Waterloo Bridge

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Waterloo Bridge
River Thames and Waterloo Bridge, London-17Aug2009.jpg
River Thames and Waterloo Bridge
(as seen from the London Eye)
Coordinates 51°30′31″N0°07′01″W / 51.5086°N 0.1169°W / 51.5086; -0.1169
CarriesA301 road
Crosses River Thames
Locale London
Named for Battle of Waterloo
Maintained by Transport for London
Heritage status Grade II* listed structure
Preceded by Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges
Followed by Blackfriars Bridge
Design Box girder bridge
Total length1,230 feet (370 m)
Width80 feet (24 m)
Longest span233 feet (71 m)
Opened(first bridge) 18 June 1817;205 years ago (18 June 1817)
(second bridge) 11 March 1942;81 years ago (11 March 1942)
Waterloo Bridge

Waterloo Bridge ( /ˌwɔːtəˈl/ [1] [2] ) is a road and foot traffic bridge crossing the River Thames in London, between Blackfriars Bridge and Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges. Its name commemorates the victory of the British, Dutch and Prussians at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Thanks to its location at a strategic bend in the river, the bridge offers good views of Westminster, the South Bank and the London Eye to the west, and of the City of London and Canary Wharf to the east.


View towards Finsbury while walking the Waterloo Bridge Waterloo Bridge - view.jpg
View towards Finsbury while walking the Waterloo Bridge


First bridge

Share of the Company of the Proprietors of the Strand Bridge, issued 30 December 1809 Strand Bridge 1809.jpg
Share of the Company of the Proprietors of the Strand Bridge, issued 30 December 1809
Crowds attend the opening of the first Waterloo Bridge on 18 June 1817 Waterloo Bridge 1817.jpg
Crowds attend the opening of the first Waterloo Bridge on 18 June 1817
The Opening of Waterloo Bridge (`Whitehall Stairs, June 18th, 1817), John Constable, c. 1831-32 John Constable 001.jpg
The Opening of Waterloo Bridge (`Whitehall Stairs, June 18th, 1817), John Constable, c.1831–32
Waterloo Bridge, about 1925 Waterloo Bridge, about 1925 01.jpg
Waterloo Bridge, about 1925

The first bridge on the site was designed in 1807–10 by John Rennie for the Strand Bridge of Life and opened in 1817 as a toll bridge. The granite bridge [3] had nine arches, each of 120 feet (36.6 m) span, separated by double Doric stone columns, and was 2,456 feet (748.6 m) long, including approaches–1,240 feet (378.0 m) between abutments–and 42 feet (12.8 m) wide between the parapets. Before its opening it was known as the Strand Bridge.

During the 1840s the bridge gained a reputation as a popular place for suicide attempts. In 1841, the American daredevil Samuel Gilbert Scott was killed while performing an act in which he hung by a rope from a scaffold on the bridge. [4] In 1844 Thomas Hood wrote the poem "The Bridge of Sighs", which concerns the suicide of a prostitute there. [5]

The bridge was depicted by the French Impressionist Claude Monet in his series of 41 works from 1900 to 1904, and by the English Romantic John Constable, whose painting depicting its opening is displayed at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire. [6]

The bridge was nationalised in 1878 and placed under the control of the Metropolitan Board of Works, which removed the toll from it.

Michael Faraday tried in 1832 to measure the potential difference [7] between each side of the bridge caused by the ebbing salt water flowing through the Earth's magnetic field [8] using magnetohydrodynamics.

Serious problems were found in Rennie's bridge piers from 1884 onward, after scour from the river flow (which had increased following the demolition of Old London Bridge) damaged their foundations. By the 1920s the problems had increased, and settlement at pier five necessitated the closure of the whole bridge while some heavy superstructure was removed and temporary reinforcements were put in place. [9]

In 1925, a temporary steel framework was built on top of the existing bridge and then placed next to it for the use of southbound vehicles (the postcard image shows this, and the settlement especially to the left of the fifth pier). [10]

Second bridge

The design called for supporting beams only at the outside edges, to bring "light and sweetness" to the underside--Giles Gilbert Scott, quoted in Hopkins (1970) Underside Waterloo Bridge.jpg
The design called for supporting beams only at the outside edges, to bring "light and sweetness" to the underside—Giles Gilbert Scott, quoted in Hopkins (1970)

In the 1930s London County Council decided to demolish the bridge and replace it with a new structure designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The engineers were Ernest Buckton and John Cuerel of Rendel Palmer & Tritton. The project was placed on hold due to the Second World War.

