Secret London: finding bits of lost London Bridge

When Old London Bridge was demolished in 1831, it was decided with typical Victorian frugality to sell off some of the old bits and bobs of stonework. Although they were ostensibly part of the medieval bridge, they had largely been added during an 18th-century reconstruction. The best surviving examples are the old stone alcoves.

There were originally 14 of these covered domes at the end of the piers. They looked rather like curved stone bus shelters and were so sturdy and useful that four still survive.

Two now stand in Victoria Park, having arrived here some time in the 1860s and offering a pleasant seat from which to view passing parklife or shelter from London rain.

One other stands in isolation in a courtyard in the grounds of Guy’s Hospital (now with a statue of John Keats as the London Historians blog explains), while the fourth, somewhat bizarrely, has ended up in the garden of a block of flats in East Sheen. This is the Courtlands Estate, and there were originally two alcoves, or ‘porter’s rests’, but one ‘disappeared’ during renovation in the 1930s, as did some balustrading from the Bridge that was used as a wall. Further balustrading was taken to Herne Bay, but this was lost in the storm of 1951.

An arch from the bridge was discovered in 1921 during the rebuilding of Adelaide House, but this was deemed too expensive to preserve and was destroyed. One stone, though, survived, and is now preserved in the churchyard of St Magnus the Martyr

One final bit of the bridge that survives can be seen above the door of the King’s Arms on Newcomen Street in Borough. This was the coat of arms that had been added to Stonegate – the bridge tollgate – during rebuilding in 1728 but was demolished in 1760.

Update Since writing this I have learnt of more rescued balustrades from Old London Bridge. These sit in Myddleton House Gardens in Enfield alongside a piece of the original St Paul’s Cathedral, which burnt down in 1085.

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21 responses to “Secret London: finding bits of lost London Bridge

  1. I love the coat of arms – both the lion and the unicorn are spectacularly well endowed. It’s well worth a visit when in the area.

  2. Pingback: Old London Bridge, Keats and Guy’s Hospital « London Historians' Blog

  3. Smashing post. I’d never heard of the Courtlands shelter.

    Aren’t there some bits in Kew Gardens? You’ve tagged this Kew, but then not mentioned them…?

    Another itinerant bridge fragment, this time from old Waterloo Bridge, can be found in Antrim Park in Belsize Park. http://www.flickr.com/photos/londonmatt/2335126588/

  4. The tag was in error but I will return to Kew at a later date as it does indeed have a London Bridge connection…

  5. There’s also a clock tower that was briefly at the Southwark end of London Bridge, now in Swanage (Dorset): http://transpont.blogspot.com/2009/04/south-london-in-swanage.html

  6. I know London very well having lived here all my life – never more that 4 miles for Picaddilly Circus but I did not know there were bits of the old medieval London Bridge still preserved.

    The next London Bridge was demolished to make way for the present bridge and was bought by an American – the boss McCullochs engines – and rebuilt in the States where it is a great tourist attraction complete with a red London B us and Gilbert Scott red phone box. It is said he t hough he was buying Tower Bridge which is denied – but in any event – what he bought has been a great sucess.

    Owen Luder

  7. Pingback: Best Of The London Blogs: 10-16 April | Londonist

  8. Not all the Rennie bridge made it to American. There’s a piece of granite from it behind the Duke of Wellington statue at Bank, commemorating his involvement with the London Bridge Approaches Act 1827. Wonder how that compared with the Battle of Waterloo? See http://www.londonremembers.com/site/567

  9. Pingback: UK Travel Blog » Secret London – The hidden pieces of old London Bridge

  10. This is excellent and makes me smile for some mad reason. I’ll look out for them when I’m next in London.

  11. Excellent post. This is what I love about London…so much history spread all over the city.

  12. Pingback: Today marks the 40th Anniversary of London Bridge

  13. Great post. (Pedantic aside – 1831 isn’t really Victorian since she wasn’t Queen until 1837)

  14. Wow, I live or work near several of these bits, but wouldn’t have known!

  15. i often wondered about those things in victoria park…and i shall certainly look up myddleton house gardens next time i go to enfield to visit me mum.

  16. You could walk past object like these all your life and never know their story… But now one of those stories has been revealed to us 🙂 .

  17. Pingback: Bits Of London Bridge Station Will Move To Wales | Londonist

  18. Pingback: Bits Of London Bridge Station Will Move To Wales | bygonelondon.com

  19. Some of the Old London Bridge Balustrades can be found fronting the lawn at the rear of the White House in Gilwell Park, Chingford.

  20. the church and graveyard of st michaels was demolished around 1831 to allow creation of king william street as access to the replacement london bridge.
    There is one record of “remains” of one person being buried in St olaves nearby. What happened to the others ?

  21. Pingback: Whatever Happened To Old London Bridge? | UnilagMusic UK

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