British Museum

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The British Museum

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The British Museum Entrance

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The centre of the museum was redeveloped in 2001 to become the Great Court, surrounding the original Reading Room

The British Museum, located in the Bloomsbury area of London, United Kingdom, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection, numbering some 8 million works, is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence and originates from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present.

The British Museum was established in 1753, largely based on the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. The museum first opened to the public on 15 January 1759, in Montagu House, on the site of the current building. Its expansion over the following two and a half centuries was largely a result of an expanding British colonial footprint and has resulted in the creation of several branch institutions, the first being the British Museum of Natural History in South Kensington in 1881 (it is nowadays simply called the Natural History Museum, and is separate and independent).

In 1973, the British Library Act 1972 detached the library department from the British Museum, but it continued to host the now separated British Library in the same Reading Room and building as the museum until 1997. The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and as with all other national museums in the United Kingdom it charges no admission fee, except for loan exhibitions.

Facts about British Museum


  • Established: 1753; 264 years ago
  • Location: Great Russell Street, London, WC1B, United Kingdom
  • Coordinates: 51.519459°N 0.126931°WCoordinates: 51.519459°N 0.126931°W
  • Collection size: approx. 8 million objects
  • Visitors: 6,820,686 (2015)
    • Ranked 1st nationally
    • Ranked 4th globally
  • Chairman: Sir Richard Lambert
  • Director: Hartwig Fischer
  • Public transit access: London Underground Goodge Street; Holborn; Tottenham; Court Road; Russell Square;
  • Website britishmuseum org
  • Area: 807,000 sq ft (75,000 m2) in 94 Galleries

10 Things to See at the British Museum


The British Museum is huge. It can be overwhelming for tourists who have no idea on what to see and where to start. With 8 million objects as collections, you can’t see them all in a day. But if you could, you’d be extremely exhausted at the end of your visit. There’s a chance that you won’t remember a thing or two if you intend to see too many objects in a short trip here. So, be like me – see only the things you’re interested to see. But, this doesn’t mean that you’ve got to be so focused on the objects you resolved to see. You’ve got to stop and see the things that capture your curiosity.

Here’s my top 10 things to see at the British Museum. This list can help you plan ahead on what to expect inside, especially if you’re on a short visit.

1. Look up and go around the Great Court

This is the largest covered public square in Europe. At the centre is the world-renowned Reading Room. Fail not to check it out.

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The Great Court.

2. Catch sight of the Rosetta Stone

Well, it’s The Rosetta Stone, so there’s no reason not to see it.

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Rosetta_Stone

 

3. Stare at the Elgin Marbles

These sculptures are original – and from the Parthenon in Greece.

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4. Be awed looking up the Easter Island Statue

This is incredibly huge piece of sculpture.

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Easter Island Statue 1

Easter Island Statue 2

5. Glare at the marvellously-carved Lewis chessmen

There are 82 pieces of chessmen. The one on the right is the Queen. They’re made of ivory.

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Lewis Chessmen

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Lewis Chessmen 2

6. Admire the Aztec Serpent with Two Heads

Scary but kinda interesting. Look closer and you’ll find that there are mosaics on its body. The teeth are made of shell.

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7. Gawk at the Standard of Ur

See the mosaics of its four sides. They each depict a scene of their time.

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8. See the Inca Collections

If you haven’t been to Peru, the collections here would make you want to go!

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Miniature Gold Llama Figurine of Inca

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Mask of Xiuhtecuhtli

 

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Inca Mask

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Inca Stone Vessels

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Inca Ushnus

9. Leer at the Ram in the Thicket

This hungry ram is hiding in a bush in search of food.

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10. Take a stroll at the Egyptian Collections Hall

Your window to ancient Egyptian civilisation.

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Egyptian Hall 4

The British Museum is a museum of human history, art and culture. Going inside will make you realise how vast the British Empire once was. Many of the collections here were from the countries where the British once invaded, conquered and ruled.

The British Museum is FREE.

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Top 10 Attractions in London

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London Tube Map

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London Bus and Walking Map

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London Cycle Lane Map

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  • The British Museum
    The famous museum houses treasures including the Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies. Read More

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  • Natural History Museum
    Explore the natural world, including a diplodocus skeleton, prehistoric fossils and taxidermy.

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Natural History Museum 3

  • Tate Modern
    This former power station in Bankside, which has recently expanded, houses a modern art collection. The Tate Modern is London’s free national museum of modern and contemporary art. See work by Picasso, Rothko, Dali and Matisse for free and check out the latest big installation in the Turbine Hall.

Tate Modern

  • Victoria and Albert Museum
    Incredible historic artefacts that span more than 3,000 years and include art, sculpture and fashion.

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  • Somerset House
    Somerset House is home to The Courtauld Gallery, with its Old Masters, and the Embankment Galleries.

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Somerset House 1

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  • The National Gallery
    Priceless European art belonging to the nation. See works by Botticelli, da Vinci, van Gogh and more.
  • Southbank Centre
    The arts centre includes the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery.
  • Coca-Cola London Eye
    Experience the full glory of the capital from the London Eye. On a clear day, you can see for 40km.
  • Science Museum
    Interactive scientific fun for kids of all ages, boasting everything from rockets to steam engines.
  • Tower of London
    The 900-year-old guarded fortress, home to kings and prisoners for centuries, is said to be haunted.

Acton, London

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Acton Town Hall, built for Acton Urban District and opened 10 March 1910

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Location

Acton Data

Acton (/ˈæktən/) is an area of West London, England, within the London Borough of Ealing and the historic county of Middlesex. It is located 6.1 miles (10 km) west of Charing Cross.

At the 2011 census, its four wards, East Acton, Acton Central, South Acton and Southfield, had a population of 62,480, a ten-year increase of 8,791 people. North Acton, West Acton, East Acton, South Acton, Acton Green, Acton Town, Acton Vale and Acton Central are all parts of Acton.

Acton means “oak farm” or “farm by oak trees”, and is derived from the Old English āc (oak) and tūn (farm). Originally an ancient village, as London expanded, Acton became absorbed into the city. Since 1965, Acton equates to the east of the London Borough of Ealing, though some of East Acton is in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and a small portion of South Acton is in the London Borough of Hounslow. Acton and Harrow are the two locations with the most stations bearing their name anywhere in the United Kingdom (apart from the full names of the London terminus stations), with seven each.

Central Acton is synonymous with the hub of commerce and retail on the former main road between London and Oxford (the Uxbridge Road); a reminder of its history is in its inns, which date back in cases to the late Tudor period as stopping places for travellers. Nowadays, the principal route linking London and Oxford (the A40 dual carriageway) bypasses central Acton, but passes through East Acton and North Acton.

Contents
1 Toponymy
2 History
3 Development
4 Leisure
5 Education
5.1 Secondary schools
5.2 International schools
6 Acton in popular culture
7 Transport
7.1 Tube/Rail
7.2 Buses
7.3 Shelved tram proposals
8 Neighbouring places
9 Gallery

1 | Toponymy


Acton’s name derives from the Old English words āc (oak) and tūn (enclosed garden, garden, enclosure), meaning “a garden or a field enclosed by oaks”. Later, in the Middle Ages tūn became a synonym for “farm” or “farm by oak trees”. For several centuries, its name bore the prefix Church (hence Chirche Acton, Churche Acton, etc.) to distinguish it from the separate hamlet of East Acton.

2 | History


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St Mary’s Church, King Street, Acton Central

Prehistoric settlement is shown by finds of Palaeolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze Age burials at Mill Hill Park, and Iron Age coins near Bollo Lane. In the Middle Ages the northern half of the parish was heavily wooded. Oaks and elms still stood along roads and hedgerows and in private grounds in the early 20th century, but most of the woodland had been cleared by the 17th century, even on the extensive Old Oak common.

Landholders figuring in county records were resident by 1222 and houses were recorded from the late 13th century. The main settlement, Church Acton or Acton town, lay slightly west of the centre of the parish along the highway to Oxford (Uxbridge Road) at the 5-mile post out of London. By 1380 some of the tenements, such as The Tabard and The Cock, along the south side of the road, were inns. The hamlet of East Acton, mentioned in 1294, consisted of farmhouses and cottages north and south of common land known as East Acton green by 1474.

Medieval settlement was mainly around the two hamlets. At Church Acton most of the farmhouses lay along the Oxford road or Horn Lane, with only a few outlying farms. Friars Place Farm at the north end of Horn Lane and the moated site to the west, occupied until the 15th century, were early farms. East of Friars Place farm were commons: Worton or Watton Green and Rush green in the 16th and 17th centuries, and Friars Place in the 18th century, where there was some settlement by 1664. To the north-west were Acton or Old Oak wells, known by 1613. In the extreme south part of the parish a few farmhouses on the northern side of Acton common or Acton Green were mentioned as in Turnham Green until the 19th century and were linked more closely with that village than with Acton. Gregories, mentioned in 1551 as a copyhold tenement with 30 a. near Bollo Lane and the Brentford high road, probably lay in Acton.

Londoners were increasingly involved in land sales from the early 14th century but apparently did not live in Acton until the late 15th. The manor, part of Fulham, had no resident (demesne) lord, and apart from a brief period before c. 1735, when a branch of the landed Somerset (Duke of Beaufort’s) family lived in Acton, there were no large resident landowners. Many of the tenements without land, including most of the inns, frequently changed hands.

By the 17th century Acton’s proximity to London had made it a summer retreat for courtiers and lawyers. Sir Richard Sutton bought the seat at East Acton known later as Manor House in 1610 and Sir Henry Garraway probably rebuilt Acton House in 1638. Sir John Trevor MP bought several Acton properties in the mid 17th century, including Berrymead/Berrymede, improving it with a lake and stream, home of George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax and his second son after him, and afterwards of the Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull, with a much-praised landscape.

The parish had 158 communicants in 1548. In 1664 it had 72 chargeable households and 59 exempt, with 6 empty houses. Six houses had 10 or more hearths, 16 had from 5 to 9, 33 had 3 or 4, 23 had 2, and 53 had 1. Action had about 160 families resident in the mid 18th century.

Acton was lauded as “blessed with very sweet air” in 1706 by rector urging a friend in verse to move there. The fashion for medicinal waters brought a brief period of fame, with the exploitation of the wells at Old Oak common, when East Acton and Friars Place were said to be thronged with summer visitors, who had brought about improvement in the houses there. Although high society had left Acton by the mid 18th century, many professional and military men bought houses there, sometimes including a small park, until well into the 19th century. The break-up of the 800 acres (3.2 km2) Fetherstonhaugh estate, which had had no resident owner, produced four or five small estates whose owners, professional men such as Samuel Wegg, John Winter, and Richard White, were active in parish affairs. Grand early homes included: Heathfield Lodge, West Lodge, and East Lodge by Winter c. 1800, Mill Hill House by White, and Woodlands at Acton Hill soon afterwards. Acton Green also became increasingly popular, being near Chiswick High Road (the Great West Road). Fairlawn, substantial, on west side of the green, was the home of the botanist John Lindley (1797–1865) as was the house to the north and Bedford House, another home of Lindley, and Melbourne House further east. A short row of houses had been built on the south side of the green by 1800.

There were 241 inhabited houses in 1801 and 426 by 1831. Growth took place mainly in the established residential neighbourhoods of Acton town and East Acton, but Acton Green also had acquired a cluster of cottages and houses at the bottom of Acton Lane by 1842. Acton was mostly rural in 1831. The few mansions contrasted sharply with most of the houses, which were described as ‘beneath mediocrity of character’. Despite an overall rise in the number of houses, poor rates had to be increased in the 1820s because of a growing number of empty dwellings.

More widespread building was planned and took place in the 1850s. As a result of its soft water sources, Acton became famous for its laundries and at the end of the 19th century there were around 170 establishments in South Acton. These laundries would serve hotels and the rich in London’s West End, leading to the nickname “Soapsuds Island” or “Soap Sud City”. At least 600 different laundries operated within South Acton; the last laundry closed in the late 1970s and is now a low redbrick block of flats.

The parish of Acton formed a local board of health in 1865 and became an urban district in 1894. The town was incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Acton in 1921. This authority combined with the municipal boroughs of Ealing and Southall to form the London Borough of Ealing, within Greater London, in 1965. An Acton Golf Club was founded in 1896, which closed in 1920 and the area was redeveloped for housing.

3 | Development


Acton formed an urban district and, later, municipal borough of Middlesex from 1894 to 1965. Its former area was used to form part of the London Borough of Ealing in 1965. During the 20th century Acton was a major industrial centre employing tens of thousands of people, particularly in the motor vehicles and components industries. The industries of North Acton merged with the great industrial concentrations of Park Royal and Harlesden. One of the most important firms was Renault of France, which made cars, including the 4CV and the Renault Dauphine, at a factory in North Acton from 1926 until 1960. Renault has remained on the site continuously since the 1920s and still has its main London showroom on the Park Royal site.

Further south Acton Vale had famous names including D. Napier & Son (engines), H. Bronnley & Co (Soaps), Evershed & Vignoles (electrical equipment), Lucas CAV (automotive electrical), Vandervell Products (bearings), and Wilkinson Sword (swords and razors). Acton is now principally residential, though it maintains some light industry, particularly in the northeast Park Royal area, and the south near the border with Chiswick. Waitrose started in Acton, as Waite, Rose and Taylor – on the High Street near the police station – with its second branch opening in Churchfield Road in 1913.

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The South Acton estate

Acton is home to the largest housing estate in West London, the South Acton estate, with approximately 2,000 homes and 5,800 residents.

This area is currently in the Phase 2 of a major 15-year phased regeneration which includes near-total demolition of the existing residential units, and the construction of new and more numerous residential units. Since World War II, Acton has had a small but notable population of Polish immigrants. In recent years, a number of Antipodean immigrants have settled there; there are several Australian and South African pubs concentrated in a small area. A Japanese school has also attracted a Japanese community to West Acton. The Somali community is concentrated around Church Road, and there are two mosques near the High Street. The Irish community has diminished somewhat in recent years, but there are still a number of Irish pubs in the area.

Acton will host the starting point of the 25 kilometre Thames Tideway Tunnel (also known as the “Super Sewer”) at the Acton Storm Tanks in Canham Road. This will be built to avoid the discharge of sewage from Combined Sewer Overflow into the River Thames.

4 | Leisure


The Acton High Street has a range of pubs which vary in theme and clientele.

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Pilot of Acton Farmers’ Market, December 2006

The recently refurbished ‘Mount’ on Acton High Street hosts a Market on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Visitors can shop at stalls selling a range of produce. Acton’s library, swimming baths (built in 1904) and Town Hall are examples of tall Victorian municipal buildings that can be found along the High Street. Acton Swimming Baths closed in December 2011 for a three-year development project, replacing the existing pools with a 25m 8-lane pool and a smaller teaching pool. The site reopened in April 2014

On the east end of Acton High Street is Acton Park, which features mini golf, a children’s play area, tennis courts, a basket/football court, a pond and an art block. There is a cafe next to the mini golf course selling meals as well as tea/coffee and cakes and ice cream.

5 | Education


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Acton High School

5.1 | Secondary Schools

Acton has three state-funded secondary high schools, Acton High School, Twyford Church of England High School and The Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls, and an independent school, the Barbara Speake Stage School. Acton was once home to another independent school, Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls before it changed its site to Elstree, the Acton site becoming the Cardinal Newman Roman Catholic High School. Acton also hosts the King Fahad Academy, an independent Muslim school.

5.2 | International Schools

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Japanese School in London

The Japanese School in London is in Acton.

6 | Acton in Popular Culture


  • The 1971 film Villain starring Richard Burton and Ian McShane clearly features Acton Central railway station in one of its sequences. Similarly another sequence in the same film shows the characters Danny and Inspector Matthews talking while on a train which they caught at Acton
  • Episode 1 of How the Other Half Lives, a Channel 4 documentary, shows the poverty of one family on the South Acton estate compared to living in the wealthy part of the country.
  • Acton was the birthplace of The Who, of which all members except Keith Moon went to Acton High School (then named Acton County Grammar School).
  • Pete Townshend’s 1982 solo album, All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, contained the track “Stardom in Acton” in reference to his home town, while the accompanying video was filmed on and around Acton High Street.
  • In the episode of Alan Partridge Towering Alan, the character Mike Sampson is from Acton. He is a socially inept character who describes Acton as having “a few too many blacks.”
  • Acton was the birthplace of punk band Dustin’s Bar Mitzvah. The band mention Acton in several songs and bear tattoos with the town’s name.
  • An episode of Chris Morris’s spoof news program The Day Today featured a segment called ‘The Pool’, a documentary about “St. Lamb’s Pool in Acton”. The scene was shot in the Acton Swimming Baths.
  • The Monty Python sketch ‘Bicycle Repair Man’ was shot on Churchfield Road; part of the sketch ‘Hell’s Grannies’ was shot on Acton High Street.
  • The English indiepop act The Hit Parade mentions Acton in their song Henry from 1993.
  • Leo Sayer’s 1983 single Orchard Road refers to Acton’s Churchfield Road.
  • In the TV series Minder, Arthur Daley’s car lot was by the railway bridge in The Vale with the door of the Winchester Club in Newburgh Road off Churchfield Road. The lock up was on the Bush Industrial Estate. Minder locations in Acton featured throughout series 7 to 10.
  • Acton Park often hosted filming for programmes such as Rose & Macaulay and The Deal. Other parts of Acton were used for The Sweeney and early episodes of The Bill.
  • The first Waitrose store in the UK was in Acton. Originally called “Waite, Rose and Taylor”, it opened in 1904, at number 263 Acton Hill. A metal plate commemorating this has been inserted into the pavement outside these premises as it was not possible to obtain permission from the current owners of the building to affix a plaque onto it.
  • Scenes from the 1986 movie Aliens and the 1989 movie Batman were shot inside the disused Acton Lane Power Station.
  • The Ken Loach film Ladybird Ladybird was filmed at many sites around Acton including The Mount, the Town Hall, Vyner Road, Cumberland Park and parts of South Acton.
  • The band Art of Noise featured a track entitled “Acton Art” as a B-Side to their 12″ Single release of “Dragnet”.
  • Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros played a gig in support of striking firefighters on 15 November 2002 at Acton Old Town Hall, and Mick Jones joined Strummer on stage, marking the first time they performed together since Jones’s departure from The Clash.
  • Scenes from the music video ‘Let’s Push Things Forward’ by The Streets are filmed around Acton and North Acton playing fields in North Acton.
    1970s footballer Robin Friday who played for Reading and Cardiff City was born in Acton.
  • The family terraced home in which Jimmy Cooper, the lead character in The Who’s film version of Quadrophenia lived, was in Wells House Road, Acton. When left derelict, the house was stripped of fixtures and fittings by devotees of the cult movie.
  • Playwright/Composer Lionel Bart lived the latter part of his life in an apartment on Churchfield Road, citing the area as the closest thing he could find to the community feel of the east London “of old”.
  • Sandra and Samantha Lawrence The Wee Papa Girl Rappers were a British female rap duo, who came from Acton & lived in one of the tower blocks next to Acton Police Station, the picture on the back cover of their album was taken outside their block.
  • Writer John Muckle’s novel of motorcycle despatch riders ‘London Brakes'(2010) is partly set and was largely written in Moreton Tower, Acton, in the 1980s.
  • “My Street” an award-winning documentary by director Sue Bourne was made in Goldsmith Avenue, Acton and featured twelve households there. Soon after transmission Abu Qatada’s family moved into one of the featured houses and he spent some months out on bail living in the house.
  • The film Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (2009) was partly set in the Talbot pub on Mill Hill road, Acton.
  • Many scenes of TV series Silent Witness are filmed around Acton and Park Royal. Silent Witness’s production offices and sets are at BBC Park Western in North Acton.

