Essential Architecture-  London

Westminster Bridge

architect

Charles Barry (the architect of the Palace of Westminster)

location

over the Thames, London (between Westminster and Lambeth).

date

1862

style

gothic detailing

construction

seven-arch wrought iron bridge

type

Bridge
 
  Westminster Bridge and the Palace of Westminster, with a glimpse of Westminster Abbey behind the tower of Big Ben. Seen from the London Eye observation wheel.
 
 
 
 
  1741: A stone bridge was started and James King was given the consolation of being responsible for the wooden work which supported the arches as they were built –
Westminster Bridge Construction Support Timbers.
One of the design criteria was to allow boats to use the bridge whilst it was being built. Notice that all the timbers are straight (except those in contact with the stone) Canaletto failed to notice that and painted them curved –
 
  Westminster Bridge under Construction, Canaletto
Two arches had to be rebuilt - the picture above may well show this.
Sir Howard Douglas (in the 1840s) -
 
  The first Westminster Bridge as painted by Canaletto, 1746. (Westminster Bridge, Lord Mayor’s Day, Canaletto, 1746)
 
  Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament.
 
  St Thomas’ Hospital, Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament.
Special thanks to http://thames.me.uk/index.htm
 
  Westminster Bridge and surrounding landmarks at night.
 
  The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons by J. M. W. Turner, 1835, with Westminster Bridge on the right.
 
 
 
  Click following thumbnails for larger images
 
 
   

Westminster Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge over the River Thames between Westminster and Lambeth, in London, England. The first Westminster Bridge was a stone bridge that opened in 1750. It was the second bridge to be built across the Thames in the then built-up area of London, breaking the monopoly of the ancient London Bridge, and it thus played a major role in the opening up of South London to development. By the mid 19th century it was subsiding badly and expensive to maintain.

The current bridge opened in 1862. It is a seven-arch wrought iron bridge which has gothic detailing by Charles Barry (the architect of the Palace of Westminster). It is the only bridge over the Thames that spans seven arches and is the oldest bridge in the central area of the river Thames.

The bridge is predominantly green, the same colour as the leather seats in the House of Commons which is on the side of the Palace of Westminster nearest the bridge. This is in contrast to Lambeth Bridge which is red, the same colour as the seats in the House of Lords and is on the opposite side of the Houses of Parliament.

It links the Palace of Westminster on the west side of the river with County Hall and the London Eye on the east and was the finishing point during the early years of the London Marathon.

The next bridge downstream is Hungerford footbridge and upstream is Lambeth Bridge.

In popular culture
In the 2002 science fiction film 28 Days Later, the protagonist awakes from a coma to find London deserted, and walks over the Westminster Bridge whilst looking for people.

Westminster Bridge is the start and finish point for the Bridges Handicap Race, a traditional London running race.

William Wordsworth wrote the sonnet Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802.

In the British Science Fiction series Doctor Who, Westminster Bridge has been used for various location shots. It was used originally in 1964 in the serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth which depicts the structure as desolate and deserted. Several Daleks are seen gliding over the bridge and the adjoining Albert Embankment. The location was then re-used by the production team when the series was revived in 2005 where the ninth doctor and Rose Tyler run across the bridge in the episode Rose.

The bridge plays a prominent role in the Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch "Nationwide" ("Hamlet", Episode 43). Reporter John Dull (Graham Chapman) is sent to the bridge to find out if it is possible to sit in a chair and rest your legs whenever you want. A policeman (Michael Palin) confiscates his chair, saying it is stolen from a woman (Terry Jones in drag) who is standing across the street. Instead of giving the chair back to the woman, the policeman knocks her down and takes an identical chair from her and sits beside the reporter. He then takes different items from people walking or sitting nearby, finally breaking into a store (the crash of glass breaking is heard followed by the sound of an alarm) to get beer.

In the 2000 film 102 Dalmatians, Cruella de Vil goes mad after she hears the sound of Big Ben, and while on Westminster Bridge she sees everything white with black spots (the pattern of Dalmatians).

links

Special thanks to http://thames.me.uk/index.htm
www.essential-architecture.com