A pictorial guide to the River Thames

London - London Bridge

Click to see a map of this area.
Can you find the locations of the photographs on the map?
Use the aerial photograph option on the map page.

The London Bridge we see today was opened in 1973.

London Bridge with Tower Bridge in the background

The site of the present London Bridge is the place where the Romans built the first bridge in London. When the Romans invaded Britain in AD43 the site that is now London, was little more than a swampy river marsh. The Thames formed a natural barrier between the Roman landing points on the south coast of England and the most important Roman settlement of Colchester, to the north of the Thames. To overcome this problem the Romans built a bridge.

The Roman bridge is most likely to have been built of wood. Goods arriving in Londinium (London) were vital for supplying the armies of the Roman Empire and allowing them to expand their control in Britain. Wharves were built along the river to handle goods (glass, pottery, lead and silver) as they were transported between Londinium and Rome.

During its life, the wooden bridge was renewed several times and it was probably to this earliest bridge that the nursery rhyme ‘London Bridge is falling down’ refers to.

The wooden bridge was eventually replaced with a stone bridge which commenced building in 1176 and featured twenty arches and stone piers with a drawbridge. It took thirty years to build and houses and shops were built on it to help pay for the upkeep of the bridge.

London Bridge (1616) by Claes Van Visscher.

This first stone bridge was mentioned in Charles Dickens, 'Great Expectations', when Pip crossed it in great despair, having recently learned that Estella was to be married to Drummle. It also featured in David Copperfield, as his favourite place to sit.

In 1825 a new bridge, designed by John Rennie, was opened, as the old one could no longer cope with the increasing traffic. In 1970, it was sold to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, as an even larger bridge was needed.

Looking under London Bridge. The big ship is HMS Belfast.

Fishmongers' Hall

Throughout its history, old London Bridge was a busy thoroughfare, lined with shops.

A Thames Barge
Northern and Shell Building (Offices)

London Bridge Hospital

The Great Fire of London
On 2 September 1666 a fire broke out in a bakers shop in Pudding Lane, near London Bridge. Strong winds caused the fire to spread quickly through the wooden buildings of the time. Over the next three days the fire destroyed almost 80 per cent of the city. The river was one of the main escape routes during the fire. By the time the fire finally died down on 5 September, some 100,000 Londoners had been made homeless and Thameside London lay in ruins.

Monument to the Great fire of 1666

At 202 feet, it is the tallest freestanding stone column in the world. 202 feet is also the distance to the suspected source of the fire that destroyed the city.

Hays Galleria
Hay's Galleria provides shopping and leisure in a converted wharf on the south side of the Thames.

Looking back up stream

Millennium Dome
Summary - from source to sea


Start of Voyage down the Thames Contents Page Introduction
Facts about the Thames Flooding Thames Basin
Pollution Erosion Tributaries
email© Copyright - please read
All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the author Mandy Barrow.

©Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013

Follow me on Twitter @mbarrow


I teach computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.