Old London Bridge, 1207-1832

Old London Bridge was the first, and until 1750, the only bridge to cross the River Thames in London, England. There had been wooden bridges there since Roman times, but being very vulnerable to fire and to attack it was decided that a stone bridge should be built.

Building of the stone bridge began in 1176 and took 30 years to complete. The bridge was an amazing structure, 926 feet wide, spanning the river in 20 arches, one of which included a drawbridge which could be raised to allow tall ships through. The piers supporting the arches were 20 feet across, resulting in a significant reduction of the actual width where the water could flow, causing the river to really race through when the tide was flowing. At each end of the bridge Gate Houses protected the population from attack from the north or south.

The bridge was quite a good place to set up home in those days, with a constant supply of running water at hand and no problems with the latrines (hopefully any 'solid matter' fell directly into the river and not on any hapless passer-by). Thousands of people lived on the bridge and by 1358 there were as many as 138 large houses and shops, some of them 7 storeys high, and also a chapel dedicated to St. Thomas Becket - this resulted in the throughway being reduced to a mere 12 feet in width.

Over the centuries the population was ravaged by many fires and episodes of the plague. At one point in 1282, ice caused the collapse of 5 of the arches. Despite this, everything was always quickly rebuilt and people continued to live here until the houses were removed in 1762 to widen the road to 46 feet. At this time the two central arches were made into one large span by removing the central pier. This was the bridge's undoing, for water erosion then undermined the rest of the structure and it became impossible to maintain. A New London Bridge was ordered a few yards upstream.

New London Bridge, 1831 - 1971; 1971 -

The new bridge was designed by John Rennie and comprised 5 arches with a span of 150 feet in the middle, 140 feet next to that, and 130 feet on the outer arches. John Rennie died before work was begun, so the bridge was built by his 2 sons, and took 7 years to complete. A year after opening the new bridge, the old one was demolished.

The length of service of the New London Bridge was to be nothing like that of the old one. Less that 140 years after completion it could no longer cope with the huge increase in traffic across it and started to crumble. Maintenance became an impossible task and the bridge was put up for sale. The winning bid was made by Robert McCulloch, Founder of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and London Bridge was sold for $2,460,000.

Slowly and painstakingly each stone was carefully numbered and removed, shipped to California and then taken by truck to Arizona. Reconstruction began on September 23, 1968, with a ceremony where the Lord Mayor of London laid the first cornerstone. On October 10, 1971, the bridge was dedicated and now stands as a tourist attraction on Lake Havasu on the Colorado River.

Modern London Bridge, 1972 -

In 1968 contruction began on a new bridge using beams of prestressed concrete spread out from two piers. The bridge uses the cantilever method to hold the beams in place, and was a very innovative design when it was first built.

Encyclopoedia Britannica

London Bridge
Edwin Arlington Robinson

"Do I hear them? Yes, I hear the children singing -- and what of it?
Have you come with eyes afire to find me now and ask me that?
If I were not their father and if you were not their mother,
We might believe they made a noise. . . . What are you -- driving at!"

"Well, be glad that you can hear them, and be glad they are so near us, --
For I have heard the stars of heaven, and they were nearer still.
All within an hour it is that I have heard them calling,
And though I pray for them to cease, I know they never will;
For their music on my heart, though you may freeze it, will fall always,
Like summer snow that never melts upon a mountain-top.
Do you hear them? Do you hear them overhead -- the children -- singing?
Do you hear the children singing? . . . God, will you make them stop!"

"And what now in his holy name have you to do with mountains?
We're back to town again, my dear, and we've a dance tonight.
Frozen hearts and falling music? Snow and stars, and -- what the devil!
Say it over to me slowly, and be sure you have it right."

"God knows if I be right or wrong in saying what I tell you,
Or if I know the meaning any more of what I say.
All I know is, it will kill me if I try to keep it hidden --
Well, I met him. . . . Yes, I met him, and I talked with him -- today."

"You met him? Did you meet the ghost of someone you had poisoned,
Long ago, before I knew you for the woman that you are?
Take a chair; and don't begin your stories always in the middle.
Was he man, or was he demon? Anyhow, you've gone too far
To go back, and I'm your servant. I'm the lord, but you're the master.
Now go on with what you know, for I'm excited."

                                                 "Do you mean --
Do you mean to make me try to think that you know less than I do?"

"I know that you foreshadow the beginning of a scene.
Pray be careful, and as accurate as if the doors of heaven
Were to swing or to stay bolted from now on for evermore."

"Do you conceive, with all your smooth contempt of every feeling,
Of hiding what you know and what you must have known before?
Is it worth a woman's torture to stand here and have you smiling,
With only your poor fetish of possession on your side?
No thing but one is wholly sure, and that's not one to scare me;
When I meet it I may say to God at last that I have tried.
And yet, for all I know, or all I dare believe, my trials
Henceforward will be more for you to bear than are your own;
And you must give me keys of yours to rooms I have not entered.
Do you see me on your threshold all my life, and there alone?
Will you tell me where you see me in your fancy -- when it leads you
Far enough beyond the moment for a glance at the abyss?"

