London Bridge, in one form or another, has crossed the River Thames between what is now the City of London and Southwalk for almost 2000 years.
The latest version of London Bridge is a relatively plain affair, a straightforward structure whose simple purpose is to carry vehicles and pedestrians across the Thames.
Yet many visitors to London mistake the far grander Tower Bridge to be London Bridge.
If you believe the rumours, this mix-up proved very costly to a rich American businessman when the previous London Bridge was being replaced.
The following except from Jaspa’s Journey 2: The Pride of London tells the story of London Bridge and this embarrassing error…
Twin silver-grey towers, adorned with ornamental spires, balconies and crenulations (the crinkly bits around the tops of castles, behind which soldiers take cover), rise like identical fairytale castles from two massive stone bastions sunk into the river. Vaulting between the two towers are not one, but three blue and white bridges. The lowermost carries a road from bank to bank, across the tops of the immense foundations and straight through the towers’ bases. High above the central gap, the towers are linked by a pair of enclosed footbridges. The overall result is a masterpiece of elegance and engineering, a fitting tribute to the Victorian craftsmen who designed and built it over a hundred years ago.
“Wow!” Sam squeals in delight. “It’s London Bridge!”
“Actually Sammie, we’re on London Bridge,” Mrs McRae gently corrects her. “That’s Tower Bridge.”
“Oh!” says Sam, blushing slightly and looking somewhat crestfallen.
“Don’t worry,” says her mum, reaching over and tucking a stray strand of golden hair behind Sam’s ear – and inadvertently almost knocking Portia and Gravee out of Sam’s hood. “Lots of people make the same mistake. In fact, there’s a famous story about it.
“You know, this isn’t the first London Bridge,” she begins. “The original was built out of wood by the Romans, almost two thousand years ago. The first stone bridge wasn’t built until 1200 years later. It eventually became known as Old London Bridge, and was like a small town in itself, complete with shops and houses.
“That bridge stood for over six hundred years, but eventually became too unsafe. Perhaps that’s why someone wrote the song London Bridge is Falling Down. At any rate, it was demolished after being replaced by New London Bridge in 1831.
“Sadly, after the invention of cars, New London Bridge couldn’t cope with the increased traffic. And so, less than 140 years after being opened, it was also replaced – by this bridge.”
“So is this one New New London Bridge?” asks Sam, thoughtfully.
“I guess it is,” laughs Mrs McRae. “And that brings me to the point of my story: New London Bridge wasn’t simply demolished… it was sold to an American businessman. He took it to pieces and shipped it all the way to America. There he rebuilt it over a canal in the middle of the desert, just like a giant jigsaw puzzle.”
“You’re making fun of me!” exclaims Sam, uncertainly.
“No, I’m serious!” Mrs McRae looks at her husband. “Isn’t it true, Dad?”
“Every word,” he confirms.
“But that’s not the best part,” Sam’s mum goes on. “Because it’s rumoured that the businessman made the same mistake you did. He denied it, of course, but many people aren’t convinced. If it’s true, he bought London Bridge thinking he was buying Tower Bridge, and his mistake cost him about two and a half million pounds!”
“Wow!” giggles Sam, her temporarily dampened sprits fully restored.
Unbelievably, Mrs. McRae’s story is true. In 1968, American entrepreneur Robert McCulloch did indeed buy London Bridge, reputedly believing he was actually getting Tower Bridge! (Ooops!) Today it graces Lake Havasu City, and is Arizona’s most popular tourist destination after the Grand Canyon.
Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first three – The Great Migration, The Pride of London and Jaspa’s Waterloo – are now available in both paperback and ebook formats. Click here for more information.
This week’s post was inspired by the themes Bridges from Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, Memory from Debbie’s Travel With Intent, Beauty from Nancy of Nancy Merrill Photography, Spirit from Terri’s Sunday Stills Photo Challenge, and no less than four of the five themes from Paula of Lost in Translation this month (Resplendent, Alluring, Copycat and Timeworn).