of San Francisco too!
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