"Will you tell me what intrinsic and amazing sort of nonsense
You are crowding on the patience of the man who gives you -- this?
Look around you and be sorry you're not living in an attic,
With a civet and a fish-net, and with you to pay the rent.
I say words that you can spell without the use of all your letters;
And I grant, if you insist, that I've a guess at what you meant."

"Have I told you, then, for nothing, that I met him? Are you trying
To be merry while you try to make me hate you?"

                                                 "Think again,
My dear, before you tell me, in a language unbecoming
To a lady, what you plan to tell me next. If I complain,
If I seem an atom peevish at the preference you mention --
Or imply, to be precise -- you may believe, or you may not,
That I'm a trifle more aware of what he wants than you are.
But I shouldn't throw that at you. Make believe that I forgot.
Make believe that he's a genius, if you like, -- but in the meantime
Don't go back to rocking-horses. There, there, there, now."

                                                              "Make believe!
When you see me standing helpless on a plank above a whirlpool,
Do I drown, or do I hear you when you say it? Make believe?
How much more am I to say or do for you before I tell you
That I met him! What's to follow now may be for you to choose.
Do you hear me? Won't you listen? It's an easy thing to listen. . . ."

"And it's easy to be crazy when there's everything to lose."

"If at last you have a notion that I mean what I am saying,
Do I seem to tell you nothing when I tell you I shall try?
If you save me, and I lose him -- I don't know -- it won't much matter.
I dare say that I've lied enough, but now I do not lie."

"Do you fancy me the one man who has waited and said nothing
While a wife has dragged an old infatuation from a tomb?
Give the thing a little air and it will vanish into ashes.
There you are -- piff! presto!"

                                 "When I came into this room,
It seemed as if I saw the place, and you there at your table,
As you are now at this moment, for the last time in my life;
And I told myself before I came to find you, `I shall tell him,
If I can, what I have learned of him since I became his wife.'
And if you say, as I've no doubt you will before I finish,
That you have tried unceasingly, with all your might and main,
To teach me, knowing more than I of what it was I needed,
Don't think, with all you may have thought, that you have tried in vain;
For you have taught me more than hides in all the shelves of knowledge
Of how little you found that's in me and was in me all along.
I believed, if I intruded nothing on you that I cared for,
I'd be half as much as horses, -- and it seems that I was wrong;
I believed there was enough of earth in me, with all my nonsense
Over things that made you sleepy, to keep something still awake;
But you taught me soon to read my book, and God knows I have read it --
Ages longer than an angel would have read it for your sake.
I have said that you must open other doors than I have entered,
But I wondered while I said it if I might not be obscure.
Is there anything in all your pedigrees and inventories
With a value more elusive than a dollar's? Are you sure
That if I starve another year for you I shall be stronger
To endure another like it -- and another -- till I'm dead?"

"Has your tame cat sold a picture? -- or more likely had a windfall?
Or for God's sake, what's broke loose? Have you a bee-hive in your head?
A little more of this from you will not be easy hearing.
Do you know that? Understand it, if you do; for if you won't. . . .
What the devil are you saying! Make believe you never said it,
And I'll say I never heard it. . . . Oh, you. . . . If you. . . ."

                                                                 "If I don't?"

"There are men who say there's reason hidden somewhere in a woman,
But I doubt if God himself remembers where the key was hung."

"He may not; for they say that even God himself is growing.
I wonder if he makes believe that he is growing young;
I wonder if he makes believe that women who are giving
All they have in holy loathing to a stranger all their lives
Are the wise ones who build houses in the Bible. . . ."

                                                         "Stop -- you devil!"

". . . Or that souls are any whiter when their bodies are called wives.
If a dollar's worth of gold will hoop the walls of hell together,
Why need heaven be such a ruin of a place that never was?
And if at last I lied my starving soul away to nothing,
Are you sure you might not miss it? Have you come to such a pass
That you would have me longer in your arms if you discovered
That I made you into someone else. . . . Oh! . . . Well, there are
  worse ways.
But why aim it at my feet -- unless you fear you may be sorry. . . .
There are many days ahead of you."

                                    "I do not see those days."

"I can see them. Granted even I am wrong, there are the children.
And are they to praise their father for his insight if we die?
Do you hear them? Do you hear them overhead -- the children -- singing?
Do you hear them? Do you hear the children?"

                                               "Damn the children!"

What have THEY done? . . . Well, then, -- do it. . . . Do it now,
  and have it over."

"Oh, you devil! . . . Oh, you. . . ."

                                        "No, I'm not a devil, I'm a prophet --
One who sees the end already of so much that one end more
Would have now the small importance of one other small illusion,
Which in turn would have a welcome where the rest have gone before.
But if I were you, my fancy would look on a little farther
For the glimpse of a release that may be somewhere still in sight.
Furthermore, you must remember those two hundred invitations
For the dancing after dinner. We shall have to shine tonight.
We shall dance, and be as happy as a pair of merry spectres,
On the grave of all the lies that we shall never have to tell;
We shall dance among the ruins of the tomb of our endurance,
And I have not a doubt that we shall do it very well.
There! -- I'm glad you've put it back; for I don't like it.
  Shut the drawer now.
No -- no -- don't cancel anything. I'll dance until I drop.
I can't walk yet, but I'm going to. . . . Go away somewhere,
  and leave me. . . .
Oh, you children! Oh, you children! . . . God, will they never stop!"

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