London Bridge is the longest established Thames crossing. In fact for 1,700 years it was London's only established Thames crossing!
There have been several London Bridges in the past, with the first, a wooden structure, being erected around 50AD. This remarkably survived until 1176 when it was replaced by a stone structure – the medieval London Bridge. The stone structure stood for six centuries and was one of London's busiest streets.
Crossing at peak times could take up to an hour! This was largely due to the vast number of shops, houses and coffee shops which lined the bridge, creating a popular shopping district in the middle of a major thoroughfare – not dissimilar to the Rialto in modern day Venice.
It was a chaotic scene, captured time and time again by painters, writers and historians who lived through it. Following problems with congestion and fire the dwellings and buildings were pulled down in the mid-eighteenth century.
It was also the 1172 structure which made the infamous Frost Fairs possible throughout the Tudor period. The stone structure slowed down the river to the extent that the Thames could freeze solidly in periods of cold weather.
In 1831, the bridge was eventually replaced although its successor didn't last as long and was sold to a US corporation in the early 1970s. It now stands in Arizona. Rumours persist that the Americans thought they were buying Tower Bridge, an allegation they strongly deny. It was at this point that today's bridge, still in its infancy in comparison to its forebears, was built!
More information on the Frost Fairs London Bridge created can be found on our blog All fun of frost fair.html.