The home of the London Bridge is the Thames River, and a bridge has existed on the spot for at least the last 2000 years. The first bridge on record was constructed by the Romans, and since then many bridges have risen at the hands of various empires. London Bridge today remains on of the most popular tourist attractions in Britain as well as an icon for the city of London.
London Bridge history records the building of a wooden bridge by the Romans about 2000 years ago. Historians suspect that the location was chosen for its relatively convenient access to the deeper ocean waters, as well as the excellent land conditions available for bridge building. The home of the London Bridge as it appeared in Roman times was in virtually the same spot as the home of the London Bridge today, suspended over the Thames River.
The Romans were not the only people in London Bridge history to construct a wooden bridge. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Saxons were known to have built at least one, if not many (due to destruction by fire and other calamities) timber bridges. The first stone structure in London Bridge history was built in the twelfth century and took 33 years to complete.
King John was in power when the bridge was finally completed, and it was King John who had the idea to build houses on the bridge itself. The history of the London Bridge goes on to reflect that scores of houses and shops quickly built up on the bridge. The number of people residing on the bridge eventually became so high that the bridge became its own district in London.
Each side of the now stone bridge also had a stone gatehouse. The South gatehouse was the site of a more gruesome period in the history of the London Bridge. A tradition of displaying the severed heads of traitors, impaled on tall spikes, was begun sometime in the sixteenth century. Heads were dipped in tar to provide protection from the elements, and at some point a collection of at least 30 heads was collected at the South gatehouse. Everyone from William Wallace of Scotland to Thomas Cromwell was displayed in the gatehouse, until the practice stopped in 1660 when King Charles II took power.
Eventually, the houses on the bridge created a congestion that resulted in serious safety hazards. The houses and shops were no longer inhabited, and in the early eighteenth century a system of traffic was developed to maintain order on the busy structure. The mayor of London asked that bridge passengers travel in particular directions, creating the system of traffic that still remains in place in London today. The history of the London Bridge structure in place today began in 1967 and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on March 17, 1973. The modern bridge has sleek lines and is adorned with red lights.
Guests traveling to London may choose to make a stay at the London Bridge Hotel, or possibly visit the bridge Monument to the Great Fire of London or the Monument tube station. No matter how you choose to spend your time viewing the London Bridge, the contrast of a modern thoroughfare to the ancient bridges that it has replaced creates an intriguing tourist experience.