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Waterloo Bridge Photo

 Bridge Incidents:

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.

Waterloo Bridge Photo

In 1860 Charles Dickens wrote of the bridge in Night Walks.   But the river had an awful look, the buildings on the banks were muffled in black shrouds, and the reflected lights seemed to originate deep in the water, as if the spectres of suicides were holding them to show where they went down. The wild moon and clouds were as restless as an evil conscience in a tumbled bed, and the very shadow of the immensity of London seemed to lie oppressively upon the river.

Waterloo Bridge Photos Copyright Alison Locke

Waterloo Bridge

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. 

Sir 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.

The 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.

This 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.

Waterloo Bridge Photo

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