7 | Transport


7.1 | Tube/Rail

Stations in the area are:

  • Acton Central railway station (London Overground North London Line)
  • Acton Main Line railway station (Great Western Railway)
  • Acton Town tube station (District line and Piccadilly line)
  • East Acton tube station (Central line)
  • North Acton tube station (Central line)
  • South Acton railway station (North London Line, and formerly District line)
  • West Acton tube station (Central line (Ealing Broadway branch))
  • Acton Green tube station (now Chiswick Park, District line)

Acton has seven railway stations bearing its name, more than any other place in the United Kingdom other than London itself. Acton is also the only place in London to have stations named after all four of the cardinal points, north, south, east, and west. The widespread provision of train services reflects a long railway history, particularly associated (historically) with London Transport and the Great Western Railway.

North Acton has a large Great Western Railway housing estate (now privately owned), and the Old Oak Common TMD railway depot is within the usual boundary, as is the London Transport Museum Depot which houses an extensive collection of historic and heritage rolling stock. Acton Main Line station has a busy freight yard (operating ballast and container trains).

7.2 | Buses

London Buses routes 7, 70, 72, 94, 95, 207, 228, 260, 266, 272, 283, 427, 440, 487, 607, E3, N7, N11 and N207 serve Acton. In addition, the Uxbridge road is heavily congested during rush hour so take extra time when travelling.

7.3 | Shelved Tram Proposals

Transport for London, led by then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, proposed to build a West London Tram between Shepherd’s Bush and Uxbridge town centre. It would have run along the A4020, the Uxbridge Road, through Acton, Ealing, West Ealing, Hanwell, Southall and Hayes End. This proposed scheme was highly controversial and resulted in strong differences in opinion between TfL, who supported the scheme, and local councils throughout the proposed route, who all took a ‘no tram’ stance.

The West London Tram was finally scrapped when former Prime Minister Gordon Brown agreed that the long-awaited Crossrail would go ahead in October 2007. Acton Main Line railway station is to be part of the Crossrail network once it is completed, with 4 trains an hour servicing each route.

8 | Neighbouring Places


  • Chiswick
  • Ealing
  • Harlesden
  • Park Royal
  • Shepherds Bush

9 | Gallery


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View of South Acton from Barwick House, showing Jerome Tower and Berrymede Junior School

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Acton Park

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Barwick House, on the South Acton estate

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Blocks of flats on the South Acton estate

Acton Map

Acton Map

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London Underground Map

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East Acton Tube Station

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West Acton Tube Station

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Acton Gardens, W3, Acton, London

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Acton Library

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Housing in Acton

Housing at Acton, London

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3 Bedroom Houses  in West Acton, West London

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Acton Market

1 Bedroom Flat Alfred Road Acton London

1 Bedroom Flat, Alfred Road, Acton, London | Estimate Price 469,850 UK Pounds

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London Buses Route 224 and 206 Acton Lane

Japanese Garden - Acton Park Entrance

Japanese Garden Entrance – Acton Park, Wrexham

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Japanese Garden – Acton Park, Wrexham

Brick Lane

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Brick Lane street sign in English and Bengali.

Brick Lane (Bengali: ব্রিক লেন) is a street in east London, England, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It runs from Swanfield Street in the northern part of Bethnal Green, crosses Bethnal Green Road in Shoreditch, passes through Spitalfields and is linked to Whitechapel High Street to the south by the short stretch of Osborn Street. Today, it is the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi-Sylheti community and is known to some as Banglatown. It is famous for its many curry houses.

Contents
1 Early history
1.1 15th to 18th centuries
1.2 19th century markets and their modern use
1.3 Religious groups
1.4 Bengali settlement
1.5 Regeneration
2 Land ownership and naming
3 Buildings of interest
4 Transport
5 In popular culture
6 See also
7 References
8 External links

Early History


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The Brick Lane Mosque, used first as a church and then a synagogue, reflecting changing demographics.

15th to 18th centuries

Winding through fields, the street was formerly called Whitechapel Lane. It derives its current name from brick and tile manufacture started in the 15th century, which used the local brick earth deposits. and featured in the 16th century Woodcut map of London as a partially-developed crossroad leading north from the city’s most easterly edge. By the 17th century, the street was being developed northwards from the Barres (now Whitechapel High Street) as a result of expanding population.

Brewing came to Brick Lane before 1680, with water drawn from deep wells. One brewer was Joseph Truman, first recorded in 1683. His family, particularly Benjamin Truman, went on to establish the sizeable Black Eagle Brewery on Brick Lane. The Brick Lane Market first developed in the 17th century for fruit and vegetables sold outside the City.

Successive waves of immigrants settled in the area: in the 17th century, French Huguenots expanded into the area for housing; the master weavers were based in Spitalfields. Starting with the Huguenots, the area became a centre for weaving, tailoring and the developing clothing industry. It continued to attract immigrants, who provided semi- and unskilled labour.

19th century markets and their modern use

In the 19th century, Irish people and Ashkenazi Jews immigrated to the area. Jewish immigration continued into the early 20th century.

The Sunday market, like the ones on Petticoat Lane and nearby Columbia Road, dates from a dispensation given by the government to the Jewish community in the 19th century. At the time, there were no Sunday markets open because of the Christian observance of Sabbath. Located at the junction of Cheshire and Sclater streets, the market sells bric-a-brac as well as fruit, vegetables and many other items. In 2015 it was identified by police as the focal point of a trade in stolen bicycles and bicycle parts, many taken from City of London employees who had used “cycle to work” schemes. Alongside seven arrests, the police also warned purchasers that buying bicycles or parts in deals “too good to be true” could make them guilty of handling stolen goods. Near the junction with Hanbury Street are two indoor markets; Upmarket and Backyard Market. In 2010, the Brick Lane Farmers’ Market opened, intended to be held every Sunday in nearby Bacon Street; it has now closed.

In the later 20th century, Bangladeshis comprised the major group of immigrants and gradually predominated in the area. Many Bangladeshi immigrants to Brick Lane were from the Greater Sylhet region. These settlers helped shape Bangladeshi migration to Britain; many families from Jagannathpur and Bishwanath tend to live in the Brick Lane area.

Religious Groups

In 1742, La Neuve Eglise, a Huguenot chapel, was built on the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street. By 1809, it was used by missionaries as The Jews’ Chapel, where they promoted Christianity to the expanding Jewish population. It was adapted as a Methodist Chapel in 1819 for Protestant residents. (John Wesley had preached his first “covenant sermon” at the nearby Black Eagle Street Chapel).

Reflecting the changing demographics of the area, in 1898, the building was consecrated as the Machzikei HaDath, or Spitalfields Great Synagogue. After decades of change in the area, with Jews moving out and Bangladeshis moving in, in 1976 it was adapted again as the London Jamme Masjid (Great London Mosque) to serve the expanding Bangladeshi community. The building is Grade II* listed.

Bengali Settlement

Bangladeshi_man_in_Brick_Lane,_London

An elderly Bangladeshi man in Brick Lane

1024px-Brick_Lane

Curry restaurants in Brick Lane

In the 20th century the Brick Lane area was important in the second wave of development of Anglo-Indian cuisine, as families from countries such as Bangladesh (mainly the Greater Sylhet region) migrated to London to look for work. Some curry houses of Brick Lane do not sell alcohol as most are owned by Muslims.

Bengalis in the United Kingdom settled in big cities with industrial employment. In London, many Bengali people settled in the East End. For centuries the East End has been the first port of call for many immigrants working in the docks and shipping from Chittagong port in Bengal (British Empire in India was founded and based in Bengal). Their regular stopover paved the way for food/curry outlets to be opened up catering for an all male workforce as family migration and settlement took place some decades later. Humble beginnings such as this gave birth to Brick Lane as the famous curry capital of the UK. Bengalis of Sylheti origin constitute only 10% of all South Asians in Britain; however around 90% of all South Asian restaurants in the UK are Sylheti- or Bengali-owned.

Regeneration

Graffiti_in_Shoreditch,_London_-_Lion_in_Brick_Lane_(13784222033)

Graffiti on Brick Lane

More recently the area has also broadened to being a vibrant art and fashion student area, with considerable exhibition space. Each year most of the fine art and fashion courses exhibit their work near Brick Lane.

Since the late 1990s, Brick Lane has been the site of several of the city’s best known night clubs, notably 93 Feet East and The Vibe Bar, both built on the site of The Old Truman Brewery, once the industrial centre of the area, and now an office and entertainment complex.

Brick Lane has a regular display of graffiti, which features artists such as Banksy, Stik, ROA, D*Face, Ben Eine and Omar Hassan. The lane has been used in many music videos such as “Glory Days” by Just Jack, “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers and “Überlin” by R.E.M..

Land Ownership and Naming


Large swathes of Brick Lane and its surrounding areas were once owned by the Osborne (later Osborn after 1720) family, Baronets, of Chicksands in the County of Bedford. The family’s holdings survived until at least the 1970s. The family’s history continues to be reflected by the naming of streets in the area around Brick Lane, including:

  • Chicksand Street reflects the village of Chicksands in Bedfordshire, location of the family seat Chicksands Priory;
  • The west end of what is now Chicksand Street was once Osborn Place (see 1787 map);
  • Modern Osborn Street was a renaming of the southern-most stretch of Brick Lane (see Rocque map of 1746 for this naming, altered by the time of the 1787 map);
  • Heneage Street reflects the marriage of George Osborn, 4th Baronet, to Lady Heneage Finch (his 2nd wife) in April 1772;
  • The modern Hopetown Street was originally Finch Street, reflecting the same marriage (see 1853 map, right);The modern Old Montague Street was originally just Montague Street, preserving the maternal family name of George Osborn, 4th Baronet, whose mother, Mary Montague, was the daughter of George Montague, 2nd Earl of Halifax. The continuation of Chicksand Street to the East (now demolished) was once Halifax Street, referencing the same marriage.
  • Modern Hanbury Street is made up of 4 streets shown on the 1853 map: Browns Lane, Montague Street (triggering the addition of ‘Old’ to the earlier street of the same name), Well Street and Church Street.

1024px-1745_Roque_Map

John Rocque’s Map of London, 1746

Map_of_Spitalfields_Area_-_1787

Map, publisher unknown, dated 1787, showing Spitalfields (Spittlefields) and its environs

1280px-Stepney_Area,_part_of_Cross's_New_Plan_Of_London,_1853

An extract from Cross’s New Plan Of London, showing Stepney and surrounding areas. Published 1853 by J.Cross of London.

Buildings of Interest


Nearby buildings of interest include Christ Church, Spitalfields, The Jamme Masjid or Great London Mosque on the corner of Fournier Street (the building represents a history of successive communities of immigrants in East End) and The Rag Factory on Heneage Street (once home to Turner Prize nominees Tracey Emin and Gary Hume, now a thriving arts space).

Transport


The nearest London Underground stations are Aldgate East and Liverpool Street. In 2006 a campaign was launched to change the name of the Aldgate East station to “Brick Lane”, but received no official support.

The nearest London Overground station is Shoreditch High Street station. This line runs on part of the former East London Line which has now been converted to London Overground. At the junction with Pedley Street exists the former Shoreditch tube station which closed in 2006 due to underuse. Remnants of the station can be seen from trains entering and leaving Liverpool Street station.

In Popular Culture


1024px-Brick_Lane_2005

Brick Lane in 2005

The street is the location for Monica Ali’s book Brick Lane, published in 2003, and the film of 2007 starring Tannishtha Chatterjee. The novel provoked a controversy with some of the local South Asian community because of a perceived negative portrayal of them. Parts of the Bengali community were particularly opposed to plans by Ruby Films to film parts of the novel in the Brick Lane area and formed the “Campaign Against Monica Ali’s Film Brick Lane.” Consequently, the producers of the film used different locations for certain scenes, such as that depicting Brick Lane Market. Despite this, the director of the film, Sarah Gavron, attests on the DVD commentary of the film that genuine footage of Brick Lane does appear in the finished movie. Activists told The Guardian they intended to burn copies of Ali’s book during a rally to be held on 30 July 2006, but the demonstration passed without incident.

Other notable books on the area are Salaam Brick Lane by Tarquin Hall, On Brick Lane (2007) by Rachel Lichtenstein and An Acre of Barren Ground by Jeremy Gavron. A large collection of photographs of the characters and sales people who worked the markets in Brick Lane were taken by Fran May between 1976 and 1978, encouraged by Bill Brandt while Fran was a student of photography at the Royal College of Art.

The street has been used for several filming locations for the BBC television show Luther (2013) in its third season.

Chinatown, London

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1280px-Chinatown,_London (1)

Gerrard Street (2011)

  • Metropolitan borough: City of Westminster
  • Metropolitan county: Greater London
  • Region: London
  • Country: England
  • Sovereign state: United Kingdom
  • Post town: LONDON
  • Postcode district: W1D
  • Dialling code: 020
  • Police: Metropolitan
  • Fire: London
  • Ambulance: London
  • EU: Parliament London
  • UK Parliament: Cities of London and Westminster
  • List of places:
    • UK
    • England
    • London

The name Chinatown has been used at different times to describe different places in London. The present Chinatown is part of the City of Westminster, occupying the area in and around Gerrard Street. It contains a number of Chinese restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, souvenir shops, and other Chinese-run businesses.

Contents
1 History
2 Residents
3 Gerrard Street
4 Street name etymologies
5 Education
6 Transport
7 Popular Culture
8 Gallery

History


The first area in London known as Chinatown was located in the Limehouse area of the East End of London. At the start of the 20th century, the Chinese population of London was concentrated in that area, setting up businesses which catered to the Chinese sailors who frequented in Docklands. The area began to become known through exaggerated reports and tales of (the then-legal) opium dens and slum housing, rather than the Chinese restaurants and supermarkets in the current Chinatown. However, much of the area was damaged by aerial bombing during the Blitz in World War II, although a number of elderly Chinese still choose to live in this area. After World War II, however, the growing popularity of Chinese cuisine and an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong led to an increasing number of Chinese restaurants being opened elsewhere.

The present Chinatown, which is off Shaftesbury Avenue did not start to be established until the 1970s. Up until then, it was a regular Soho area, run-down, with Gerrard Street the main thoroughfare. It was dominated by the Post Office, facing Macclesfield Street, and other major establishments were The Tailor & Cutter House, at 43/44, now a Chinese supermarket and restaurant, the Boulougne Restaurant, near the Wardour Street end, and by Peter Mario’s Restaurant at the other end. Other businesses included a master baker’s, the Sari Centre, Lesgrain French Coffee House, Harrison Marks’ Glamour Studio, an Indian restaurant and various brothels. Probably the first Chinese restaurants opened in Lisle Street, parallel to Gerrard St, and then spread gradually. The Tailor & Cutter did not close down until around 1974.

The area boasts over 80 restaurants showcasing some of London’s finest and most authentic Asian cuisine.

In 2005, the property developer Rosewheel proposed a plan to redevelop the eastern part of Chinatown. The plan was opposed by many of the existing retailers in Chinatown, as they believe that the redevelopment will drive out the traditional Chinese retail stores from the area and change the ethnic characteristic of Chinatown.

The London Chinatown Community Centre (LCCC) has been housed in the Chinatown area since it was founded in 1980 by Dr Abraham Lue. The Centre claims to have received 40,000 people for help and assistance since its foundation. Located since 1998 on the 2nd floor of 28-29 Gerrard Street, the Centre relocated to 2 Leicester Court in 2012, above the Hippodrome Casino.

Residents


Vale Royal House, a large residential block, houses a number of families, professionals and single men and women. The block was built in the 1980s and houses the China Town car park underneath it.

Gerrard Street


John Dryden (1631–1700) lived for a while at 43 Gerrard Street, which is commemorated by a blue plaque. Another plaque, on number 9, marks the meeting of Samuel Johnson and Joshua Reynolds at the Turk’s Head Tavern to found The Club, a dining club, in 1764. In fiction, Charles Dickens sets the home of Mr Jaggers, the lawyer in Great Expectations, in “a house on the south side of that street. Rather a stately house of its kind, but dolefully in want of painting, and with dirty windows [and with …] a stone hall… a dark brown staircase … dark brown rooms… panelled walls”. A Royal Society of Arts blue plaque commemorates Edmund Burke at 37 Gerrard Street.

In the Roaring Twenties, the 43 Club was set up at number 43, as a jazz club notorious for outrageous parties frequented by the rich and powerful. It was eventually closed down by direct order of the Home Office and the proprietor, Kate Meyrick, was imprisoned. Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club started in Gerrard Street in the basement of No. 39.

In 1953, No. 4 Gerrard Street was a small studio where the theatrical photographer George Harrison Marks and his partner Pamela Green, lived and worked. By the late 1950s, with the success of Kamera Publications, they had taken over No. 5 next door and had a much larger studio on the top floor. In the early 1960s the ground floor at No. 4 became a gallery. The director Michael Powell copied their sets for the classic film Peeping Tom, in which Green also starred.

A basement in Gerrard Street was the location of the first rehearsal of Led Zeppelin in August 1968, where they played “Train Kept A-Rollin'”. The exact location of the basement is unknown, and it is believed to have been converted into business premises many years ago.

Street Name Etymologies


The following utilises the generally accepted boundaries of Chinatown viz. Shaftesbury Avenue to the north, Charing Cross Road to the east, Coventry Street, Leicester Square and Cranbourn Street to the south and Great Windmill Street to the west.

  • Charing Cross Road – built 1887, and named as it led to the cross at Charing, from the the Old English word “cierring”, referring to a bend in the River Thames
  • Coventry Street – after Henry Coventry]], Secretary of State to Charles II, who lived near hre in Shaver’s Hall
  • Cranbourn Street – built in the 1670s and named after local landowner the Earl of Salisbury, Viscount Cranbourn (or Cranbourne) after the town in Dorset
  • Dansey Place – unknown
  • Gerrard Place and Gerrard Street – after Charles Gerard, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, who owned this land when the street as built in the 1680s; the form ‘Gerrard’ developed in the 19th century
  • Great Windmill Street – after a windmill that formerly stood near here in Ham Yard n the 17th century; the ‘great’ prefix was to distinguish it from Little Windmill Street, now Lexington Street
  • Horse and Dolphin Yard – after the Horse and Dolphin inn which stood here in the 17th – 19th centuries
  • Leicester Court, Leicester Place, Leicester Square and Leicester Street – the square was home to Leicester House in the 17th century, home of Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester; Leicester Court was formerly Ryder Court, after local leaseholder Richard Ryder – it was renamed in 1936
  • Lisle Street – after Philip, Viscount Lisle, who succeeded to the earldom of Leicester in 1677
  • Macclesfield Street – after Charles Gerard, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, local landowner in the 17th century
  • Newport Court, Newport Place and Little Newport Street – after Mountjoy Blount, Earl of Newport (Isle of Wight), who owned house on what this street (then just Newport Street) in the 17th century. Following the construction of Charing Cross Road Newport Street was split in two and the two sections renamed as they are today.
  • Rupert Court and Rupert Street – after Prince Rupert of the Rhine, noted 17th century general and son of Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of King James I
  • Shaftesbury Avenue – after Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, Victorian politician and philanthropist
  • Wardour Street – named after local 17th century landowners the Wardour family, and formerly called Colman Hedge Lane after a nearby field; the section south of Brewer Street was formerly Prince Street prior to 1878, in parallel with Rupert Street 

Education


For education in Chinatown, London, see City of Westminster § Education.
The City of Westminster operates the Charing Cross Library with the Westminster Chinese Library.

