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Georgy Markov a Bulgarian dissident was assassinated on Waterloo Bridge using a poison tipped umbrella on September 7th 1978.
It is the only bridge that has been the central feature of a film. The original James Whale version was shot in Hollywood but the 1940 remake starring Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor used the bridge itself.
In 1840 15% of all London suicides took place from Waterloo Bridge.
1860 Charles Dickens wrote of the bridge in Night Walks.
Waterloo Bridge Photos Copyright Alison Locke
The first Waterloo Bridge was completed by John Rennie in 1817 after six years work. Baron M. Dupin described it as ‘a colossal monument worthy of Sesostris and the Caesars’ and to Canova it was simply ‘the noblest bridge in the world.’ It was unique at the time for having a level roadway supported by nine semi-elliptical arches with a span of equal size and elevation. Built mostly of Cornish granite the bridge was 378 metres long over the river and 13 metres wide.
Gilbert Scot was commissioned to design the new one. Work began in 1937
but the official foundation stone, cut out of a stone from the old bridge,
was not laid until 1939. Nothing ornate was put in the cavity under the
stone as an offering to the Thames, just coins, postage stamps and all the
daily newspapers within a copper cylinder. Delays occurred because of
World War II even though the bridge was deemed a priority, and, with few
men available, women carried out much of the construction work.
new Waterloo Bridge was the first to be made with reinforced concrete
beams, and despite being damaged by German bombers on several occasions
the 'Ladies Bridge' was opened to pedestrians and two lanes of traffic in
1942. It was opened by a member of the public, Charlie Barnard, a steel
fixer from Ealing. He removed seven red flags at the Surrey end and the
bridge was open prompting a race to be the first across that was won by
Leonard Mitchell, a 16 year old school boy from Balham.
makes it very much the people's bridge, as well as being a triumph of
confident simplicity and symmetry. The great sweeping arches, that appear
grander because of the flatness of the bridge itself, manage to give the
solid bridge structure an illusion of lightness. Being able to see through
the balustrades adds to this as vehicles and people appear to glide over
it. This huge bridge manages to be both majestic and unobtrusive with an
austere beauty and lack of decorative features that help to underscore the
fantastic views up and down river from the bridge but also through it.
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