The first ever London Bridge was built by the Romans between AD100 and AD400. It was probably constructed of timber and spanned the Thames between Southwark and The City. Until 1749 and the building of Westminster Bridge, London Bridge remained the only crossing point of the Thames in London.
The first London Bridge was burnt down in 1014 during a dispute between King Ethelred the Unready and the Danes. It is said to be this event that is remembered in the nursery rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down.
Quickly reconstructed, the second London Bridge had a very short life for it was swept away in a storm at the end of the 11th century. The next replacement, still made of wood, then also burned down in 1136.
The first stone bridge appeared in 1176, and by the early 13th century several houses had been built on London Bridge. Disaster struck in 1212 when the bridge again caught fire, and several thousand people lost their lives as a result. Again the replacement was short-lived for in 1282 another storm swept it away.
It was in the early 14th century that the gruesome custom of displaying the heads of traitors on London Bridge began. The head of the Scottish rebel William Wallace was the first to be displayed.
London Bridge was witness to several historical events over the years, for example Way Tyler threatened to burn it down during the peasant's revolt, Henry V rode over it after his victory at the Battle of Agincourt and after the restoration of the monarchy Charles II rode over the bridge to reclaim the throne.
The practice of displaying the heads of traitors fell out of fashion towards the middle of the 17th century. And by 1760 the houses that lined the bridge had been removed.
At the end of the 18th it was decided to renovate the bridge and a competition was held for designs. An ambitious plan for a 600ft single span bridge made out of cast iron was put forward by Thomas Telford, but this was rejected for fears that the bridge would be unstable.
In its place a bridge consisting of five arches made of stone was built by Sir John Rennie in 1823. This was then itself replaced in 1967 by the present bridge, consisting of three concrete arches.
The bridge that Rennie built was sold to an American and was re-constructed at Lake Havasu City in Arizona. Legend has it that he was under the mistaken impression that he was purchasing Tower Bridge!
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