Transport


The nearest London Underground stations are Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.

Popular Culture
The films Soursweet (1988) and Ping Pong (1987) are set in Chinatown; they are regarded as the first British-Chinese films, and make extensive use of Chinatown locations.

Gallery


Chinatownlon

Chinatown, New Year 2009

1280px-Chinatown2013

The corner of Gerrard Street, 2013

Bilingual_StreetSign_in_LondonChinaTown

Bilingual street sign

614px-Gerrard_Street_London

A stone lion on Gerrard Street. Note the bilingual English/Chinese street sign in the background.

768px-Pagodachinatownlondon

Chinatown pagoda, London (removed in 2017)

Downing Street

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Downing_Street_gates

Downing Street in the late 1980s, before the gates were installed

Downing Street is a street in London, United Kingdom, known for housing the official residences and offices of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. “Downing Street” is used as a metonym for the Government of the United Kingdom.

Downing Street is off Whitehall in central London, a few minutes’ walk from the Houses of Parliament and a little further from Buckingham Palace. The street was built in the 1680s by Sir George Downing. The houses on the south side of the street were demolished in the 19th century to make way for government offices now occupied by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

For more than three hundred years it has held the official residences of the First Lord of the Treasury, an office now synonymous with that of Prime Minister, and the Second Lord of the Treasury, an office held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Prime Minister’s official residence is 10 Downing Street; the Chancellor’s official residence is next door at Number 11. The government’s Chief Whip has an official residence at Number 12, although the current Chief Whip’s residence is at Number 9.

Contents
1 History
2 Houses in Downing Street
3 Downing Street gates
3.1 Public right of way
4 Security

History


Sir_George_Downing_by_Thomas_Smith

Sir George Downing

The street was built in the 1680s by Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet, on the site of a mansion, Hampden House. What was on the site before the mansion is vague, but there is evidence towards a brewhouse called The Axe, owned by the Abbey of Abingdon. Downing was a soldier and diplomat who served under Oliver Cromwell and King Charles II, and who invested in properties and acquired considerable wealth. In 1654, he purchased the lease on land east of Saint James’s Park, adjacent to the House at the Back, and within walking distance of parliament. Downing planned to build a row of townhouses “for persons of good quality to inhabit”. However, the Hampden family had a lease which prevented their construction for 30 years. When the Hampden lease expired, Downing received permission to build further west to take advantage of recent developments. The new warrant issued in 1682 reads: “Sir George Downing … [is authorised] to build new and more houses further westward on the grounds granted him by the patent of 1663/4 Feb. 23. The present grant is by reason that the said Cockpit or the greater part thereof is since demolished; but it is to be subject to the proviso that it be not built any nearer than 14 feet of the wall of the said Park at the West end thereof.”

Between 1682 and 1684, Downing built the cul-de-sac of two-storey townhouses with coach-houses, stables and views of St James’s Park. How many he built is not clear; most historians say 15, others say 20. The addresses changed several times; Number 10 was numbered 5 for a while, and was renumbered in 1787. Downing employed Sir Christopher Wren to design the houses. Although large, they were put up quickly and cheaply on soft soil with shallow foundations. The fronts had facades with lines painted on the surface imitating brick mortar. Winston Churchill wrote that Number 10 was “shaky and lightly built by the profiteering contractor whose name they bear”.

The upper end of the Downing Street cul-de-sac closed access to St James’s Park, making the street quiet and private. An advertisement in 1720 described it as “a pretty open Place, especially at the upper end, where are four or five very large and well-built Houses, fit for Persons of Honour and Quality; each House having a pleasant Prospect into St James’s Park, with a Tarras Walk”. The houses had several distinguished residents. The Countess of Yarmouth lived at Number 10 between 1688 and 1689, Lord Lansdowne from 1692 to 1696 and the Earl of Grantham from 1699 to 1703. The diarist James Boswell took rooms in Downing Street during his stay in London during 1762–63 at a rent of £22 per annum. He records having dealings with prostitutes in the adjacent park.

Downing probably never lived in his townhouses. In 1675 he retired to Cambridge, where he died a few months after the houses were completed. His portrait hangs in the entrance foyer of the modern Number 10.

The Downing family also built Downing College, Cambridge, which was established in 1800, after its founder Sir George Downing, 3rd Baronet, left a portion of his estate to establish Downing College when the land became available. (A door from Number 10 is in use in the college).

The houses between Number 10 and Whitehall were acquired by the government and demolished in 1824 to allow the construction of the Privy Council Office, Board of Trade and Treasury offices. In 1861 the houses on the south side of Downing Street were replaced by purpose-built government offices for the Foreign Office, India Office, Colonial Office, and the Home Office.

Houses in Downing Street


Downing_Street

Downing Street looking west. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is on the left, the red house is No. 12, the dark houses are No. 11 and No. 10 (nearer, and partially obscured), and the building on the right is the Barry wing of Cabinet Office, which has its main frontage to Whitehall.

379px-Corner_of_Downing_St_and_Whitehall,_London_-_May_2008

The corner of Downing St and Whitehall

9 Downing Street,

named in 2001, is the Downing Street entrance to the Privy Council Office and houses the Department for Exiting the European Union. It was formerly part of Number 10.

10 Downing Street

is the official residence of the First Lord of the Treasury, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, as with almost no exceptions, the two roles have been filled by the same person since the 1720s. It has fulfilled this role since 1735.

11 Downing Street

has been the official residence of the Second Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer since 1828.

12 Downing Street,

formerly the Chief Whip’s Office, houses the Prime Minister’s Press Office, Strategic Communications Unit and Information and Research Unit. In the 1820s it was occupied by the Judge Advocate-General, although it remained in private ownership. It entered government hands when purchased by the East India Company in 1863, and was occupied by the marine and railway departments of the Board of Trade. It was originally numbered 13, but was partially re-built and re-numbered following the demolition of Number 14 in 1876. It was badly damaged by fire in 1879, and underwent further changes.

14 Downing Street

formerly closed off the western end of the street. It was acquired by the Crown in 1798, and was used by the War Office and Colonial Office in the 19th century. Some parts were demolished in the 1860s, and by 1876 it had been removed completely.

15–16 Downing Street,

long since demolished, formerly housed the Foreign Office, which also occupied two houses on the south side of the street.

18 Downing Street

was occupied by the West India Department of the Colonial Office.

20 Downing Street

was occupied by the Tithe Commission.

The houses at the end of the street were arranged around Downing Square.

There used to be a public house, the Rose and Crown, in Downing Street. In 1830 the tenant was a Mr Dixon.

Throughout the history of these houses, ministers have lived by agreement in whatever rooms they thought necessary. On some occasions Number 11 has been occupied not by the Chancellor of the Exchequer but by the individual considered to be the nominal deputy Prime Minister (whether or not they actually took the title); this was particularly common in coalition governments. Sometimes a minister only uses the Downing Street flat for formal occasions and lives elsewhere.

During his last period in office, in 1881, William Ewart Gladstone claimed residence in numbers 10, 11 and 12 for himself and his family. He was both Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister at the time.

After the 1997 general election, in which Labour took power, a swap was carried out by the incumbents of the two titles, Tony Blair being a married man with three children living at home, while his counterpart, Gordon Brown, was unmarried at the time of taking up his post. Although Number 10 was the Prime Minister’s official residence and contained the prime ministerial offices, Blair and his family actually moved into the more spacious Number 11, while Brown lived in the more meagre apartments of Number 10. This was the second time this had occurred; Stafford Northcote lived in Number 10 at one point, while Benjamin Disraeli occupied Number 11. That was for precisely the opposite reason—at the time, Number 10 was the more spacious apartment and Sir Stafford had a larger family. Blair and Brown’s arrangement continued between Brown (at 11) and Alistair Darling (at 10), and continued in the Cameron ministry (David Cameron at 11 and George Osborne at 10) Theresa May and Philip Hammond have also continued this arrangement.

Downing Street Gates


Downing_Street,_London_01

The gates at the entrance to Downing Street

Armed_police_officers_(London,_2014)

Police at the gate

Barriers were erected at the St James’s Park end of the street for the unveiling of the Cenotaph on 11 November 1920. They were a public safety measure intended to prevent the crowds in Whitehall becoming too dense.

When the movement for Irish independence became increasingly violent, it was decided to retain the barriers, which were raised and strengthened. On 26 November 1920 construction commenced on a wooden barricade, 8 feet (2.4 m) high at the end of the street. They were described as being of a “substantial character” mounted on proper foundations and incorporated vehicle gates. The barriers were taken down in 1922 when the Irish Free State was created.

Vehicle access was curtailed in 1973 when metal barriers were placed across the entrance to the street. In 1974, the Metropolitan Police proposed erecting a semi-permanent barrier between the pavement and carriageway on the Foreign Office side to keep pedestrians off the main part of the street. The proposal came with assurances that tourists would still be permitted to take photographs at the door of Number 10. The Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, rejected the proposal, feeling that it would appear to be an unacceptable restriction of the freedom of the public. Wilson’s private secretary wrote “I much regret this further erosion of the Englishman’s right to wander at will in Downing Street.”

In 1982 access was further restricted by railings and a demountable gate. They were replaced by black steel gates in 1989. The increase in security was due to an increase in violence, particularly by the IRA during The Troubles. The Thatcher ministry was particularly moved to increase security after the 1979 assassination of Lord Mountbatten.

Downing_street (1)

Downing Street in the late 1980s, before the gates were installed

Public Right of Way


The public right of way along Downing Street has not been extinguished nor subject to a gating order and the road retains the status of a public highway maintained by Westminster City Council. Public access was curtailed by relying on common law powers to prevent breach of the peace (although its legality has been questioned by a correspondent for New Statesman magazine). In 2005 Westminster City Council used anti-terrorism powers contained in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 to formalise the restrictions by means of a traffic management order.

Although the Downing Street government buildings and grounds are a designated site under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 for criminal trespass, the street was not included in the boundaries of the designated area.

Security


Since 1989, entering Downing Street has required passing through a security checkpoint. The street is patrolled by armed police from the Diplomatic Protection Group, and there is usually at least one police officer outside the front door of Number 10. Security was tightened after 10 Downing Street was mortar bombed by the IRA in 1991.

Oxford Street

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Oxford  Street | A40

768px-Oxford_Street_(geograph_4949395)

View east along Oxford Street in May 2016

823px-Westminster_London_UK_location_map.svg

Location within Central London

  • Former name(s):
    • Via Trinobantina
    • Tyburn Road
  • Maintained by: Transport for London
  • Length: 1.2 mi (1.9 km)
  • Location: London, United Kingdom
  • Postal code: W1
  • Nearest Tube station
    • Marble Arch
    • Bond Street
    • Oxford Circus
    • Tottenham Court Road
  • Coordinates: 51.515312°N 0.142025°WCoordinates: 51.515312°N 0.142025°W
  • West end: Marble Arch
  • East end: Tottenham Court Road / Charing Cross Road

Other

  • Known for
    • 100 Club
    • Debenhams
    • HMV
    • House of Fraser
    • John Lewis
    • Marble Arch
    • Oxford Circus
    • Selfridges
  • Website oxfordstreet co uk

Oxford Street is a major road in the City of Westminster in the West End of London, running from Marble Arch to Tottenham Court Road via Oxford Circus. It is Europe’s busiest shopping street, with around half a million daily visitors, and as of 2012 had approximately 300 shops. It is designated as part of the A40, a major road between London and Fishguard, though it is not signed as such, and traffic is regularly restricted to buses and taxis.

The road was originally a Roman road, part of the Via Trinobantina between Essex and Hampshire via London. It was known as Tyburn Road through the Middle Ages and was once notorious as a street where prisoners from Newgate Prison would be transported towards a public hanging. It became known as Oxford Road and then Oxford Street in the 18th century, and began to change character from a residential street to commercial and retail purposes by the late 19th century, also attracting street traders, confidence tricksters and prostitution. The first department stores in Britain opened on Oxford Street in the early 20th century, including Selfridges, John Lewis and HMV. Unlike nearby shopping streets such as Bond Street, it has retained an element of downmarket street trading alongside more prestigious retail stores. The street suffered heavy bombing during World War II, and several longstanding stores including John Lewis were completely destroyed and rebuilt from scratch.

Despite competition from other shopping centres such as Westfield Stratford City and the Brent Cross shopping centre, Oxford Street remains in high demand as a retail location, with several chains hosting their flagship stores on the street, and has a number of listed buildings. The annual switching on of Christmas lights by a celebrity has been a popular event since 1959. However, the combination of a very popular retail area and a main thoroughfare for London buses and taxis has caused significant problems with traffic congestion, safety and pollution. Various traffic management schemes have been proposed by Transport for London, including a ban on private vehicles during daytime hours on weekdays and Saturdays, and improved pedestrian crossings.

Contents

1 Location
2 History
2.1 Early History
2.2 Retail Development
2.3 Post-War
3 Buildings
4 Transport Links
5 Traffic
5.1 Pedestrianisation
6 Pollution
7 Crime
8 Christmas Lights
9 Listed Buildings
10 Cultural References

1 | Location


Oxford Street runs for approximately 1.2 miles (1.9 km). From Marble Arch, where it meets Park Lane, Edgware Road, and its westward continuation Bayswater Road, it runs east past Vere Street, New Bond Street and Bond Street station, up to Oxford Circus, where it meets Regent Street.

Beyond Oxford Circus, it meets Great Portland Street, Wardour Street and Rathbone Place and ends at St Giles Circus, the junction with Charing Cross Road and Tottenham Court Road, next to Tottenham Court Road station. The eastward continuation is New Oxford Street, and then Holborn. The road is entirely within the City of Westminster.

The street is classified as part of the A40, most of which is a trunk road running from London to Fishguard (via Oxford, Cheltenham, Brecon and Haverfordwest), although like many roads in Central London that are no longer through routes, it is not signposted with the road number. It is within the London Congestion Charging Zone. Numerous bus routes run along Oxford Street, including 10, 25, 55, 73, 98, 390 and Night Buses N8, N55, N73, N98 and N207.

2 | History


2.1 | Early History

Oxford_Street_1882

Nos. 399–405 Oxford Street, c. 1882. These buildings have now been demolished.

Oxford Street follows the route of a Roman road, the Via Trinobantina, which linked Calleva Atrebatum (near Silchester, Hampshire) with Camulodunum (now Colchester) via London and became one of the major routes in and out of the city.

Between the 12th century and 1782, it was variously known as Tyburn Road (after the River Tyburn that ran just to the south of it, and now flows underneath it), Uxbridge Road (this name is still used for the portion of the London-Oxford road between Shepherds Bush and Uxbridge), Worcester Road and Oxford Road. On Ralph Aggas’ “Plan of London”, published in the 16th century, the road is described partly as “The Waye to Uxbridge” followed by “Oxford Road”, showing rural farmland where the junction of Oxford Street and Rathbone Place now is.

Despite being a major coaching route, there were several obstacles along it, including the bridge over the Tyburn. A turnpike trust was established in the 1730s to improve upkeep of the road. It became notorious as the route taken by prisoners on their final journey from Newgate Prison to the gallows at Tyburn near Marble Arch. Spectators drunkenly jeered at prisoners as they carted along the road, and could buy rope used in the executions from the hangman in taverns. By about 1729, the road had become known as Oxford Street.

The street began to be redeveloped in the 18th century after many of the surrounding fields were purchased by the Earl of Oxford. In 1739, local gardener Thomas Huddle began to build property on the north side. John Rocque’s Map of London, published in 1746, shows urban buildings as far as North Audley Street, but only intermittent rural property thereafter. Buildings began to be erected on the corner of Oxford Street and Davies Street in the 1750s. Further development along the street occurred between 1763 and 1793. The Pantheon, a place for public entertainment, opened at No. 173 in 1772.

The street became popular with entertainers including bear-baiters, theatres and public houses. However, it was not attractive to the middle and upper classes due to the nearby Tyburn gallows and St Giles, then a notorious rookery, or slum. The gallows were removed in 1783, and by the end of the century, Oxford Street was built up from St Giles Circus to Park Lane, containing a mix of residential houses and entertainment. The Princess’s Theatre opened in 1840, and is now the site of Oxford Walk shopping area.

Oxford Circus was designed as part of the development of Regent Street by the architect John Nash in 1810. The four quadrants of the circus were designed by Sir Henry Tanner and constructed between 1913 and 1928.

2.2 | Retail Development

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View west down Oxford Street in 1961, outside Bond Street tube station

Oxford Street changed character from residential to retail towards the end of the 19th century. Drapers, cobblers and furniture stores began to appear on the street, and were later expanded into the first department stores. Street vendors began to sell tourist souvenirs on the street during this time. A plan of Oxford Street in Tallis’s London Street Views, published in the late 1830s, remarks that almost all the street, save for the far western end, was primarily retail. John Lewis started in 1864 as a small shop at No. 132, while Selfridges opened on 15 March 1909 at No. 400. Most of the southern side of Oxford Street west of Davies Street was completely rebuilt between 1865 and 1890, allowing a more uniform freehold ownership. By the 1930s, the street was almost entirely retail, a position that remains today. However, unlike nearby streets such as Bond Street and Park Lane, there remained a seedy element including street traders and prostitutes. Aside from a number of fixed places on the street, there are no provisions for selling licensed goods on Oxford Street. The advent of closed-circuit television has reduced the attraction of the area to scam artists and illegal street traders.

Stanley_Green_by_Sean_Hickin,_Oxford_Street,_London,_1974_(2)

Stanley Green advertising on Oxford Street in 1974

Oxford Street suffered considerable bombing during the Second World War. During the night and early hours of 17 to 18 September 1940, 268 Heinkel He 111 and Dornier Do 17 bombers targeted the West End, particularly Oxford Street. Many buildings were damaged, either from a direct hit or subsequent fires, including four department stores: John Lewis, Selfridges, Bourne & Hollingsworth and Peter Robinson. George Orwell wrote in his diary for 24 September that Oxford Street was “completely empty of traffic, and only a few pedestrians”, and saw “innumerable fragments of broken glass”. John Lewis caught fire again on 25 September and was reduced to a shell. It remained a bomb site for the remainder of the war and beyond, finally being demolished and rebuilt between 1958 and 1960. Peter Robinson partially reopened on 22 September, though the main storefront remained boarded up. The basement was converted into studios for the BBC Eastern Service. Orwell made several broadcasts here from 1941 to 1943.

