OLD LONDON BRIDGE by Patricia Pierce


The Story of the Longest Inhabited Bridge in Europe
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Eight centuries of British history from the vantage point of a structure that first spanned the Thames in 1176 and was rebuilt twice before being exiled, in 1968, to Lake Havasu, Arizona.

The first thing our mothers taught us isn’t so: London Bridge didn’t really fall down. It was certainly subject to the vicissitudes of fire, tempest, riot, and finally old age, but the great bridge with its 19 piers and 20 arches stood as a wonder through the days of the Plantagenets, Lancasters, Yorks, Tudors, Stuarts, and Hanovers. From Southwark to the City and back, the river that flowed quickly beneath carried Hogarth, Dickens, Jack Cade, Dick Whittington, Henry V, Elizabeth I, Samuel Pepys, and multitudes of Londoners and visitors. Rented residences and shops clung to both sides of the span. Chandlers, fishmongers, booksellers, butchers, and haberdashers made the path into a genuine strip mall, customarily managed by a self-regulating authority much like that of the New Jersey Turnpike. Tolls were collected from pedestrians and conveyances at various rates. At one time, the Clerk of the Drawbridge employed six carpenters, four masons, two sawyers, one mariner, one cook, a couple of rent collectors, and a rat catcher. Keeping traffic to the left (at the time a unique idea) occupied three traffic cops. Unusual events, crime, accidents, pageantry, and a superlative joust took place on the overpass, and for many years the severed heads of miscreants were displayed there on pikes. Thames watermen and swans negotiated the swirling offal and sewage dropped from buildings lining the old passage. In 1762, in a fit of urban renewal, the houses and shops were razed and the roadway widened. Not even 70 years later the demolition of the bridge itself began. The next London Bridge lasted until 1968, when it was sold to the Yanks.

Flows quite nicely indeed: a first from freelancer Pierce. (Illustrations)

Pub Date: May 15th, 2003
ISBN: 0-7472-3493-0
Page count: 344pp
Publisher: Headline
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2003