Scott, by his own admission, was no engineer, and his design, with reinforced concrete beams (illustrated) under the footways, leaving the road to be supported by transverse slabs, was difficult to implement. The pairs of spans on each side of the river were supported by beams continuous over their piers, and these were cantilevered out at their ends to support the centre span and the short approach slabs at the banks. The beams were shaped "to look as much like arches as ... beams can". [9] They are clad in Portland stone, which is cleaned by rain. [11] To guard against the possibility of further subsidence from scour, each pier was given a number of jacks that can be used to level the structure. [9]

Construction of the new bridge began in 1937 and it was partially opened on Tuesday 11 March 1942 and "officially opened" in September 1942. [12] However, it was not fully completed until 1945. [13] It is the only Thames bridge to have been damaged by German bombers during the Second World War.

The building contractor was Peter Lind & Company.

At the outbreak of war, despite an immediate order being issued by the Ministry of Transport, that the bridge construction was of national importance, the supply of male labour to execute the heavy works became acute.
From the start of the war through to the bridge completion, women became the preponderant members of the construction workforce. This resulted in the project being referred to for many years as "The Ladies Bridge".

. [14] [15] Lind used elm wood from the old bridge for the dining room floor of Hamstone House, his house that he commissioned and built in 1938 at St George's Hill in Surrey. [16]

Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident, was assassinated on Waterloo Bridge on 7 September 1978 by agents of the Bulgarian secret police, the Committee for State Security, possibly assisted by the Soviet security agency, the KGB. He was killed with a poisoned pellet possibly fired from an umbrella. [17]

Reuse of original parts

Granite stones from the original bridge were subsequently "presented to various parts of the British world to further historic links in the British Commonwealth of Nations". Two of these stones are in Canberra, the capital city of Australia, sited between the parallel spans of the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, one of two major crossings of Lake Burley Griffin in the heart of the city. Stones from the bridge were also used to build a monument in Wellington, New Zealand, to Paddy the Wanderer, a dog that roamed the wharves from 1928 to 1939 and was befriended by seamen, watersiders, Harbour Board workers and taxi drivers. The monument, built in 1945, is on Queens Wharf, opposite the Wellington Museum. It includes a bronze likeness of Paddy, a drinking fountain, and drinking bowls below for dogs. [18] [19]

Another piece of the stone is situated under the sundial in the Wellington Boat Harbour Park, next to Clyde Quay Marina, an area of historical significance in Wellington Harbour.[ citation needed ] Several stone balusters from the demolished bridge were sent in the late 1930s by the author Dornford Yates to be used in his French home 'Cockade', but the Fall of France in 1940 interrupted this project. They were shipped after the war to his new house in Umtali, Rhodesia (now Mutare, Zimbabwe).

Recovered timbers from the bridge were used for shelves and wall panels in the library at Anglesey Abbey. [6]


Waterloo Bridge by Charles Deane, 1821 Waterloo Bridge by Charles Deane, 1821.JPG
Waterloo Bridge by Charles Deane, 1821

The south end of the bridge is in the area known as the South Bank, which includes the Royal Festival Hall, London Waterloo, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Royal National Theatre, as well as the BFI Southbank, which is directly beneath the bridge.

The north end of the bridge passes above the Victoria Embankment where the road joins the Strand and Aldwych alongside Somerset House. This end housed the southern portal of the Kingsway Tramway Subway until the late 1950s.

The entire bridge was given Grade II* listed structure protection in 1981. [10]

The nearest London Underground station is Temple, the nearest National Rail station is London Waterloo.

See also

London's South Bank By Night.jpg
Looking east from Waterloo Bridge at night. The City of London landmarks are north of the river; the illuminated National Theatre is among the buildings along the South Bank.
2016-09-13 Waterloo Bridge view west.jpg
Looking south-west from Waterloo Bridge. The London Eye is on the South Bank while the Palace of Westminster is further up river on the opposite bank.
Waterloo Bridge Panorama.jpg
Waterloo Bridge viewed from the Golden Jubilee Bridge

Related Research Articles

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Coordinates: 51°30′31″N0°07′01″W / 51.50861°N 0.11694°W / 51.50861; -0.11694