Selfridges was bombed again on 17 April 1941, suffering further damage, including the destruction of the Palm Court Restaurant. The basement was converted to a communications base, with a dedicated line run along Oxford Street to Whitehall, and allowed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to make secure and direct telephone calls to the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The store was damaged again on 6 December 1944 after a V2 rocket exploded on nearby Duke Street, causing its Christmas tree displays to collapse into the street outside. Damage was quickly repaired and the shop re-opened the following day.

2.3 | Post-War

London_Oxford_Street_Selfridges_shop_in_1987

A view of Oxford Street in 1987, with Selfridges on the right

In September 1973 a shopping-bag bomb was detonated by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) at the offices of the Prudential Assurance Company on Oxford Street, injuring six people. A second bomb was detonated by the IRA on the street by Selfridges in December 1974, injuring three people and causing £1.5 million worth of damage. Oxford Street was again targeted by the IRA in August 1975; an undiscovered bomb that had been booby trapped exploded without any injuries. The IRA also detonated a bomb at the John Lewis department store on Oxford Street in December 1992 along with another in nearby Cavendish Square, injuring four.

The human billboard Stanley Green began selling on Oxford Street in 1968, advertising his belief in the link of proteins to sexual libido and the dangers therein. He regularly patrolled the street with a placard headlined “less passion from less protein”, and advertised his pamphlet Eight Passion Proteins with Care until his death in 1993. His placards are now housed in the British Museum.

Centre Point, just beyond the eastern end of Oxford Street next to Tottenham Court Road station, was designed by property developer Harry Hyams and opened in 1966. It failed to find a suitable tenant and sat empty for many years, eventually being occupied by squatters who used it as a centre of protest against the lack of suitable accommodation in Central London. In 2015, the building began to be converted into residential flats, with development expected to finish in 2017.

3 | Buildings


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A blue plaque at No. 363 Oxford Street commemorating the founding of HMV in 1921

Oxford Street is home to a number of major department stores and flagship retail outlets, containing over 300 shops as of 2012. It is the most frequently visited shopping street in Inner London, attracting over half a million daily visitors in 2014, and is one of the most popular destinations in London for tourists, with an annual estimated turnover of over £1 billion. It forms part of a shopping district in the West End of London, along with other streets including Covent Garden, Bond Street and Piccadilly.

The New West End Company, formerly the Oxford Street Association, is a group that oversees stores and trade along the street; its objective is to make the place safe and desirable for shoppers. They have been critical of the overcrowding and quality of shops and started to clamp down on abusive traders, who have then been refused licences.

Several British retail chains regard their Oxford Street branch as the flagship store. Debenhams originally opened as Marshall & Snelgrove in 1870; in 1919 they merged with Debenhams, which had opened in nearby Wigmore Street in 1778. The company was owned by Burton between 1985 and 1998. The London flagship store of the House of Fraser began as D H Evans in 1879 and moved to its current premises in 1935. It was the first department store in the UK with escalators serving every floor. Selfridges, Oxford Street, the second-largest department store in the UK and flagship of the Selfridges chain, has been in Oxford Street since 1909.

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The 100 Club has been a live music venue in the basement of No. 100 Oxford Street since 1942, and has been an important venue for trad jazz, British blues and punk bands.

Marks & Spencer has two stores on Oxford Street. The first, Marks & Spencer Marble Arch, is at the junction with Orchard Street. A second branch between Regent Street and Tottenham Court Road stands on the former site of the Pantheon.

The music retailer HMV was opened at No. 363 Oxford Street in 1921 by Sir Edward Elgar. The Beatles made their first recording in London in 1962, when they cut a 78rpm demo disc in the store. A larger store at No. 150 was opened in 1986 by Sir Bob Geldof, and was the largest music shop in the world at 60,000 square feet (6,000 m2). As well as music and video retail, the premises supported live gigs in the store. Due to financial difficulties, the store closed in 2014, with all retail moving to No. 363.

The 100 Club, in the basement of No. 100, has been running as a live music venue since 24 October 1942. It was thought to be safe from bombing threats due to its underground location, and played host to jazz musicians, including Glenn Miller. It was renamed the London Jazz Club in 1948, and subsequently the Humphrey Lyttelton Club after Lyttelton took over the lease in the 1950s. Louis Armstrong played at the venue during this time. It became a key venue for the trad jazz revival, hosting gigs by Chris Barber and Acker Bilk. It was renamed the 100 Club in 1964 after Roger Horton bought a stake in the venue, adding an alcohol licence for the first time. The venue hosted gigs by several British blues bands, including the Who, the Kinks and the Animals. It was an important venue for punk rock in the UK and hosted the first British punk festival on 21 September 1976, featuring the Sex Pistols, the Damned and the Buzzcocks.

The Tottenham is a Grade II* listed public house at No. 6 Oxford Street, near Tottenham Court Road. It was built in the mid-19th century and is the last remaining pub in the street, which once had 20.

The London College of Fashion has an Oxford Street campus, which is on John Prince’s Street near Oxford Circus. The college is part of the University of the Arts London, formerly the London Institute.

The cosmetics retailer Lush opened a store in Oxford Street in 2015. Measuring 9,300 square feet (860 m2) and containing three floors, it is the company’s largest retail premises.

4 | Transport Links


Oxford Street is served by many major bus routes and by four tube stations of the London Underground. From Marble Arch eastwards, these stations are as follows:

Marble Arch, on the Central line

Bond Street, on the Central line and Jubilee line

Oxford Circus, on the Central line, Bakerloo line and Victoria line

Tottenham Court Road, on the Central line and Northern line

The four stations serve an average of 100 million passengers every year, with Oxford Circus being the busiest.

Crossrail, a major project involving an east-west rail route across London, will have two stations serving Oxford Street, at Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road. Each station will be “double-ended”, with exits through the existing tube station and also some distance away: to the east of Bond Street, in Hanover Square near Oxford Circus; to the west of Tottenham Court Road, in Dean Street.

5 | Traffic


1024px-Oxford_Street_December_2006

On average, half a million people visit Oxford Street every day, and foot traffic is in severe competition with buses and taxis.

Oxford Street has been ranked as the most important retail location in Britain and the busiest shopping street in Europe. The street is often congested both on the pavements, due to the large number of shoppers and tourists, many of whom arrive at one of the tube stations, and on the roadway as a result of the many buses routed along the street.

There is heavy competition between foot and bus traffic on Oxford Street, which is the main east-west bus corridor through Central London. Around 175,000 people get on or off a bus on Oxford Street every day, along with 43,000 further through passengers. Taxis are popular, particularly along the stretch between Oxford Circus and Selfridges. Between 2009 and 2012, there were 71 accidents involving traffic and pedestrians. In 2016, a report suggested buses generally did not travel faster than 4.6 miles per hour (7.4 km/h), compared to a typical pedestrian speed of 3.1 miles per hour (5.0 km/h).

There have been several proposals to reduce congestion on Oxford Street. Horse-drawn vehicles were banned in 1931, and traffic signals were installed in the same year. To alleviate congestion and help traffic flow of buses, most of Oxford Street is designated a bus lane during peak daytime hours, when private vehicles are banned. It is only open to buses, taxis and two-wheeled vehicles between 7:00am and 7:00pm on all days except Sundays. The ban was introduced experimentally in June 1972. It was considered a success, with an estimated increase of £250,000 in retail sales. In 2009, a new diagonal crossing opened at Oxford Circus, allowing pedestrians to cross from one corner of Oxford Street to the opposite corner without having to cross the road twice or use the pedestrian underpass. This doubles the pedestrian capacity at the junction.

5.1 | Pedestrianisation

From 2005 to 2012, Oxford Street was completely traffic-free on a Saturday before Christmas, which became known as VIP Day (for “Very Important Pedestrians”). The scheme was popular and boosted sales by over £17m in 2012. In 2013, the New West End Company announced that the scheme would not go ahead that year as it wanted to do “something new”. In 2014 Liberal Democrat members of the London Assembly proposed that Oxford Street should be pedestrianised by 2020.

In 2006, the New West End Company and the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, put forward proposals to pedestrianise Oxford Street with a tram service running end to end. However the next Mayor, Boris Johnson, elected in 2008, announced that the scheme would not go ahead as it was not cost effective and too disruptive. In response to a request from Johnson, Transport for London undertook to reduce the bus flow in Oxford Street by 10% in both 2009 and 2010. Subsequently, the New West End Company called for a 33% reduction in bus movements in Oxford Street.

In 2014, Transport for London suggested that pedestrianisation may not be a suitable long-term measure due to Crossrail reducing the demand for bus services along Oxford Street, and proposed to ban all traffic except buses and cycles during peak shopping times. Optimisation of existing traffic signals along the street, including Pedestrian Countdown signals, have also been proposed. Transport for London is concerned that in the long term traffic problems may affect trade on Oxford Street, which is now competing with shopping centres such as Westfield London, Westfield Stratford City and the Brent Cross shopping centre. In 2015, while campaigning for election as London Mayor, Labour’s Sadiq Khan favoured the full pedestrianisation of Oxford Street, which was supported by other parties. After winning the election, he pledged the street would be completely pedestrianised by 2020, including a ban on buses and taxis.

6 | Pollution


In 2014, a report by a King’s College, London scientist showed that Oxford Street had the world’s highest concentration of nitrogen dioxide pollution, at 135 micrograms per cubic metre of air (μg/m3). However, this figure was an average that included night-time, when traffic was much lower. At peak times during the day, levels up to 463 μg/m3 were recorded – over 11 times the permitted EU maximum of 40 μg/m3. Because of the diesel-powered traffic in the street (buses and taxis), annual average NO2 concentrations on Oxford Street are around 180 μg/m3. This is 4.5 times the EU target of 40 μg/m3 (Council Directive 1999/30/EC).

7 | Crime


Oxford Street has had a reputation for having relatively high rates of crime. In 2005 an internal Metropolitan Police report named it as the most dangerous street in Central London. In 2012 an analysis of crime statistics revealed that Oxford Street was the shopping destination most surrounded by crime in Britain. During 2011, there were 656 vehicle crimes, 915 robberies, 2,597 violent crimes and 5,039 reported instances of anti-social behaviour.

In 2014, the United Arab Emirates issued a travel advisory warnings its citizens to avoid Oxford Street and other areas of Central London such as Bond Street and Piccadilly due to “pickpocketing, fraud and theft”.

8 | Christmas Lights


London_Christmas_2016_(32909695696)

The 2016 Oxford Street Christmas lights

Every Christmas, Oxford Street is decorated with festive lights. The tradition of Christmas lights began in 1959, five years after the neighbouring Regent Street. There were no light displays in 1976 or 1977 due to economic recession, but the lights returned in 1978 when Oxford Street organised a laser display, and they have been there every year since.

Current practice involves a celebrity turning the lights on in mid- to late-November, and they remain lit until 6 January (Twelfth Night). The festivities were postponed in 1963 due to the assassination of John F. Kennedy and in 1989 to fit Kylie Minogue’s touring commitments. In 2015, the lights were switched on earlier, on Sunday 1 November, resulting in an unusual closure of the street to all traffic.

The following celebrities have turned on the lights since 1981:

  • 1981 — Pilín León (Miss World, Venezuela)
  • 1982 — Daley Thompson
  • 1983 — Pat Phoenix
  • 1984 — Esther Rantzen
  • 1985 — Bob Geldof
  • 1986 — Leslie Grantham, Anita Dobson
  • 1987 — Derek Jameson
  • 1988 — Terry Wogan
  • 1989 — Kylie Minogue
  • 1990 — Cliff Richard
  • 1991 — Westminster Children’s Hospital
  • 1992 — Linford Christie
  • 1993 — Richard Branson
  • 1994 — Lenny Henry
  • 1995 — Coronation Street cast
  • 1996 — Spice Girls
  • 1997 — Peter Andre
  • 1998 — Zoë Ball
  • 1999 — Ronan Keating
  • 2000 — Charlotte Church
  • 2001 — S Club 7
  • 2002 — Blue
  • 2003 — Enrique Iglesias
  • 2004 — Emma Watson, Il Divo, Steve Redgrave
  • 2005 — Westlife
  • 2006 — All Saints
  • 2007 — Leona Lewis
  • 2008 — Sugababes
  • 2009 — Jim Carrey
  • 2010 — Children from Kids Company
  • 2011 — The Saturdays
  • 2012 — Robbie Williams
  • 2013 — Jessie J
  • 2014 — Cheryl Fernandez-Versini
  • 2015 — Kylie Minogue
  • 2016 — Craig David

9 | Listed Buildings


Oxford Street has several Grade II listed buildings. In addition, the facades to Oxford Circus tube station are also listed.

Listed buildings

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No. 147 Oxford Street

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United Kingdom House

10 | Cultural References


Oxford Street is mentioned in several works by Charles Dickens. In A Tale of Two Cities, the street (as Oxford Road) is described as having “very few buildings”, though in fact it was heavily built up by the late 18th century. It is also referred to in Sketches by Boz and Bleak House.

The street is a square on the British Monopoly game board, forming part of the green set (together with Regent Street and Bond Street). The three streets were grouped together as they are all primarily retail areas. In 1991, music manager and entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren produced The Ghosts of Oxford Street, a musical documentary about life and history in the local area.

11 | Gallery


 

River Thames

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1280px-London_Thames_Sunset_panorama_-_Feb_2008

The Thames in London

  • Country: England
  • Counties:
    • Gloucestershire,
    • Wiltshire, Oxfordshire,
    • Berkshire,
    • Buckinghamshire,
    • Surrey,
    • Middlesex,
    • London,
    • Kent,
    • Essex
  • Towns/Cities:
    • Cricklade,
    • Lechlade,
    • Oxford,
    • Abingdon,
    • Wallingford,
    • Reading,
    • Henley-on-Thames,
    • Marlow, Maidenhead,
    • Windsor,
    • Staines-upon-Thames,
    • Walton-on-Thames,
    • Kingston upon Thames,
    • Teddington,Richmond, London,
    • London
  • Source
    – Location Thames Head, Gloucestershire, UK
    – Elevation 110 m (361 ft)
    – Coordinates 51.694262°N 2.029724°W
  • Mouth: Thames Estuary, North Sea
    – Location: Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK
    – Elevation: 0 m (0 ft)
    – Coordinates: 51.4989°N 0.6087°ECoordinates: 51.4989°N 0.6087°E
  • Length: 346 km (215 mi)
  • Basin: 12,935 km2 (4,994 sq mi)
  • Discharge for London
    – average 65.8 m3/s (2,324 cu ft/s)
    – max 370 m3/s (13,066 cu ft/s)
  • Discharge elsewhere (average)
    – Entering Oxford 17.6 m3/s (622 cu ft/s)
    – Leaving Oxford 24.8 m3/s (876 cu ft/s)
    – Reading 39.7 m3/s (1,402 cu ft/s)
    – Windsor 59.3 m3/s (2,094 cu ft/s)

Thames_map

Map of the Thames within southern England

Thames Summary Route Map

Thames summary route map 1-vert

The River Thames (/tɛmz/ (About this sound listen) TEMZ) is a river that flows through southern England, most notably through London. At 215 miles (346 km), it is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom, after the River Severn. It also flows through Oxford (where it is called Isis), Reading, Henley-on-Thames and Windsor. The lower reaches of the river are called the Tideway, derived from its long tidal reach up to Teddington Lock. It rises at Thames Head in Gloucestershire, and flows into the North Sea via the Thames Estuary. The Thames drains the whole of Greater London.

Its tidal section, reaching up to Teddington Lock, includes most of its London stretch and has a rise and fall of 7 metres (23 ft). Running through some of the driest parts of mainland Britain and heavily abstracted for drinking water, the Thames’ discharge is low considering its length and breadth: the Severn has a discharge almost twice as large on average despite having a smaller drainage basin. In Scotland, the Tay achieves more than double the average discharge from a drainage basin that is 60% smaller.

Along its course are 45 navigation locks with accompanying weirs. Its catchment area covers a large part of South Eastern and a small part of Western England and the river is fed by 38 named tributaries. The river contains over 80 islands. With its waters varying from freshwater to almost seawater, the Thames supports a variety of wildlife and has a number of adjoining Sites of Special Scientific Interest, with the largest being in the remaining parts of the North Kent Marshes and covering 5,449 hectares (13,460 acres).

In 2010, the Thames won the largest environmental award in the world – the $350,000 International Riverprize.

Contents

1 Etymology
2 Administration
3 Human activity
4 Physical and natural aspects
4.1 Sea level
4.2 Catchment area and discharge
4.2.1 The non-tidal section
4.2.2 The tidal section
4.3 Islands
4.4 Geological and topographic history
4.4.1 Ice age
4.4.2 Conversion of marshland
4.5 Wildlife
5 Human history
5.1 Roman Britain
5.2 Middle Ages
5.3 Early modern period
5.4 Victorian era
5.5 20th century
6 The active river
6.1 Transport and tourism
6.1.1 The tidal river
6.1.2 The upper river
6.1.3 Aerial lift
6.2 Police and lifeboats
6.3 Navigation
6.3.1 History of the management of the river
6.4 The river as a boundary
6.5 Crossings
7 Pollution
7.1 Treated sewage
7.2 Mercury levels
7.3 Natural carbon compounds
8 Sport
8.1 Rowing
8.2 Sailing
8.3 Skiffing
8.4 Punting
8.5 Kayaking and canoeing
8.6 Swimming
8.7 Meanders
9 The Thames in the arts
9.1 Visual arts
9.2 Literature
9.3 Music
10 Major flood events
10.1 London flood of 1928
10.2 Thames Valley flood of 1947
10.3 Canvey Island flood of 1953

Etymology


Father_Thames,_St_John's_Lock,_Lechlade

A statue of Old Father Thames by Raffaelle Monti at St John’s Lock, Lechlade

The Thames, from Middle English Temese, is derived from the Brittonic Celtic name for the river, Tamesas (from *tamēssa), recorded in Latin as Tamesis and yielding modern Welsh Tafwys “Thames”. The name may have meant “dark” and can be compared to other cognates such as Russian темно (Proto-Slavic *tĭmĭnŭ), Lithuanian tamsi “dark”, Sanskrit tamas, Irish teimheal and Welsh tywyll “darkness” (Proto-Celtic *temeslos) and Middle Irish teimen “dark grey”. The same origin is shared by countless other river names, spread across Britain, such as the River Tamar at the border of Devon and Cornwall, several rivers named Tame in the Midlands and North Yorkshire, the Tavy on Dartmoor, the Team of the North East, the Teifi and Teme of Wales, the Teviot in the Scottish Borders, as well as one of the Thames’ tributaries called the Thame.

Kenneth H. Jackson has proposed that the name of the Thames is not Indo-European (and of unknown meaning), while Peter Kitson suggested that it is Indo-European but originated before the Celts and has a name indicating “muddiness” from a root *tā-, ‘melt’. It has also been suggested that it is not of Celtic origin, but Germanic (thus linking it with the Eem, Ems and Amstel) meaning: “inhabited place where the estuary begins”, i. e. a place by the river, rather than the river itself.

