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Walking Tours

Page history last edited by Michael Feldman 10 years, 11 months ago

 

Is this the last audio London Walk? If so, I have saved one of the very best for last. The starting point is the Tower of London. You can reach it on the District & Circle to Tower Hill (zone 1) or the Docklands Light Railway to Tower Gateway. The walk is about 3.7 miles. The finishing point is by the tower of Big Ben opposite Westminster Underground on the Jubilee Line (zone 1).

What is so good about this walk? Firstly, the views. Spectacular throughout its length. From the Tower of London we use the riverside on the north side of the Thames to look back at Tower Bridge. Click here for bridge opening times- if you can arrange clear weather and start your walk as the bascules lift you will enjoy this walk all the more.

The second bridge we hear about is London Bridge. The original was sold to the US. The third is Cannon Street where we pass underneath the railway terminus. Next we cross the river by Southwark Bridge and pass Shakespeare's Globe and the Tate Modern. Opposite the old bankside Power Station is the Millennium Bridge that oscillated when first opened, and was closed for almost 2 years for dampening. It is known affectionately to Londoners as the Wobbly Bridge, but at night as the Blade of Light.

On the north bank we pass under Blackfriars railway and road bridges before crossing back to the South Bank as far as the National Theatre. Waterloo Bridge offers some of the best views of London in both directions and is not to be missed. After passing through Victoria Embankment Gardens with its armillory sphere dedicated to Richard D'Oyly Carte and the strange bust of Sir Srthur Sullivan with a semi naked woman attempting to climb up it, we reach Hungerford Bridge. Once the ugliest of all bridges, two spectacular walkways have been constructed on either side. They are now called the Golden Jubilee bridges. We cross over the river once again and continue past the London Eye and the London Aquarium.

Our last bridge is Westminster where the walk finishes.

 
London bridgesLondon bridges

  
Click
 on a number to read about the corresponding London bridge:

1. Battersea Bridge

Although during the 18th century Battersea and Chelsea were connected only by a regular ferry service, the construction of a wooden bridge between 1771-1772 eventually allowed for pedestrians and wagons to cross the Thames. However, because of the nature of Henry Holland's original design (which featured wooden piers and 19 spans) it became a notorious black spot on the river, with cargo boats regularly colliding with the bridge at night or during times of fog/poor visibility.
 
Finally replaced between 1886-1890 with the Battersea Bridge that still stands today, Sir Joseph Bazalgette's design substituted wood for cast-iron arches, with an ornamental fascia to further enhance the design.

 

2. Albert Bridge

As one of the few suspension bridges in London, the Albert Bridge is also among the most attractive, especially when lit at night. Spanning the river between Chelsea and Battersea, the cantilevered structure was originally designed by Rowland Ordish and built between 1871 and 1873. And, although elements of the design were later tinkered with by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, little remedial work was carried out on the bridge until 1973. At this point it was strengthened to handle increased volumes of traffic, although the works, which involved adding a none too subtle central support, spoilt the bridge's original wrought iron design.

3. Chelsea Bridge

With the original Chelsea Bridge surviving until the early 1930s, Thomas Page's mid-19th century design was replaced by an altogether more modern structure. With a small span of only 350ft, the suspension bridge links Chelsea with Battersea between Ranelagh Gardens and Battersea Park (with the Grosvenor railway bridge running parallel). Opened in 1934 by the Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, Chelsea Bridge is also illuminated at night, making for a spectacular sight in this part of town.

4. Vauxhall Bridge

Having replaced James Walker’s original cast-iron bridge, Sir Alexander Binnie's late 19th-century design was completed in 1906. Comprising of five steel arches on masonry piers, Vauxhall bridge features a number of ornamental sculptures by F W Pomeroy and Alfred Drury. Representing industry and agriculture on one side, with Government, the arts and education on the other, the bridge's reliefs are best viewed from Millbank. Overshadowed by the monolithic MI5 building (and swanky new apartment buildings along Wandsworth Road) the southern side of Vauxhall bridge takes you towards Vauxhall Station (one of London's less pleasant areas). So be vigilant here, especially at night.

5. Lambeth Bridge

Boasting one of the best upstream views of any London bridge, the (relatively) new steel-arch bridge links Lambeth Palace to Millbank and Westminster. Built to replace an earlier design by P W Barlow (which suffered from severe corrosion) Lambeth Bridge features five spans, some pleasing decorative iron-work and obelisks at either end topped by pineapples! Recently repainted, it makes for a pleasant walk across the Thames, especially as Victoria Tower Gardens and the Houses of Parliament are just a short walk away.

