Essential Architecture-  London

Waterloo Bridge


Sir Giles Gilbert Scott


over the Thames, London. Thanks to its location at a strategic bend in the river, the views of London (Westminster, the South Bank and London Eye to the west, the City of London and Canary Wharf to the east) from the bridge are widely held to be the finest from any spot at ground level.








  View of the old Waterloo Bridge from Whitehall stairs, John Constable, 18 June 1817
  Waterloo Bridge. Showing above the bridge (left to right) are St Paul's Cathedral, Tower 42 and 30 St Mary Axe (the "Gherkin" or the Swiss Re building)
  Waterloo Bridge, seen from the London Eye observation wheel
  Painting- Image copyright Doug Myers.
  1811: The original bridge on this site was built by John Rennie and named Strand Bridge.
  Works of the Strand Bridge (taken in the Year 1815).
Drawn by Edw. Blore. Engraved by George Cooke. Jan. 1, 1817
  The Strand Bridge, New erecting by J. Rennie Esqr.
Drawn by E. Blore. Engraved by George Cooke. March 31, 1814.
  Opening of Waterloo Bridge on the 18th of June 1817
as seen from the Corner of Cecil Street in the Strand.
Drawn by R.R. Reinagle, A.R.A. Engraved by George Cooke. Augst 1, 1822.
  Waterloo Bridge, 1818
  Section of one of the Arches of the Waterloo Bridge with the Centring under it.
Drawn by the late John Rennie ... Novr. 1, 1821.
  Waterloo Bridge. W. Westall A.R.A. delt. R.G. Reeve sculpt.
Published 1828 by R.Ackermann, 96 Strand, London. From West.
  Waterloo Bridge and the Shot Tower, Henry Taunt, 1878 © Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT2645
  Waterloo Bridge 1902, Monet
  Hungerford Pier, 1869
Waterloo Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge crossing the River Thames in London, England between Blackfriars Bridge and Hungerford Bridge. The name of the bridge is in memory of the British victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.


The first bridge on the site was designed by John Rennie and opened in 1817 as a toll bridge. The granite bridge had nine arches, each of 120' span, and was 2,456' long, including approaches. Before its opening it was known as 'Strand Bridge'. It was nationalised in 1878 and given to the Metropolitan Board of Works, who removed the toll from it. Serious problems were found in its construction and the new owners reinforced it. Paintings of the bridge were created by the French Impressionist Claude Monet and English Impressionist, John Constable.

By the 1920s the problems had increased. London County Council decided to demolish it and replace it with a new structure designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The new span was partially opened in 1942 and completed in 1945. The new bridge was the only Thames bridge to have been damaged by German bombers during World War II. The building contractor was Peter Lind & Company Limited. It is frequently asserted that the work force was largely female and it is sometimes referred to as "the ladies' bridge". It is constructed in Portland stone from the South West of England; the stone cleans itself whenever it rains in London.

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 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 includes a bronze likeness of Paddy and drinking bowls for dogs.

The south end of the bridge is the area known as The South Bank and includes the Royal Festival Hall, Waterloo station, Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Royal National Theatre, and the National Film Theatre (directly beneath the bridge). The north end passes above the Victoria Embankment where the road joins the Strand and Aldwych alongside Somerset House.

Georgi Markov
Georgi Markov was a Bulgarian dissident assassinated on Waterloo Bridge by agents of the Bulgarian secret police assisted by the KGB. On 7 September 1978, Markov crossed Waterloo Bridge to wait at a bus stop on the other side, when he was jabbed in the leg by a man holding an umbrella. The man apologized and walked away. Markov would later tell doctors that the man had spoken in a foreign accent.

On the evening of 7 September, Markov developed a high fever. He died in agony three days later. After his death, doctors found a small platinum pellet embedded in his calf. Further examination found that two small holes had been drilled in the bullet containing traces of the poison ricin.

Miscellaneous facts
Robert E. Sherwood's 1930 play, Waterloo Bridge, about a soldier who falls in love and marries a woman he meets on the bridge, unaware that she is a prostitute, was made into films released in 1931 and 1940. The latter starred Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor.
Michael Faraday tried in 1832 to measure the potential difference between each side of the bridge caused by the ebbing salt water flowing through the Earth's magnetic field. See magnetohydrodynamics.
After the Lunch is a poem by Wendy Cope about two lovers parting on Waterloo Bridge.
Most of the stones of the demolished Waterloo Bridge were taken to Harmondsworth Moor on the western edge of London. Many of them still remain there in various places around the moor.


Special thanks to
Survey of London entry
Peter Lind & Company