Indirect evidence for the antiquity of the name ‘Thames’ is provided by a Roman potsherd found at Oxford, bearing the inscription Tamesubugus fecit (Tamesubugus made [this]). It is believed that Tamesubugus’ name was derived from that of the river. Tamese was referred to as a place, not a river in the Ravenna Cosmography (c.AD 700).
The river’s name has always been pronounced with a simple t /t/; the Middle English spelling was typically Temese and the Brittonic form Tamesis. A similar spelling from 1210, “Tamisiam”, is found in the Magna Carta.

The th spelling lends an air of Greek to the name and was added during the Renaissance possibly to reflect or support a claim that the name was derived from the Thyamis in Epirus, from where early Celtic-speaking groups were wrongly thought to have migrated to Britain.

The Thames through Oxford is sometimes called the Isis. Historically, and especially in Victorian times, gazetteers and cartographers insisted that the entire river was correctly named the Isis from its source down to Dorchester on Thames and that only from this point, where the river meets the Thame and becomes the “Thame-isis” (supposedly subsequently abbreviated to Thames) should it be so called. Ordnance Survey maps still label the Thames as “River Thames or Isis” down to Dorchester. However, since the early 20th century this distinction has been lost in common usage outside of Oxford, and some historians suggest the name Isis is nothing more than a truncation of Tamesis, the Latin name for the Thames.

Richard Coates suggests that while the river was as a whole called the Thames, part of it, where it was too wide to ford, was called *(p)lowonida. This gave the name to a settlement on its banks, which became known as Londinium, from the Indo-European roots *pleu- “flow” and *-nedi “river” meaning something like the flowing river or the wide flowing unfordable river. An alternative, and simpler proposal, is that London may also be a Germanic word: as “Landen” with a similar origin to the word “land”.

For merchant seamen, the Thames has long been just the “London River”. Londoners often refer to it simply as “the river” in expressions such as “south of the river”.

The river gives its name to three informal areas: the Thames Valley, a region of England around the river between Oxford and West London; the Thames Gateway; and the greatly overlapping Thames Estuary around the tidal Thames to the east of London and including the waterway itself. Thames Valley Police is a formal body that takes its name from the river, covering three counties. The administrative powers of the Thames Conservancy have been taken on with modifications by the Environment Agency and, in respect of the Tideway part of the river, such powers are split between the agency and the Port of London Authority. In non-administrative use, stemming directly from the river and its name are Thames Valley University, Thames Water, Thames Television productions, Thames & Hudson publishing, Thameslink (north-south railways passing through central London) and South Thames College. Historic entities include the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company

Administration


The administrative powers of the Thames Conservancy have been taken on with modifications by the Environment Agency and, in respect of the Tideway part of the river, such powers are split between the agency and the Port of London Authority.

Human activity


The marks of human activity, in some cases dating back to Pre-Roman Britain, are visible at various points along the river. These include a variety of structures connected with use of the river, such as navigations, bridges and watermills, as well as prehistoric burial mounds. A major maritime route is formed for much of its length for shipping and supplies: through the Port of London for international trade, internally along its length and by its connection to the British canal system. The river’s position has put it at the centre of many events in British history, leading to it being described by John Burns as “liquid history”.

Two broad canals link the river to other river basins: the Kennet and Avon Canal (Reading to Bath) and the Grand Union Canal (London to the Midlands). The Grand Union effectively bypassed the earlier, narrow and winding Oxford Canal which also remains open as a popular scenic recreational route. Three further cross-basin canals are disused but are in various stages of reconstruction: the Thames and Severn Canal (via Stroud), which operated until 1927 (to the west coast of England), the Wey and Arun Canal to Littlehampton, which operated until 1871 (to the south coast), and the Wilts and Berks Canal.

Rowing and sailing clubs are common along the Thames, which is navigable to such vessels. Kayaking and canoeing also take place. Major annual events include the Henley Royal Regatta and the Boat Race, while the Thames has been used during two Summer Olympic Games: 1908 (rowing);1948 (rowing and canoeing). Safe headwaters and reaches are a summer venue for organised swimming, which is prohibited on safety grounds in a stretch centred on Central London.

Physical and natural aspects


ThamesMarker

The marker stone at the official source of the River Thames named Thames Head near Kemble

Seven_Sources_emerge_point

The Seven Springs source

Thames_Barrier_London

The Thames Barrier provides protection against floods

1280px-Thames_Panorama,_London_-_June_2009

The Thames passes by some of the sights of London, including the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye

Cmglee_London_Richmond_aerial

The Thames passing through the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames

The usually quoted source of the Thames is atThames Head (at grid reference ST980994). This is about 3⁄4 mile (1.2 km) north of Kemble parish church in southern Gloucestershire, near the town of Cirencester, in the Cotswolds.

However, Seven Springs near Cheltenham, where the Churn (which feeds into the Thames near Cricklade) rises, is also sometimes quoted as the Thames’ source, as this location is furthest from the mouth, and adds some 14 miles (23 km) to the length. At Seven Springs above the source is a stone with the Latin hexameter inscription “Hic tuus o Tamesine pater septemgeminus fons”, which means “Here, O Father Thames, [is] your sevenfold source”.

The springs at Seven Springs flow throughout the year, while those at Thames Head are only seasonal (a winterbourne). The Thames is the longest river entirely in England, but the River Severn, which is partly in Wales, is the longest river in the United Kingdom. As the River Churn, sourced at Seven Springs, is 14 miles (23 km) longer than the Thames (from its traditional source at Thames Head to the confluence), the overall length of the Thames measured from Seven Springs, 229 miles (369 km), is greater than the Severn’s length 220 miles (350 km). Thus, the “Churn/Thames” river may be regarded as the longest natural river in the United Kingdom.

The stream from Seven Springs is joined at Coberley by a longer tributary which could further increase the length of the Thames, with its source in the grounds of the National Star College at Ullenwood.

The Thames flows through or alongside Ashton Keynes, Cricklade, Lechlade, Oxford, Abingdon-on-Thames, Wallingford, Goring-on-Thames and Streatley, Pangbourne and Whitchurch-on-Thames, Reading, Wargrave, Henley-on-Thames, Marlow, Maidenhead, Windsor and Eton, Staines-upon-Thames and Egham, Chertsey, Shepperton, Weybridge, Sunbury-on-Thames, Walton-on-Thames, Molesey and Thames Ditton. The river was subject to minor redefining and widening of the main channel around Oxford, Abingdon and Marlow before 1850, since when further cuts to ease navigation have reduced distances further.

Molesey faces Hampton, London, and in Greater London the Thames passes Hampton Court Palace, Surbiton, Kingston upon Thames, Teddington, Twickenham, Richmond (with a famous view of the Thames from Richmond Hill), Syon House, Kew, Brentford, Chiswick, Barnes, Hammersmith, Fulham, Putney, Wandsworth, Battersea and Chelsea. In central London, the river passes Pimlico and Vauxhall, and then forms one of the principal axes of the city, from the Palace of Westminster to the Tower of London. At this point, it historically formed the southern boundary of the medieval city, with Southwark, on the opposite bank, then being part of Surrey.

Beyond central London, the river passes Bermondsey, Wapping, Shadwell, Limehouse, Rotherhithe, Millwall, Deptford, Greenwich, Cubitt Town, Blackwall, New Charlton and Silvertown, before flowing through the Thames Barrier, which protects central London from flooding by storm surges. Below the barrier, the river passes Woolwich, Thamesmead, Dagenham, Erith, Purfleet, Dartford, West Thurrock, Northfleet, Tilbury and Gravesend before entering the Thames Estuary near Southend-on-Sea.

Sea Level

Sediment cores up to 10 m deep collected by the British Geological Survey from the banks of the tidal River Thames contain geochemical information and fossils which provide a 10,000-year record of sea-level change. Combined this and other studies suggest that the Thames sea-level has risen more than 30 m during the Holocene at a rate of around 5–6 mm per year from 10,000 to 6,000 years ago. The rise of sea level dramatically reduced when the ice melt nearly concluded over the past 4,000 years. Since the beginning of the 20th century rates of sea level rise range from 1.22 mm per year to 2.14 mm per year.

Catchment Area and Discharge

The Thames River Basin District, including the Medway catchment, covers an area of 6,229 square miles (16,130 km2). The river basin includes both rural and heavily urbanised areas in the east and northern parts while the western parts of the catchment are predominantly rural. The area is among the driest in the United Kingdom. Water resources consist of groundwater from aquifers and water taken from the Thames and its tributaries, much of it stored in large bank-side reservoirs.

The Thames itself provides two-thirds of London’s drinking water while groundwater supplies about 40 per cent of public water supplies in the total catchment area. Groundwater is an important water source, especially in the drier months, so maintaining its quality and quantity is extremely important. Groundwater is vulnerable to surface pollution, especially in highly urbanised areas.

The Non-Tidal Section

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The Jubilee River at Slough Weir

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St John’s Lock, near Lechlade

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The River Thames in Oxford

Brooks, canals and rivers, within an area of 3,842 square miles (9,951 km2), combine to form 38 main tributaries feeding the Thames between its source and Teddington Lock. This is the usual tidal limit; however, high spring tides can raise the head water level in the reach above Teddington and can occasionally reverse the river flow for a short time. In these circumstances, tidal effects can be observed upstream to the next lock beside Molesey weir, which is visible from the towpath and bridge beside Hampton Court Palace. Before Teddington Lock was built in 1810–12, the river was tidal at peak spring tides as far as Staines upon Thames.

In descending order, non-related tributaries of the non-tidal Thames, with river status, are the Churn, Leach, Cole, Ray, Coln, Windrush, Evenlode, Cherwell, Ock, Thame, Pang, Kennet, Loddon, Colne, Wey and Mole. In addition, there are occasional backwaters and artificial cuts that form islands, distributaries (most numerous in the case of the Colne), and man-made distributaries such as the Longford River. Three canals intersect this stretch: the Oxford Canal, Kennet and Avon Canal and Wey Navigation.

Its longest artificial secondary channel (cut), the Jubilee River, was built between Maidenhead and Windsor for flood relief and completed in 2002.

The non-tidal section of the river is owned and managed by the Environment Agency, which is responsible for managing the flow of water to help prevent and mitigate flooding, and providing for navigation: the volume and speed of water downstream is managed by adjusting the sluices at each of the weirs and, at peak high water, levels are generally dissipated over preferred flood plains adjacent to the river. Occasionally, flooding of inhabited areas is unavoidable and the agency issues flood warnings. Due to stiff penalties applicable on the non-tidal river, which is a drinking water source before treatment, sanitary sewer overflow from the many sewage treatment plants covering the upper Thames basin is rare in the non-tidal Thames, which ensures clearer water compared to the river’s tideway.

The Tidal Section

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London Stone at Staines, built in 1285 marked the customs limit of the Thames and the City of London’s jurisdiction

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Waterstand of Thames at low tide (left) and high tide (right) in comparison at Blackfriars Bridge in London

Below Teddington Lock (about 55 miles or 89 kilometres upstream of the Thames Estuary), the river is subject to tidal activity from the North Sea. Before the lock was installed, the river was tidal as far as Staines, about 16 miles (26 km) upstream. London, capital of Roman Britain, was established on two hills, now known as Cornhill and Ludgate Hill. These provided a firm base for a trading centre at the lowest possible point on the Thames.

A river crossing was built at the site of London Bridge. London Bridge is now used as the basis for published tide tables giving the times of high tide. High tide reaches Putney about 30 minutes later than London Bridge, and Teddington about an hour later. The tidal stretch of the river is known as “the Tideway”. Tide tables are published by the Port of London Authority and are available online. Times of high and low tides are also posted on Twitter.

The principal tributaries of the River Thames on the Tideway include the rivers Brent, Wandle, Effra, Westbourne, Fleet, Ravensbourne (the final part of which is called Deptford Creek), Lea, Roding, Darent and Ingrebourne. At London, the water is slightly brackish with sea salt, being a mix of sea and fresh water.

This part of the river is managed by the Port of London Authority. The flood threat here comes from high tides and strong winds from the North Sea, and the Thames Barrier was built in the 1980s to protect London from this risk.

Islands

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London City Airport is on the site of a dock

The River Thames contains over 80 islands ranging from the large estuarial marshlands of the Isle of Sheppey and Canvey Island to small tree-covered islets like Rose Isle in Oxfordshire and Headpile Eyot in Berkshire. They are found all the way from the Isle of Sheppey in Kent to Fiddler’s Island in Oxfordshire. Some of the largest inland islands, for example Formosa Island near Cookham and Andersey Island at Abingdon, were created naturally when the course of the river divided into separate streams.

In the Oxford area the river splits into several streams across the floodplain (Seacourt Stream, Castle Mill Stream, Bulstake Stream and others), creating several islands (Fiddler’s Island, Osney and others). Desborough Island, Ham Island at Old Windsor and Penton Hook Island were artificially created by lock cuts and navigation channels. Chiswick Eyot is a familiar landmark on the Boat Race course, while Glover’s Island forms the centrepiece of the spectacular view from Richmond Hill.

Islands of historical interest include Magna Carta Island at Runnymede, Fry’s Island at Reading, and Pharaoh’s Island near Shepperton. In more recent times Platts Eyot at Hampton was the place where Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB)s were built, Tagg’s Island near Molesey was associated with the impresario Fred Karno and Eel Pie Island at Twickenham was the birthplace of the South East’s R&B music scene.

Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (commonly known today as the Houses of Parliament) were built on Thorney Island, which used to be an eyot.

Geological and Topographic History

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European LGM refuges, 20,000 years ago. The Thames was a minor river that joined the Rhine, in the southern North Sea basin at this time.

  • Solutrean and Proto Solutrean Cultures
  • Epi Gravettian Culture

The River Thames can first be identified as a discrete drainage line as early as 58 million years ago, in the Thanetian stage of the late Palaeocene epoch. Until around 500,000 years ago, the Thames flowed on its existing course through what is now Oxfordshire, before turning to the north east through Hertfordshire and East Anglia and reaching the North Sea near Ipswich.

At this time the river system headwaters lay in the English West Midlands and may, at times, have received drainage from the Berwyn Mountains in North Wales. Brooks and rivers like the River Brent, Colne Brook and Bollo Brook either flowed into the then River Thames or went out to sea on the course of the present-day River Thames.

About 450,000 years ago, in the most extreme Ice Age of the Pleistocene, the Anglian, the furthest southern extent of the ice sheet was at Hornchurch in east London. It dammed the river in Hertfordshire, resulting in the formation of large ice lakes, which eventually burst their banks and caused the river to be diverted onto its present course through what is now London. Progressively, the channel was pushed south to form the St Albans depression by the repeated advances of the ice sheet.

This created a new river course through Berkshire and on into London, after which the river rejoined its original course in southern Essex, near the present River Blackwater estuary. Here it entered a substantial freshwater lake in the southern North Sea basin. The overspill of this lake caused the formation of the Dover Strait gap between Britain and France. Subsequent development led to the continuation of the course that the river follows at the present day.

Most of the bedrock of the Vale of Aylesbury is made up of clay and chalk that was formed at the end of the ice age and at one time was under the Proto-Thames. Also created at this time were the vast underground reserves of water that make the water table higher than average in the Vale of Aylesbury.

Ice Age

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A geological map of the London Basin; the London Clay is marked in dark brown

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The confluence of Rivers Thames and Brent. The narrowboat is heading up the River Brent. From this point as far as Hanwell the Brent has been canalised and shares its course with the main line of the Grand Union Canal. From Hanwell the Brent can be traced to various sources in the Barnet area.

The last advance from that Scandinavian ice flow to have reached this far south covered much of north west Middlesex and finally forced the Proto-Thames to take roughly its present course. At the height of the last ice age, around 20,000 BC, Britain was connected to mainland Europe by a large expanse of land known as Doggerland in the southern North Sea basin. At this time, the Thames’ course did not continue to Doggerland but flowed southwards from the eastern Essex coast where it met the Rhine, the Meuse and the Scheldt flowing from what are now the Netherlands and Belgium. These rivers formed a single river—the Channel River (Fleuve Manche)—that passed through the Dover Strait and drained into the Atlantic Ocean in the western English Channel.

The ice sheet, which stopped around present day Finchley, deposited boulder clay to form Dollis Hill and Hanger Hill. Its torrent of meltwater gushed through the Finchley Gap and south towards the new course of the Thames, and proceeded to carve out the Brent Valley in the process. Upon the valley sides there can be seen other terraces of brickearth, laid over and sometimes interlayered with the clays.

These deposits were brought in by the winds during the periglacial periods, suggesting that wide, flat marshes were then part of the landscape, which the new river Brent proceeded to cut down. The steepness of the valley sides is an indicator of the very much lower mean sea levels caused by the glaciation locking up so much water upon the land masses, thus causing the river water to flow rapidly seaward and so erode its bed quickly downwards.

The original land surface was around 350 to 400 feet (110 to 120 metres) above the current sea level. The surface had sandy deposits from an ancient sea, laid over sedimentary clay (this is the blue London Clay). All the erosion down from this higher land surface, and the sorting action by these changes of water flow and direction, formed what is known as the Thames River Gravel Terraces.

Since Roman times and perhaps earlier, the isostatic rebound from the weight of previous ice sheets, and its interplay with the eustatic change in sea level, have resulted in the old valley of the River Brent, together with that of the Thames, silting up again. Thus, along much of the Brent’s present-day course, one can make out the water meadows of rich alluvium, which is augmented by frequent floods.

Conversion of Marshland

After the river took its present-day course, many of the banks of the Thames Estuary and the Thames Valley in London were partly covered in marshland, as was the adjoining Lower Lea Valley. Streams and rivers like the River Lea, Tyburn Brook and Bollo Brook drained into the river, while some islands, e.g. Thorney Island, formed over the ages. The northern tip of the ancient parish of Lambeth, for example, was marshland known as Lambeth Marshe, but it was drained in the 18th century; it is remembered in the street name Lower Marsh.

The East End of London, also known simply as the East End, was the area of London east of the medieval walled City of London and north of the River Thames, although it is not defined by universally accepted formal boundaries; the River Lea can be considered another boundary. Most of the local riverside was also marshland. The land was drained and became farmland; it was built on after the Industrial Revolution. Use of the term “East End” in a pejorative sense began in the late 19th century.

Canvey Island in southern Essex (area 18.45 km2, 7.12 sq mi; population 37,479) was once marshy, but is now a fully reclaimed island in the Thames estuary. It is separated from the mainland of south Essex by a network of creeks. Lying below sea level it is prone to flooding at exceptional tides, but has nevertheless been inhabited since Roman times.

Wildlife

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Swan Upping – skiffs surround the swans

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Fishing at Penton Hook Island

Various species of birds feed off the river or nest on it, some being found both at sea and inland. These include cormorant, black-headed gull and herring gull. The mute swan is a familiar sight on the river but the escaped black swan is more rare. The annual ceremony of Swan Upping is an old tradition of counting stocks.

Non-native geese that can be seen include Canada geese, Egyptian geese and bar-headed geese, and ducks include the familiar native mallard, plus introduced Mandarin duck and wood duck. Other water birds to be found on the Thames include the great crested grebe, coot, moorhen, heron and kingfisher. Many types of British birds also live alongside the river, although they are not specific to the river habitat.