6. Westminster Bridge

First opened in 1750, Westminster Bridge established one of the most important links across the Thames, joining the ever expanding (and important) area around Westminster to what is now Waterloo. Widely praised at the time, it stood for over 70 years before structural checks revealed problems with the bridge's foundations. And, although remedial works were carried out, Parliament, which had been alerted to the problem, subsequently decided to construct a new bridge. With the task of designing it awarded to Thomas Page and Charles Barry, the current bridge opened to much fanfare in 1862. It remains one of London's busiest foot and road bridges, whilst also serving as a convenient link between the London Eye and Houses of Parliament. 

7. Waterloo Bridge

Opened by the Prince Regent on the second anniversary of the famous battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1817, the original bridge was a highly decorative affair made up of nine arches and featuring Greek style columns. Hewn from solid granite, it was considered to be London's grandest Thames crossing (so beautiful in fact, that even Monet decided to paint it).

However, movement of the bridge's supporting piers eventually led to its demise, with the structure being demolished in 1936 to make way for a newer (and less ornate) replacement. Completed in 1945, the cantilevered five span bridge remains Greek in style, using Portland stone to face the bridge's concrete structure underneath. Although by no means pretty, the views afforded from the bridge are wonderful, with the Houses of Parliament and London Eye downstream, whilst St. Paul's and The City can be seen to the east.

8. Blackfriars Bridge

Text currently being revised.

 

9. Millennium Bridge

Dubbed the "wobbly bridge", London's newest foot crossing hit the headlines last year after being forced to close just days after its public opening. Although the nausea inducing 'ride' that many experienced (caused by sheer weight of numbers) never threatened to undermine its structural integrity, the bridge's excessive wobbling forced designers back to their drawing boards.
 
Spanning the Thames between the Tate Modern and St Paul's Cathedral, the Millennium Bridge is the first to be built in the city for over 30 years. Undoubtedly a spectacular addition to London's cityscape, Lord Foster (its architect) envisaged the bridge as being a "blade of light" when lit at night. Certainly, it succeeds on this level, not only being unique in appearance but also being one of the world's first horizontal suspension bridges.

Although a light-hearted campaign was launched by the London Evening Standard to retain the wobble (they argued it would make a really fun tourist attraction) the bridge's engineers Ove Arup and Partners have now successfully installed additional damping units, which are similar in design to car shock absorbers. With the wobble now gone, this cutting-edge (and very beautiful) bridge deserves to stake its claim as being among the finest in Europe.


10. Southwark Bridge

Originally built following the formation of The Southwark Bridge Company in 1814, John Rennie's much vaunted cast iron crossing featured a huge central span of over 220ft. With granite piers and a simple, yet elegant design it stood until 1912 when Mott & Hay replaced it with a five span steel bridge. Linking Cannon Street and The City to Bankside, it is flanked on either side by Blackfriars and London Bridge

11. London Bridge

Up until Westminster Bridge was opened in 1750, London Bridge was the city's only crossing over the Thames. And, although its most recent incarnation leaves much to be desired, the bridge has a rich and wonderfully varied history dating back to Roman times.

In fact, following the establishment of a permanent crossing in 100 AD, successive bridges were burnt down (by the Danes in 1014 and then again in 1136) or blown away. However, it was with the river's medieval structure that London Bridge came to prominence, boasting timber houses along its length each several storeys high. The crowning glory was the flamboyant and richly decorated Nonsuch House, complete with chapel and Dutch style gables. At the Southwark end, however, the bridge's Gatehouse displayed the tar-preserved severed heads of traitors, a grisly spectacle which counted William Wallace and Thomas More among the unfortunate victims.

Following the removal of houses from the bridge in the 18th century, a competition was held to design a new London Bridge. Built by Sir John Rennie and opened in 1831 the bridge, which stood for 130 years, was eventually sold to a businessman in the US during the 1960s. Moved, and then reassembled piece by piece in Lake Havasu - Texas, legend has it that the buyer mistakenly thought he'd acquired the rather more impressive Tower Bridge (see below).

Work on the current structure began in 1967, with the rather ugly and non-descript bridge being completed in 1972. Unfortunately, for such a historic crossing point in London, it remains a crying shame that a more fitting (and elegant) bridge was not commissioned.

12. Tower Bridge

Made possible by the tolls and taxes levied by The Bridge House Estates Committee on London Bridge, Tower Bridge was completed at a cost of more than £1 million in 1894. Based on a design by Sir Horace Jones, responsibility for its construction actually fell to George Daniel Stevenson following Jones' untimely death in 1887.

Arguably the most ambitious civil engineering project ever undertaken, over 400 men were employed to build the structure, with over 70,000 tons of concrete used to build the bridge's supporting piers. Made of Scottish steel, Tower Bridge was actually built in sections floated downstream on barges from Woolwich. Clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone, the bridge's most impressive feature are its two giant bascules which open to allow tall ships to moor alongside HMS Belfast. For further information on visiting Tower Bridge click here.

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