The Thames contains both sea water and fresh water, thus providing support for seawater and freshwater fish. However, many populations of fish are at risk and are being killed in tens of thousands because of pollutants leaking into the river from human activities. Salmon, which inhabit both environments, have been reintroduced and a succession of fish ladders have been built into weirs to enable them to travel upstream.

On 5 August 1993, the largest non-tidal salmon in recorded history was caught close to Boulters Lock in Maidenhead. The specimen weighed 14 1⁄2 pounds (6.6 kg) and measured 22 inches (56 cm) in length. The eel is particularly associated with the Thames and there were formerly many eel traps. Freshwater fish of the Thames and its tributaries include brown trout, chub, dace, roach, barbel, perch, pike, bleak and flounder. Colonies of short-snouted seahorses have also recently been discovered in the river. The Thames is also host to some invasive crustaceans, including the signal crayfish and the Chinese mitten crab.

Aquatic mammals are also known to inhabit the Thames. The population of grey and harbour seals numbers up to 700 in the Thames Estuary. These animals have been sighted as far upriver as Richmond. Bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises are also sighted in the Thames.

On 20 January 2006, a 16–18 ft (4.9–5.5 m) northern bottle-nosed whale was seen in the Thames as far upstream as Chelsea. This was extremely unusual: this whale is generally found in deep sea waters. Crowds gathered along the riverbanks to witness the extraordinary spectacle but there was soon concern, as the animal came within yards of the banks, almost beaching, and crashed into an empty boat causing slight bleeding. About 12 hours later, the whale is believed to have been seen again near Greenwich, possibly heading back to sea. A rescue attempt lasted several hours, but the whale died on a barge. See River Thames whale.

Human History


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The Tower of London, with Tower Bridge, built 800 years later

The River Thames has played several roles in human history: as an economic resource, a maritime route, a boundary, a fresh water source, a source of food and more recently a leisure facility. In 1929, John Burns, one-time MP for Battersea, responded to an American’s unfavourable comparison of the Thames with the Mississippi by coining the expression “The Thames is liquid history”.

There is evidence of human habitation living off the river along its length dating back to Neolithic times. The British Museum has a decorated bowl (3300–2700 BC), found in the river at Hedsor, Buckinghamshire, and a considerable amount of material was discovered during the excavations of Dorney Lake. A number of Bronze Age sites and artefacts have been discovered along the banks of the river including settlements at Lechlade, Cookham and Sunbury-on-Thames.

So extensive have the changes to this landscape been that what little evidence there is of man’s presence before the ice came has inevitably shown signs of transportation here by water and reveals nothing specifically local. Likewise, later evidence of occupation, even since the arrival of the Romans, may lie next to the original banks of the Brent but have been buried under centuries of silt.

Roman Britain

Some of the earliest written references to the Thames (Latin: Tamesis) occur in Julius Caesar’s account of his second expedition to Britain in 54 BC, when the Thames presented a major obstacle and he encountered the Iron Age Belgic tribes the Catuvellauni and the Atrebates along the river. The confluence of the Thames and Cherwell was the site of early settlements and the River Cherwell marked the boundary between the Dobunni tribe to the west and the Catuvellauni tribe to the east (these were pre-Roman Celtic tribes). In the late 1980s a large Romano-British settlement was excavated on the edge of the village of Ashton Keynes in Wiltshire.

In ad 43, under the Emperor Claudius, the Romans occupied England and, recognising the river’s strategic and economic importance, built fortifications along the Thames valley including a major camp at Dorchester. Cornhill and Ludgate Hill provided a defensible site near a point on the river both deep enough for the era’s ships and narrow enough to be bridged; Londinium (London) grew up around the Walbrook on the north bank around the year 47. Boudica’s Iceni razed the settlement in ad 60 or 61 but it was soon rebuilt and, following the completion of its bridge, it grew to become the provincial capital of the island.

The next Roman bridges upstream were at Staines) on the Devil’s Highway between Londinium and Calleva (Silchester). Boats could be swept up to it on the rising tide with no need for wind or muscle power.

Middle Ages

A Romano-British settlement grew up north of the confluence, partly because the site was naturally protected from attack on the east side by the River Cherwell and on the west by the River Thames. This settlement dominated the pottery trade in what is now central southern England, and pottery was distributed by boats on the Thames and its tributaries.

Competition for the use of the river created the centuries-old conflict between those who wanted to dam the river to build millraces and fish traps and those who wanted to travel and carry goods on it. Economic prosperity and the foundation of wealthy monasteries by the Anglo-Saxons attracted unwelcome visitors and by around AD 870 the Vikings were sweeping up the Thames on the tide and creating havoc as in their destruction of Chertsey Abbey.

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A 1616 engraving by Claes Van Visscher showing the Old London Bridge, with Southwark Cathedral in the foreground

Once King William had won total control of the strategically important Thames Valley, he went on to invade the rest of England. He had many castles built, including those at Wallingford, Rochester, Windsor and most importantly the Tower of London. Many details of Thames activity are recorded in the Domesday Book. The following centuries saw the conflict between king and barons coming to a head in AD 1215 when King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta on an island in the Thames at Runnymede. Among a host of other things, this granted the barons the right of Navigation under Clause 23.

Another major consequence of John’s reign was the completion of the multi-piered London Bridge, which acted as a barricade and barrage on the river, affecting the tidal flow upstream and increasing the likelihood of the river freezing over. In Tudor and Stuart times, various kings and queens built magnificent riverside palaces at Hampton Court, Kew, Richmond on Thames, Whitehall and Greenwich.

As early as the 1300s, the Thames was used to dispose of waste matter produced in the city of London, thus turning the river into an open sewer. In 1357, Edward III described the state of the river in a proclamation: “…dung and other filth had accumulated in divers places upon the banks of the river with… fumes and other abominable stenches arising therefrom.”

The growth of the population of London greatly increased the amount of waste that entered the river, including human excrement, animal waste from slaughter houses, and waste from manufacturing processes. According to historian Peter Ackroyd, “a public lavatory on London Bridge showered its contents directly onto the river below, and latrines were built over all the tributaries that issued into the Thames.”

Early Modern Period

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The Frozen Thames, 1677

During a series of cold winters the Thames froze over above London Bridge: in the first Frost Fair in 1607, a tent city was set up on the river, along with a number of amusements, including ice bowling.

In good conditions, barges travelled daily from Oxford to London carrying timber, wool, foodstuffs and livestock. The stone from the Cotswolds used to rebuild St Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire in 1666 was brought all the way down from Radcot. The Thames provided the major route between the City of London and Westminster in the 16th and 17th centuries; the clannish guild of watermen ferried Londoners from landing to landing and tolerated no outside interference. In 1715, Thomas Doggett was so grateful to a local waterman for his efforts in ferrying him home, pulling against the tide, that he set up a rowing race for professional watermen known as “Doggett’s Coat and Badge”.

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Michael Faraday giving his card to Father Thames, caricature commenting on a letter of Faraday’s on the state of the river in The Times in July 1855

By the 18th century, the Thames was one of the world’s busiest waterways, as London became the centre of the vast, mercantile British Empire, and progressively over the next century the docks expanded in the Isle of Dogs and beyond. Efforts were made to resolve the navigation conflicts upstream by building locks along the Thames. After temperatures began to rise again, starting in 1814, the river stopped freezing over. The building of a new London Bridge in 1825, with fewer piers (pillars) than the old, allowed the river to flow more freely and prevented it from freezing over in cold winters.

Throughout early modern history the population of London and its industries discarded their rubbish in the river. This included the waste from slaughterhouses, fish markets, and tanneries. The buildup in household cesspools could sometimes overflow, especially when it rained, and was washed into London’s streets and sewers which eventually led to the Thames. In the late 18th and 19th centuries people known as Mudlarks scavenged in the river mud for a meagre living.

Victorian Era

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Satirical cartoon by William Heath, showing a woman observing monsters in a drop of London water (at the time of the Commission on the London Water Supply report, 1828)

In the 19th century the quality of water in Thames deteriorated further. The dumping of raw sewage into the Thames was formerly only common in the City of London, making its tideway a harbour for many harmful bacteria. Gas manufactories were built alongside the river, and their by-products leaked into the water, including spent lime, ammonia, cyanide, and carbolic acid. The river had an unnaturally warm temperature caused by chemical reactions in the water, which also removed the water’s oxygen. Four serious cholera outbreaks killed tens of thousands of people between 1832 and 1865. Historians have attributed Prince Albert’s death in 1861 to typhoid that had spread in the river’s dirty waters beside Windsor Castle. Wells with water tables that mixed with tributaries (or the non-tidal Thames) faced such pollution with the widespread installation of the flush toilet in the 1850s. In the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858, pollution in the river reached such an extreme that sittings of the House of Commons at Westminster had to be abandoned. Chlorine-soaked drapes were hung in the windows of Parliament in an attempt to stave off the smell of the river, but to no avail.

A concerted effort to contain the city’s sewage by constructing massive sewer systems on the north and south river embankments followed, under the supervision of engineer Joseph Bazalgette. Meanwhile, similar huge undertakings took place to ensure the water supply, with the building of reservoirs and pumping stations on the river to the west of London, slowly helping the quality of water to improve.

The Victorian era was one of imaginative engineering. The coming of the railways added railway bridges to the earlier road bridges and also reduced commercial activity on the river. However, sporting and leisure use increased with the establishment of regattas such as Henley and the Boat Race. On 3 September 1878, one of the worst river disasters in England took place, when the crowded pleasure boat Princess Alice collided with the Bywell Castle, killing over 640 people.

20th Century

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The Thames as it flows through east London, with the Isle of Dogs in the centre

The growth of road transport, and the decline of the Empire in the years following 1914, reduced the economic prominence of the river. During the Second World War, the protection of certain Thames-side facilities, particularly docks and water treatment plants, was crucial to the munitions and water supply of the country. The river’s defences included the Maunsell forts in the estuary, and the use of barrage balloons to counter German bombers using the reflectivity and shapes of the river to navigate during the Blitz.

In the post-war era, although the Port of London remains one of the UK’s three main ports, most trade has moved downstream from central London. In the late 1950s, the discharge of methane gas in the depths of the river caused the water to bubble, and the toxins wore away at boats’ propellers.

The decline of heavy industry and tanneries, reduced use of oil-pollutants and improved sewage treatment have led to much better water quality as compared with the late 19th and early- to mid-20th centuries and aquatic life has returned to its formerly ‘dead’ stretches.

Alongside the entire river runs the Thames Path, a National Route for walkers and cyclists.

In the early 1980s a pioneering flood control device, the Thames Barrier, was opened. It is closed to tides several times a year to prevent water damage to London’s low-lying areas upstream (the 1928 Thames flood demonstrated the severity of this type of event).

In the late 1990s, the 7-mile (11 km) long Jubilee River was built as a wide “naturalistic” flood relief channel from Taplow to Eton to help reduce the flood risk in Maidenhead Windsor and Eton.

The Active River


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Houseboats on the River Thames, in the St Margaret’s, Twickenham district

One of the major resources provided by the Thames is the water distributed as drinking water by Thames Water, whose area of responsibility covers the length of the River Thames. The Thames Water Ring Main is the main distribution mechanism for water in London, with one major loop linking the Hampton, Walton, Ashford and Kempton Park Water Treatment Works with central London.

In the past, commercial activities on the Thames included fishing (particularly eel trapping), coppicing willows and osiers which provided wood, and the operation of watermills for flour and paper production and metal beating. These activities have disappeared. A screw turbine hydro-electric plant at Romney Lock to power Windsor Castle using two Archimedes’ screws was opened in 2013 by the Queen.

The Thames is popular for a wide variety of riverside housing, including high-rise flats in central London and chalets on the banks and islands upstream. Some people live in houseboats, typically around Brentford and Tagg’s Island.

Transport and Tourism

The Tidal River

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Passenger service on the River Thames

In London there are many sightseeing tours in tourist boats, past the more famous riverside attractions such as the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London as well as regular riverboat services co-ordinated by London River Services. London city Airport is situated on the Thames, in East London. Previously it was a dock.

The Upper River

In summer, passenger services operate along the entire non-tidal river from Oxford to Teddington. The two largest operators are Salters Steamers and French Brothers. Salters operate services between Folly Bridge, Oxford and Staines. The whole journey takes 4 days and requires several changes of boat. French Brothers operate passenger services between Maidenhead and Hampton Court. Along the course of the river a number of smaller private companies also offer river trips at Oxford, Wallingford, Reading and Hampton Court. Many companies also provide boat hire on the river.

The leisure navigation and sporting activities on the river have given rise to a number of businesses including boatbuilding, marinas, ships chandlers and salvage services.

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Ferries operating on the Thames

Aerial Lift

Emirates_Air_Line_towers_24_May_2012London’s Air Line over the River Thames

The Air Line aerial cable system over the Thames from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks has been in operation since the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Police and Lifeboats

The river is policed by five police forces. The Thames Division is the River Police arm of London’s Metropolitan Police, while Surrey Police, Thames Valley Police, Essex Police and Kent Police have responsibilities on their parts of the river outside the metropolitan area. There is also a London Fire Brigade fire boat on the river. The river claims a number of lives each year.

As a result of the Marchioness disaster in 1989 when 51 people died, the Government asked the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Port of London Authority and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to work together to set up a dedicated Search and Rescue service for the tidal River Thames. As a result, there are four lifeboat stations on the River Thames at Teddington (Teddington lifeboat station), Chiswick (Chiswick lifeboat station), Victoria Embankment/Waterloo Bridge (Tower Lifeboat Station) and Gravesend (Gravesend lifeboat station).

Navigation

 

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Pool of London looking west, from the high-level walkway on Tower Bridge. Click on the picture for a longer description

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View from the Thames towards Southwark district: City Hall

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A container ship unloading at Northfleet Hope terminal, Tilbury

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A ship heading downstream past Coryton Refinery

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Rubbish traps are used on the Thames to filter debris as it flows through central London

The Thames is maintained for navigation by powered craft from the estuary as far as Lechlade in Gloucestershire and for very small craft to Cricklade. From Teddington Lock to the head of navigation, the navigation authority is the Environment Agency. Between the sea and Teddington Lock, the river forms part of the Port of London and navigation is administered by the Port of London Authority. Both the tidal river through London and the non-tidal river upstream are intensively used for leisure navigation.

The non-tidal River Thames is divided into reaches by the 45 locks. The locks are staffed for the greater part of the day, but can be operated by experienced users out of hours. This part of the Thames links to existing navigations at the River Wey Navigation, the River Kennet and the Oxford Canal. All craft using it must be licensed. The Environment Agency has patrol boats (named after tributaries of the Thames) and can enforce the limit strictly since river traffic usually has to pass through a lock at some stage. A speed limit of 8 km/h (4.3 kn) applies. There are pairs of transit markers at various points along the non-tidal river that can be used to check speed – a boat travelling legally taking a minute or more to pass between the two markers.

The tidal river is navigable to large ocean-going ships as far upstream as the Pool of London and London Bridge. Although London’s upstream enclosed docks have closed and central London sees only the occasional visiting cruise ship or warship, the tidal river remains one of Britain’s main ports. Around 60 active terminals cater for shipping of all types including ro-ro ferries, cruise liners and vessels carrying containers, vehicles, timber, grain, paper, crude oil, petroleum products, liquified petroleum gas etc. There is a regular traffic of aggregate or refuse vessels, operating from wharves in the west of London. The tidal Thames links to the canal network at the River Lea Navigation, the Regent’s Canal at Limehouse Basin and the Grand Union Canal at Brentford.

Upstream of Wandsworth Bridge a speed limit of 8 knots (15 km/h) is in force for powered craft to protect the riverbank environment and to provide safe conditions for rowers and other river users. There is no absolute speed limit on most of the Tideway downstream of Wandsworth Bridge, although boats are not allowed to create undue wash. Powered boats are limited to 12 knots between Lambeth Bridge and downstream of Tower Bridge, with some exceptions. Boats can be approved by the harbour master to travel at speeds of up to 30 knots from below Tower Bridge to past the Thames Barrier.

History of the Management of the River

In the Middle Ages the Crown exercised general jurisdiction over the Thames, one of the four royal rivers, and appointed water bailiffs to oversee the river upstream of Staines. The City of London exercised jurisdiction over the tidal Thames. However, navigation was increasingly impeded by weirs and mills, and in the 14th century the river probably ceased to be navigable for heavy traffic between Henley and Oxford. In the late 16th century the river seems to have been reopened for navigation from Henley to Burcot.

The first commission concerned with the management of the river was the Oxford-Burcot Commission, formed in 1605 to make the river navigable between Burcot and Oxford.

In 1751 the Thames Navigation Commission was formed to manage the whole non-tidal river above Staines. The City of London long claimed responsibility for the tidal river. A long running dispute between the City and the Crown over ownership of the river was not settled until 1857, when the Thames Conservancy was formed to manage the river from Staines downstream. In 1866 the functions of the Thames Navigation Commission were transferred to the Thames Conservancy, which thus had responsibility for the whole river.

In 1909 the powers of the Thames Conservancy over the tidal river, below Teddington, were transferred to the Port of London Authority.

In 1974 the Thames Conservancy became part of the new Thames Water Authority. When Thames Water was privatised in 1990, its river management functions were transferred to the National Rivers Authority, in 1996 subsumed into the Environment Agency.

In 2010, the Thames won the world’s largest environmental award at the time, the $350,000 International Riverprize, presented at the International Riversymposium in Perth, WA in recognition of the substantial and sustained restoration of the river by many hundreds of organisations and individuals since the 1950s.

The River as a Boundary

Until enough crossings were established, the river presented a formidable barrier, with Belgic tribes and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms being defined by which side of the river they were on. When English counties were established their boundaries were partly determined by the Thames. On the northern bank were the ancient counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Middlesex and Essex. On the southern bank were the counties of Wiltshire, Berkshire, Surrey and Kent.

The 214 bridges and 17 tunnels that have been built to date have changed the dynamics and made cross-river development and shared responsibilities more practicable. In 1965, upon the creation of Greater London, the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames incorporated the former ‘Middlesex and Surrey’ banks, Spelthorne moved from Middlesex to Surrey; and further changes in 1974 moved some of the boundaries away from the river. For example, some areas were transferred from Berkshire to Oxfordshire, and from Buckinghamshire to Berkshire. On occasion – for example in rowing – the banks are still referred to by their traditional county names.

Crossings

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Newbridge, in rural Oxfordshire

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The Railway bridge at Maidenhead

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The Millennium Footbridge with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background

Many of the present-day road bridges are on the site of earlier fords, ferries and wooden bridges. At Swinford Bridge, a toll bridge, there was first a ford and then a ferry prior to the bridge being built. The earliest known major crossings of the Thames by the Romans were at London Bridge and Staines Bridge. At Folly Bridge in Oxford the remains of an original Saxon structure can be seen, and medieval stone bridges such as Newbridge and Abingdon Bridge are still in use.

Kingston’s growth is believed to stem from its having the only crossing between London Bridge and Staines until the beginning of the 18th century. During the 18th century, many stone and brick road bridges were built from new or to replace existing bridges both in London and along the length of the river. These included Putney Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Datchet Bridge, Windsor Bridge and Sonning Bridge.

Several central London road bridges were built in the 19th century, most conspicuously Tower Bridge, the only Bascule bridge on the river, designed to allow ocean-going ships to pass beneath it. The most recent road bridges are the bypasses at Isis Bridge and Marlow By-pass Bridge and the motorway bridges, most notably the two on the M25 route Queen Elizabeth II Bridge and M25 Runnymede Bridge.

Railway development in the 19th century resulted in a spate of bridge building including Blackfriars Railway Bridge and Charing Cross (Hungerford) Railway Bridge in central London, and the spectacular railway bridges by Isambard Kingdom Brunel at Maidenhead Railway Bridge, Gatehampton Railway Bridge and Moulsford Railway Bridge.

The world’s first underwater tunnel was Marc Brunel’s Thames Tunnel built in 1843 and now used to carry the East London Line. The Tower Subway was the first railway under the Thames, which was followed by all the deep-level tube lines. Road tunnels were built in East London at the end of the 19th century, being the Blackwall Tunnel and the Rotherhithe Tunnel. The latest tunnels are the Dartford Crossings.

Many foot crossings were established across the weirs that were built on the non-tidal river, and some of these remained when the locks were built – for example at Benson Lock. Others were replaced by a footbridge when the weir was removed as at Hart’s Weir Footbridge. Around 2000, several footbridges were added along the Thames, either as part of the Thames Path or in commemoration of the millennium. These include Temple Footbridge, Bloomers Hole Footbridge, the Hungerford Footbridges and the Millennium Bridge, all of which have distinctive design characteristics.

Before bridges were built, the main means of crossing the river was by ferry. A significant number of ferries were provided specifically for navigation purposes. When the towpath changed sides, it was necessary to take the towing horse and its driver across the river. This was no longer necessary when barges were powered by steam. Some ferries still operate on the river. The Woolwich Ferry carries cars and passengers across the river in the Thames Gateway and links the North Circular and South Circular roads. Upstream are smaller pedestrian ferries, for example Hampton Ferry and Shepperton to Weybridge Ferry the last being the only non-permanent crossing that remains on the Thames Path.

Pollution


Treated Sewage

Treated sewage from all the towns and villages in the Thames catchment flow into the Thames via sewage treatment plants. This includes all the sewage from Swindon, Oxford, Reading and Windsor.

However, untreated sewage still regularly enters the Thames during wet weather. In the summer of 2004, storms led to the discharge of a million tonnes of raw sewage into the river, leading to the death of over ten thousand fish.

Mercury Levels

Mercury (Hg) is an environmentally persistent heavy metal which at high concentrations can be toxic to marine life and humans. Sixty sediment cores of 1 m in depth, spanning the entire tidal River Thames, between Brentford and the Isle of Grain have been analysed for total Hg. The sediment records show a clear rise and fall of Hg pollution through history. Mercury concentrations in the River Thames decrease downstream from London to the outer Estuary with the total Hg levels ranging from 0.01 to 12.07 mg/kg, giving a mean of 2.10 mg/kg which is higher than many other UK and European river estuaries. The highest amount of sedimentary-hosted Hg pollution in the Thames estuary occurs in the central London area between Vauxhall Bridge and Woolwich. The majority of sediment cores show a clear decrease in Hg concentrations close to the surface which is attributed to an overall reduction in polluting activities as well as improved effectiveness of recent environmental legalisation and river management (e.g. Oslo-Paris convention).

Natural Carbon Compounds

Evaluation of select of lipid compounds in the Thames estuary, known as glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs) has revealed enhanced concentrations of isoprenoid GDGT compounds (crenarchaeol) around East London. This suggests that London’s pollution affects the spatial distribution of natural carbon in the river sediments. Other organic geochemical measurements of carbon flow such as stable carbon isotopes (δ13C) were found to be insensitive to this urban disturbance.

Sport


There are several watersports prevalent on the Thames, with many clubs encouraging participation and organising racing and inter-club competitions.

Rowing

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Cambridge cross the finish line ahead of Oxford in the 2007 Boat Race, viewed from Chiswick Bridge

The Thames is the historic heartland of rowing in the United Kingdom. There are over 200 clubs on the river, and over 8,000 members of British Rowing (over 40% of its membership). Most towns and districts of any size on the river have at least one club. Internationally attended centres are Oxford, Henley-on-Thames and events and clubs on the stretch of river from Chiswick to Putney.

Two rowing events on the River Thames are traditionally part of the wider English sporting calendar:

The University Boat Race (between Oxford and Cambridge) takes place in late March or early April, on the Championship Course from Putney to Mortlake in the west of London.

Henley Royal Regatta takes place over five days at the start of July in the upstream town of Henley-on-Thames. Besides its sporting significance the regatta is an important date on the English social calendar alongside events like Royal Ascot and Wimbledon.

Other significant or historic rowing events on the Thames include:

  • The Head of the River Race and Women’s Eights Head of the River Race (8+) (i.e. coxed eights), Schools’ Head, Veterans Head, Scullers Head, Fours Head (HOR4s), and Pairs Head (shorter) on the Championship Course
  • The Wingfield Sculls on the same course: (1x) (single sculling) championship
  • Doggett’s Coat and Badge for apprentice watermen of London, one of the oldest sporting events in the world
  • Henley Women’s Regatta
  • The Henley Boat Races currently for the Lightweight (men’s and women’s) crews of Oxford and Cambridge universities
  • The Oxford University bumping races known as Eights Week and Torpids

Other regattas, head races and university bumping races are held along the Thames which are described under Rowing on the River Thames.

Sailing

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Thames Raters at Raven’s Ait, Surbiton

Sailing is practised on both the tidal and non-tidal reaches of the river. The highest club upstream is at Oxford. The most popular sailing craft used on the Thames are lasers, GP14s and Wayfarers. One sailing boat unique to the Thames is the Thames Rater, which is sailed around Raven’s Ait.

Skiffing

Skiffing has dwindled in favour of private motor boat ownership but is competed on the river in the summer months. Six clubs and a similar number of skiff regattas exist from the Skiff Club, Teddington upstream.

Punting

Unlike the “pleasure punting” common on the Cherwell in Oxford and the Cam in Cambridge, punting on the Thames is competitive as well as recreational and uses narrower craft, typically based at the few skiff clubs.

Kayaking and Canoeing

Main article: Kayaking and canoeing on the River Thames

Kayaking and canoeing are common, with sea kayakers using the tidal stretch for touring. Sheltered water kayakers and canoeists use the non-tidal section for training, racing and trips. Whitewater playboaters and slalom paddlers are catered for at weirs like those at Hurley Lock, Sunbury Lock and Boulter’s Lock. At Teddington just before the tidal section of the river starts is Royal Canoe Club, said to be the oldest in the world and founded in 1866. Since 1950, almost every year at Easter, long distance canoeists have been competing in what is now known as the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race, which follows the course of the Kennet and Avon Canal, joins the River Thames at Reading and runs right up to a grand finish at Westminster Bridge.

Swimming

In 2006 British swimmer and environmental campaigner Lewis Pugh became the first person to swim the full length of the Thames from outside Kemble to Southend-on-Sea to draw attention to the severe drought in England which saw record temperatures indicative of a degree of global warming. The 202 miles (325 km) swim took him 21 days to complete. The official headwater of the river had stopped flowing due to the drought forcing Pugh to run the first 26 miles (42 km).

Since June 2012 the Port of London Authority has made and enforces a by-law that bans swimming between Putney Bridge and Crossness, Thamesmead (thus including all of central London) without obtaining prior permission, on the grounds that swimmers in that area of the river endanger not only themselves, due to the strong current of the river, but also other river users.

Organised swimming events take place at various points generally upstream of Hampton Court, including Windsor, Marlow and Henley. In 2011 comedian David Walliams swam the 140 miles (230 km) from Lechlade to Westminster Bridge and raised over £1 million for charity.

In non-tidal stretches swimming was, and still is, a leisure and fitness activity among experienced swimmers where safe, deeper outer channels are used in times of low stream.

Meanders

A Thames meander is a long-distance journey over all or part of the Thames by running, swimming or using any of the above means. It is often carried out as an athletic challenge in a competition or for a record attempt.

The Thames in the arts


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The Thames in the arts

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Houses_of_Parliament_Sunlight_Effect_(Le_Parlement_effet_de_soleil)_-_Claude_Monet

Houses of Parliament Sunlight Effect (Le Parlement effet de soleil) – Claude Monet

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The first Westminster Bridge as painted by Canaletto in 1746.

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Maidenhead Railway Bridge as Turner saw it in 1844

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Monet’s Trouée de soleil dans le brouillard, Houses of Parliament, London, Sun Breaking Through the Fog, 1904

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Whistler’s Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Old Battersea Bridge (c. 1872–1875)

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Foggy Morning on the Thames – James Hamilton (between 1872 and 1878)

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Boating on the Thames – John Lavery, circa 1890

Visual Arts

The River Thames has been a subject for artists, great and minor, over the centuries. Four major artists with works based on the Thames are Canaletto, J. M. W. Turner, Claude Monet and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. The 20th century British artist Stanley Spencer produced many works at Cookham.

The river is lined with various pieces of sculpture, but John Kaufman’s sculpture The Diver: Regeneration is sited in the Thames near Rainham.

The river and bridges are destroyed – together with much of the city – in the movie Independence Day 2.

Literature

Seal_St._Saviour's_Dock_London

A seal in the river at St. Saviour’s Dock, London

The Thames is mentioned in many works of literature including novels, diaries and poetry. It is the central theme in three in particular:

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, first published in 1889, is a humorous account of a boating holiday on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford. The book was intended initially to be a serious travel guide, with accounts of local history of places along the route, but the humorous elements eventually took over. The landscape and features of the Thames as described by Jerome are virtually unchanged, and the book’s enduring popularity has meant that it has never been out of print since it was first published.

Charles Dickens Our Mutual Friend (written in the years 1864–65) describes the river in a grimmer light. It begins with a scavenger and his daughter pulling a dead man from the river near London Bridge, to salvage what the body might have in its pockets, and heads to its conclusion with the deaths of the villains drowned in Plashwater Lock upstream. The workings of the river and the influence of the tides are described with great accuracy. Dickens opens the novel with this sketch of the river, and the people who work on it:

In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark Bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in. The figures in this boat were those of a strong man with ragged grizzled hair and a sun-browned face, and a girl of nineteen or twenty. The girl rowed, pulling a pair of sculls very easily; the man with the rudder-lines slack in his hands, and his hands loose in his waisteband, kept an eager look-out.

Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, written in 1908, is set in the middle to upper reaches of the river. It starts as a tale of anthropomorphic characters “simply messing about in boats” but develops into a more complex story combining elements of mysticism with adventure and reflection on Edwardian society. It is generally considered one of the most beloved works of children’s literature and the illustrations by E.H.Shepard and Arthur Rackham feature the Thames and its surroundings.
The river almost inevitably features in many books set in London. Most of Dickens’ other novels include some aspect of the Thames. Oliver Twist finishes in the slums and rookeries along its south bank. The Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle often visit riverside parts as in The Sign of Four. In Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the serenity of the contemporary Thames is contrasted with the savagery of the Congo River, and with the wilderness of the Thames as it would have appeared to a Roman soldier posted to Britannia two thousand years before. Conrad also gives a description of the approach to London from the Thames Estuary in his essays The Mirror of the Sea (1906). Upriver, Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady uses a large riverside mansion on the Thames as one of its key settings.
Literary non-fiction works include Samuel Pepys’ diary, in which he recorded many events relating to the Thames including the Fire of London. He was disturbed while writing it in June 1667 by the sound of gunfire as Dutch warships broke through the Royal Navy on the Thames.

In poetry, William Wordsworth’s sonnet On Westminster Bridge closes with the lines:

Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

T. S. Eliot makes several references to the Thames in The Fire Sermon, Section III of The Waste Land.

Sweet Thames run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights.

and

The river sweats
Oil and tar
The barges drift
With the turning tide
Red sails
Wide
To leeward, swing on the heavy spar,
The barges wash
Drifting logs
Down Greenwich reach
Past the Isle of Dogs

The Sweet Thames line is taken from Edmund Spenser’s Prothalamion which presents a more idyllic image:

Along the shoare of silver streaming Themmes;
Whose rutty banke, the which his river hemmes,
Was paynted all with variable flowers.
And all the meads adornd with daintie gemmes
Fit to deck maydens bowres

Also writing of the upper reaches is Matthew Arnold in The Scholar Gypsy:

Crossing the stripling Thames at Bab-lock-hythe
Trailing in the cool stream thy fingers wet
As the slow punt swings round
Oh born in days when wits were fresh and clear
And life ran gaily as the sparkling Thames;
Before this strange disease of modern life.

Wendy Cope’s poem ‘After the Lunch’ is set on Waterloo Bridge, beginning:

On Waterloo Bridge, where we said our goodbyes,
The weather conditions bring tears to my eyes.
I wipe them away with a black woolly glove,
And try not to notice I’ve fallen in love.

Dylan Thomas mentions the Thames in his poem “A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London”. “London’s Daughter”, the subject of the poem, lays “Deep with the first dead…secret by the unmourning water of the riding Thames”.

Science-fiction novels make liberal use of a futuristic Thames. The utopian News from Nowhere by William Morris is mainly the account of a journey through the Thames valley in a socialist future. The Thames also features prominently in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, as a communications artery for the waterborne Gyptian people of Oxford and the Fens.

In The Deptford Mice trilogy by Robin Jarvis, the Thames appears several times. In one book, rat characters swim through it to Deptford. Winner of the Nestlé Children’s Book Prize Gold Award I, Coriander, by Sally Gardner is a fantasy novel in which the heroine lives on the banks of the Thames.

Mark Wallington describes a journey up the Thames in a camping skiff, in his 1989 book Boogie up the River (ISBN 978-0-09-965910-5).

Music

The Water Music composed by George Frideric Handel premiered on 17 July 1717, when King George I requested a concert on the River Thames. The concert was performed for King George I on his barge and he is said to have enjoyed it so much that he ordered the 50 exhausted musicians to play the suites three times on the trip.
The song ‘Old Father Thames’ was recorded by Peter Dawson at Abbey Road Studios in 1933 and by Gracie Fields five years later.

Jessie Matthews sings “My river” in the 1938 film Sailing Along, and the tune is the centrepiece of a major dance number near the end of the film.

The Sex Pistols played a concert on the Queen Elizabeth Riverboat on 7 June 1977, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year, while sailing down the river.

The choral line “(I) (liaised) live by the river” in the song “London Calling” by the Clash refers to the River Thames.

Two songs by the Kinks feature the Thames as the setting of the first song’s title and, for the second song, arguably in its mention of ‘the river’: “Waterloo Sunset” is about a couple’s meetings on Waterloo Bridge, London and starts: “Dirty old river, must you keep rolling, flowing into the night?” and continues “Terry meets Julie, Waterloo station” and “…but Terry and Julie cross over the river where they feel safe and sound…”. “See My Friends” continually refers to the singer’s friends “playing ‘cross the river” instead of the girl who “just left”. Furthermore, Ray Davies as a solo artist refers to the river Thames in his “London Song”.

Ewan MacColl’s “Sweet Thames, Flow Softly”, written in the early 1960s, is a tragic love ballad set on trip up the river (see Edmund Spencer’s love poem’s refrain above)

English musician Imogen Heap wrote a song from the point of view of the River Thames entitled “You Know Where To Find Me”. The song was released in 2012 on 18 October as the sixth single from her fourth album Sparks.

Major Flood Events


London flood of 1928

The 1928 Thames flood was a disastrous flood of the River Thames that affected much of riverside London on 7 January 1928, as well as places further downriver. Fourteen people were drowned in London and thousands were made homeless when flood waters poured over the top of the Thames Embankment and part of the Chelsea Embankment collapsed. It was the last major flood to affect central London, and, particularly following the disastrous North Sea flood of 1953, helped lead to the implementation of new flood-control measures that culminated in the construction of the Thames Barrier in the 1970s.

Thames Valley flood of 1947

The 1947 Thames flood was worst overall 20th century flood of the River Thames, affecting much of the Thames Valley as well as elsewhere in England during the middle of March 1947 after a very severe winter.

The floods were caused by 4.6 inches (120 mm) of rainfall (including snow); the peak flow was 61.7 billion litres (13.6 billion imperial gallons) of water per day and the damage cost a total of £12 million to repair. War damage to some of the locks made matters worse.

Other significant Thames floods since 1947 have occurred in 1968, 1993, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2014.

Canvey Island flood of 1953

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The flooded Canvey Island sea front, amusements and residential areas in 1953

On the night of 31 January, the North Sea flood of 1953 devastated the island taking the lives of 58 islanders, and led to the temporary evacuation of the 13,000 residents. Canvey is consequently protected by modern sea defences comprising 15 miles (24 km) of concrete seawall. Many of the victims were in the holiday bungalows of the eastern Newlands estate and perished as the water reached ceiling level. The small village area of the island is approximately two feet (0.6 m) above sea level and consequently escaped the effects of the flood.

Big Ben

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

513px-Clock_Tower_-_Palace_of_Westminster,_London_-_May_2007

Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower) stands at the north end of the Palace of Westminster

  • Alternative names: Big Ben

General Information

  • Type: Tower
  • Architectural style: Gothic Revival
  • Location: London, England, UK
  • Coordinates: 51°30′03″N 0°07′29″WCoordinates: 51°30′03″N 0°07′29″W
  • Completed: 31 May 1859; 158 years ago
  • Height: 96 metres (315 ft)

Design and Construction

  • Architect: Augustus Pugin

Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London and is usually extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower as well. The tower is officially known as Elizabeth Tower, renamed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012; previously, it was known simply as the Clock Tower.

When completed in 1859, it was, says clockmaker Ian Westworth, “the prince of timekeepers: the biggest, most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world.” The tower had its 150th anniversary on 31 May 2009, during which celebratory events took place.

A British cultural icon, the tower is one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom and is often in the establishing shot of films set in London.

On 21 August 2017, the tower began a four-year period of renovation. With a few exceptions, the tower’s renowned bells will be silent until the renovation is complete.

Contents

1 Tower
2 Clock
2.1 Dials
2.2 Movement
2.3 Malfunctions, breakdowns, and other interruptions in operation
3 Bells
3.1 Great Bell
3.2 Chimes
4 Nickname
5 Cultural importance
5.1 In popular culture
6 2017 renovation

Tower


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Big Ben from Victoria Tower in the 1920s

Elizabeth Tower, previously called the Clock Tower but more popularly known as Big Ben, was raised as a part of Charles Barry’s design for a new palace, after the old Palace of Westminster was largely destroyed by fire on the night of 16 October 1834. The new parliament was built in a neo-gothic style. Although Barry was the chief architect of the palace, he turned to Augustus Pugin for the design of the clock tower, which resembles earlier Pugin designs, including one for Scarisbrick Hall in Lancashire. The design for the tower was Pugin’s last design before his final descent into madness and death, and Pugin himself wrote, at the time of Barry’s last visit to him to collect the drawings: “I never worked so hard in my life for Mr Barry for tomorrow I render all the designs for finishing his bell tower & it is beautiful.” The tower is designed in Pugin’s celebrated Gothic Revival style, and is 315 feet (96.0 m) high.

1280px-Palace_of_Westminster,_London_-_Feb_2007

The Palace of Westminster, Big Ben and Westminster Bridge

Palace_of_Westminster_from_the_dome_on_Methodist_Central_Hall

Big Ben and environs, including the London Eye, Portcullis House, Parliament Square, and St Margaret’s Church

The bottom 200 feet (61.0 m) of the tower’s structure consists of brickwork with sand-coloured Anston limestone cladding. The remainder of the tower’s height is a framed spire of cast iron. The tower is founded on a 50 feet (15.2 m) square raft, made of 10 feet (3.0 m) thick concrete, at a depth of 13 feet (4.0 m) below ground level. The four clock dials are 180 feet (54.9 m) above ground. The interior volume of the tower is 164,200 cubic feet (4,650 cubic metres).

Despite being one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, the interior of the tower is not open to overseas visitors, though United Kingdom residents are able to arrange tours (well in advance) through their Member of Parliament. However, the tower currently has no lift, though one is planned, so those escorted must climb the 334 limestone stairs to the top.

Due to changes in ground conditions since construction, the tower leans slightly to the north-west, by roughly 230 millimetres (9.1 in) over 55 m height, giving an inclination of approximately 1/240. This includes a planned maximum of 22 mm increased tilt due to tunnelling for the Jubilee line extension. Due to thermal effects it oscillates annually by a few millimetres east and west.

590px-Big_Ben,_Londres,_Inglaterra,_2014-08-11,_DD_200

Big Ben at Twilight

Journalists during Queen Victoria’s reign called it St Stephen’s Tower. As MPs originally sat at St Stephen’s Hall, these journalists referred to anything related to the House of Commons as news from “St. Stephens” (the Palace of Westminster contains a feature called St Stephen’s Tower, a smaller tower over the public entrance). The usage persists in Welsh, where the Westminster district, and Parliament by extension, is known as San Steffan.

On 2 June 2012, The Daily Telegraph reported that 331 Members of Parliament, including senior members of all three main parties, supported a proposal to change the name from Clock Tower to Elizabeth Tower in tribute to Queen Elizabeth II in her diamond jubilee year. This was thought to be appropriate because the large west tower now known as Victoria Tower was renamed in tribute to Queen Victoria on her diamond jubilee. On 26 June 2012, the House of Commons confirmed that the name change could go ahead. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced the change of name on 12 September 2012 at the start of Prime Minister’s Questions. The change was marked by a naming ceremony in which the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, unveiled a name plaque attached to the tower on the adjoining Speaker’s Green.

Clock


Dials

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The dial of the Great Clock of Westminster. The hour hand is 9 feet (2.7 m) long and the minute hand is 14 feet (4.3 m) long.

The clock and dials were designed by Augustus Pugin. The clock dials are set in an iron frame 23 feet (7.0 m) in diameter, supporting 312 pieces of opal glass, rather like a stained-glass window. Some of the glass pieces may be removed for inspection of the hands. The surround of the dials is gilded. At the base of each clock dial in gilt letters is the Latin inscription:

DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM
Which means O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.
Unlike most other Roman numeral clock dials, which show the ‘4’ position as ‘IIII’, the Great Clock faces depict ‘4’ as ‘IV’.

Movement

The clock’s movement is famous for its reliability. The designers were the lawyer and amateur horologist Edmund Beckett Denison, and George Airy, the Astronomer Royal. Construction was entrusted to clockmaker Edward John Dent; after his death in 1853 his stepson Frederick Dent completed the work, in 1854. As the tower was not complete until 1859, Denison had time to experiment: instead of using the deadbeat escapement and remontoire as originally designed, Denison invented the double three-legged gravity escapement. This escapement provides the best separation between pendulum and clock mechanism. The pendulum is installed within an enclosed windproof box beneath the clockroom. It is 13 feet (4.0 m) long, weighs 660 pounds (300 kg), suspended on a strip of spring steel 1/64 inch in thickness, and beats every 2 seconds. The clockwork mechanism in a room below weighs 5 tons. On top of the pendulum is a small stack of old penny coins; these are to adjust the time of the clock. Adding a coin has the effect of minutely lifting the position of the pendulum’s centre of mass, reducing the effective length of the pendulum rod and hence increasing the rate at which the pendulum swings. Adding or removing a penny will change the clock’s speed by 0.4 seconds per day.

On 10 May 1941, a German bombing raid damaged two of the clock’s dials and sections of the tower’s stepped roof and destroyed the House of Commons chamber. Architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed a new five-floor block. Two floors are occupied by the current chamber, which was used for the first time on 26 October 1950. The clock ran accurately and chimed throughout the Blitz.

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The rear of the clock face

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The clock mechanism

Malfunctions, breakdowns, and other interruptions in operation

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The south clock face being cleaned on 11 August 2007

1916: For two years during World War I, the bells were silenced and the clock faces were not illuminated at night to avoid guiding attacking German Zeppelins.

1 September 1939: Although the bells continued to ring, the clock faces were not illuminated at night throughout World War II to avoid guiding bomber pilots during the Blitz.

10 May 1941: A German bombing raid damaged two of the clock’s dials.

3–4 June 1941: The clock stopped from 10:13 p.m. until 10:13 the following morning, after a workman repairing air-raid damage to the clock face dropped a hammer into the works.

1949: The clock slowed by four and a half minutes after a flock of starlings perched on the minute hand.

13 January 1955: The clock stopped at 3:24 a.m. due to drifts of snow forming on the north and east dials. Small electric heaters were placed just inside these two dials which faced the full fury of the winter’s blast, and this measure has helped to reduce incidences of freezing in recent years.

31 December 1962: The clock slowed due to heavy snow and ice on the hands, causing the pendulum to detach from the clockwork, as it is designed to do in such circumstances, to avoid serious damage elsewhere in the mechanism – the pendulum continuing to swing freely. Thus, it chimed-in the 1963 new year nine minutes late.
30 January 1965: The bells were silenced during the funeral of statesman and former prime minister Winston Churchill.

5 August 1976: First and only major breakdown. The air brake speed regulator of the chiming mechanism broke from torsional fatigue after more than 100 years of use, causing the fully wound 4-ton weight to spin the winding drum out of the movement, causing much damage. The Great Clock was shut down for a total of 26 days over nine months – it was reactivated on 9 May 1977. This was the longest break in operation since its construction. During this time BBC Radio 4 broadcast the pips instead. Although there were minor stoppages from 1977 to 2002, when maintenance of the clock was carried out by the old firm of clockmakers Thwaites & Reed, these were often repaired within the permitted two-hour downtime and not recorded as stoppages. Before 1970, maintenance was carried out by the original firm of Dents; since 2002, by parliamentary staff.

30 April 1997: The clock stopped 24 hours before the general election, and stopped again three weeks later.

27 May 2005: The clock stopped at 10:07 p.m., possibly because of hot weather; temperatures in London had reached an unseasonable 31.8 °C (90 °F). It resumed, but stopped again at 10:20 p.m., and remained still for about 90 minutes before resuming.
29 October 2005: The mechanism was stopped for about 33 hours to allow maintenance work on the clock and its chimes. It was the lengthiest maintenance shutdown in 22 years.

7:00 a.m. 5 June 2006: The clock tower’s “Quarter Bells” were taken out of commission for four weeks as a bearing holding one of the quarter bells was worn and needed to be removed for repairs. During this period, BBC Radio 4 broadcast recordings of British bird song followed by the pips in place of the usual chimes.

11 August 2007: Start of 6-week stoppage for maintenance. Bearings in the clock’s chime train and the “great bell” striker were replaced, for the first time since installation. During the maintenance the clock was driven by an electric motor. Once again, BBC Radio 4 broadcast the pips during this time. The intention is that the clock should run accurately for a further 200 years before major maintenance is again required.

17 April 2013: The bells were silenced as a mark of “profound dignity and deep respect” during the funeral of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
August 2015: The clock was discovered to be running 7 seconds fast, and coins were removed from its pendulum to correct the error, which caused it to run slow for a time.

21 August 2017: Start of 4-year silencing of the chimes during maintenance and repair work to the clock mechanism, and repairs and improvements to the clock tower building. During this time, dials, hands, and lights will be removed for restoration, with at least one dial—with hands driven by an electric motor—left intact, functioning, and visible at any given time. The bells, however, will still bong for events like New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Day.

Bells


Great Bell

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The second “Big Ben” (centre) and the Quarter Bells from The Illustrated News of the World, 4 December 1858

The main bell, officially known as the Great Bell but better known as Big Ben, is the largest bell in the tower and part of the Great Clock of Westminster.

The original bell was a 16 ton (16.3-tonne) hour bell, cast on 6 August 1856 in Stockton-on-Tees by John Warner & Sons. The bell was possibly named in honour of Sir Benjamin Hall, and his name is inscribed on it. However, another theory for the origin of the name is that the bell may have been named after a contemporary heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt. It is thought that the bell was originally to be called Victoria or Royal Victoria in honour of Queen Victoria, but that an MP suggested the nickname during a Parliamentary debate; the comment is not recorded in Hansard.

Since the tower was not yet finished, the bell was mounted in New Palace Yard. The first bell was transported to the tower on a trolley drawn by sixteen horses, with crowds cheering its progress. During the bell’s testing, it cracked beyond repair and a replacement had to be made. The bell was recast on 10 April 1858 at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a 13½ ton (13.76-tonne) bell. This was pulled 200 ft (61.0 m) up to the Clock Tower’s belfry, a feat that took 18 hours. It is 7 feet 6 inches (2.29 m) tall and 9 feet (2.74 m) diameter. This new bell first chimed in July 1859; in September it too cracked under the hammer. According to the foundry’s manager, George Mears, the horologist Denison had used a hammer more than twice the maximum weight specified. For three years Big Ben was taken out of commission and the hours were struck on the lowest of the quarter bells until it was repaired. To make the repair, a square piece of metal was chipped out from the rim around the crack, and the bell given an eighth of a turn so the new hammer struck in a different place. Big Ben has chimed with a slightly different tone ever since, and is still in use today with the crack unrepaired. Big Ben was the largest bell in the British Isles until “Great Paul”, a 16¾ ton (17 tonne) bell currently hung in St Paul’s Cathedral, was cast in 1881.

Chimes

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Big Ben

A recording from the BBC World Service radio station of the Westminster Chimes and the twelve strikes of Big Ben, as broadcast at midnight, New Year’s Day 2009.

Along with the Great Bell, the belfry houses four quarter bells which play the Westminster Quarters on the quarter hours. The four quarter bells sound G♯, F♯, E, and B. They were cast by John Warner & Sons at their Crescent Foundry in 1857 (G♯, F♯ and B) and 1858 (E). The Foundry was in Jewin Crescent, in what is now known as The Barbican, in the City of London. The bells are sounded by hammers pulled by cables coming from the link room—a low-ceiling space between the clock room and the belfry—where mechanisms translate the movement of the quarter train into the sounding of the individual bells.

The quarter bells play a once-repeating, 20-note sequence of rounds and four changes in the key of E major: 1–4 at quarter past, 5–12 at half past, 13–20 and 1–4 at quarter to, and 5–20 on the hour (which sounds 25 seconds before the main bell tolls the hour). Because the low bell (B) is struck twice in quick succession, there is not enough time to pull a hammer back, and it is supplied with two wrench hammers on opposite sides of the bell. The tune is that of the Cambridge Chimes, first used for the chimes of Great St Mary’s church, Cambridge, and supposedly a variation, attributed to William Crotch, based on violin phrases from the air “I know that my Redeemer liveth” in Handel’s Messiah. The notional words of the chime, again derived from Great St Mary’s and in turn an allusion to Psalm 37:23–24, are: “All through this hour/Lord be my guide/And by Thy power/No foot shall slide”. They are written on a plaque on the wall of the clock room.

One of the requirements for the clock was that the first stroke of the hour bell should be correct to within one second per day. The tolerance is with reference to Greenwich Mean Time (BST in summer). So, at twelve o’clock, for example, it is the first of the twelve hour-bell strikes that signifies the hour (the New Year on New Year’s Day at midnight). The time signalled by the last of the “six pips” (UTC) may be fractionally different.

Nickname


The origin of the nickname Big Ben is the subject of some debate. The nickname was applied first to the Great Bell; it may have been named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the installation of the Great Bell, or after boxing’s English heavyweight champion Benjamin Caunt. Now Big Ben is often used, by extension, to refer to the clock, the tower and the bell collectively, although the nickname is not universally accepted as referring to the clock and tower. Some authors of works about the tower, clock and bell sidestep the issue by using the words Big Ben first in the title, then going on to clarify that the subject of the book is the clock and tower as well as the bell.

In August, 2017, satirical news site The Rochdale Herald published a spoof article stating that the bell was to be renamed “Massive Mohammed”. Many people mistook this for a genuine news story and were widely ridiculed on Social Media. This even inspired the creation of two online petitions.

Cultural Importance


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Double-decker buses frame a busy Whitehall with Big Ben in the background.

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Big Ben replica at Legoland Windsor

The clock has become a cultural symbol of the United Kingdom, particularly in the visual media. When a television or film-maker wishes to indicate a generic location in the country, a popular way to do so is to show an image of the tower, often with a red double-decker bus or black cab in the foreground.

In 2008 a survey of 2,000 people found that the tower was the most popular landmark in the United Kingdom. It has also been named as the most iconic film location in London.

The sound of the clock chiming has also been used this way in audio media, but as the Westminster Quarters are heard from other clocks and other devices, the sound is by no means unique. Big Ben is a focus of New Year celebrations in the United Kingdom, with radio and TV stations tuning to its chimes to welcome the start of the New Year. To welcome in 2012, the clock tower was lit with fireworks that exploded at every toll of Big Ben. Similarly, on Remembrance Day, the chimes of Big Ben are broadcast to mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and the start of the two minutes’ silence. Londoners who live an appropriate distance from the tower and Big Ben can, by means of listening to the chimes both live and on analogue radio, hear the bell strike thirteen times. This is possible because the electronically transmitted chimes arrive virtually instantaneously, while the “live” sound is delayed travelling through the air since the speed of sound is relatively slow.

ITN’s News at Ten opening sequence formerly featured an image of the tower with the sound of Big Ben’s chimes punctuating the announcement of the news headlines. The Big Ben chimes (known within ITN as “The Bongs”) continue to be used during the headlines and all ITV News bulletins use a graphic based on the Westminster clock dial. Big Ben can also be heard striking the hour before some news bulletins on BBC Radio 4 (6 p.m. and midnight, plus 10 p.m. on Sundays) and the BBC World Service, a practice that began on 31 December 1923. The sound of the chimes is sent live from a microphone permanently installed in the tower and connected by line to Broadcasting House.

At the close of the polls for the 2010 general election the results of the national exit poll were projected onto the south side of the tower. On 27 July 2012, starting at 8:12 a.m, Big Ben chimed 30 times, to welcome in the London Olympic Games (i.e. the 30th Olympiad), which officially began that day.

In Popular Culture

The Clock Tower features in many dramatic representations, and as a specific location in:

  • My Learned Friend, 1943 film starring Will Hay
  • Peter Pan, 1953 Walt Disney animated feature
  • The Chimes of Big Ben, the second episode of the 1967 TV series The Prisoner.
  • “The Nightmare Man”, a 1978 episode of Return of the Saint, starring Ian Ogilvy
  • The Thirty-Nine Steps, 1978 film starring Robert Powell
  • The Great Mouse Detective, a 1986 Walt Disney animated feature
  • “Brain Meets Brawn”, a 1994 Animaniacs episode starring Pinky and the Brain.
  • Mars Attacks!, 1996 film.
  • The Avengers, 1998 action film
  • Shanghai Knights, a 2003 film starring Jackie Chan
  • “Aliens of London”, a 2005 Doctor Who episode
  • V for Vendetta, 2005 science fiction film
  • Cars 2, 2011 Pixar animated film (as “Big Bentley”)
  • Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, 2015 video game.
  • Overwatch, 2016 video game.
  • “Groundmouse Day”, a 2017 episode of Danger Mouse.

2017 Renovation


The Elizabeth Tower and Great Bell have been scheduled for a major renovation that is expected to last four years and began in August 2017, with Big Ben’s chimes being silenced on 21 August at 12 noon. Essential maintenance will be carried out on the clock mechanism, which will be stopped for several months, during which there will be no chimes. Striking and tolling will however be maintained for important events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday. Big Ben will resume striking and tolling in 2021.

The aim of the renovation is to repair and conserve the tower, upgrade facilities as necessary, and ensure its integrity for future generations. The last significant renovation work was carried out to the tower over 30 years ago in 1983-85. The most significant addition to the tower in the forthcoming works will be the addition of a lift. The renovation was originally estimated to cost between £29 million and £45 million. However, in September 2017, that figure increased to £61 million.

Tory MPs also want Big Ben to bong at midnight on 29 March 2019 when Brexit is complete.

Bridges in London

Visit London’s many bridges for sweeping views and fascinating history.

Many of London’s iconic bridges give unique views and access to some of the city’s most popular sights, tours and events; or are well known landmarks in their own right. Wherever you find yourself along the Thames you’re guaranteed to be close to at least one of these famous bridges.

  1. Tower Bridge
  2. London Bridge
  3. Millennium Bridge
  4. Southwark Bridge
  5. Blackfriars Bridge
  6. Waterloo Bridge
  7. Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges
  8. Westminster Bridge
  9. Lambeth Bridge
  10. Vauxhall Bridge
  11. Chelsea Bridge
  12. Albert Bridge
  13. Battersea Bridge
  14. Wandsworth Bridge
  15. Putney Bridge
  16. Hammersmith Bridge
  17. Chiswick Bridge
  18. Kew Bridge
  19. Twickenham Bridge
  20. Richmond Bridge
  21. Kingston Bridge
  22. Hampton Court Bridge

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aerial photograph by www.webbaviation.co.uk

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Tower Bridge


Find out more about how the famous bridge’s history at the Tower Bridge Exhibition, where you can also enjoy fantastic views from 45 metres (131 feet) above the Thames on the bridge’s walkways.

Take a look behind-the-scenes of the famous bridge at The Tower Bridge Exhibition. You’ll discover areas such as the bridge’s machinery room, which houses the hydraulic system that allows the bridge to rise for river traffic.

This process hasn’t always gone smoothly, however. In 1952 the bridge started rising while one of London’s double-decker buses was still trying to cross. Its driver, Albert Gunton, avoided catastrophe by accelerating rapidly and jumping the gap.

Built in 1894, Tower Bridge is the most iconic bridge in London. This impressive feat of engineering is 244 metres (800 feet) long, covered in 22,000 litres (5,812gal) of paint and crossed by 40,000 people each day.

Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol of London, resulting in it sometimes being confused with London Bridge, situated some 0.5 mi (0.80 km) upstream. Tower Bridge is one of five London bridges now owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. It is the only one of the Trust’s bridges not to connect the City of London directly to the Southwark bank, as its northern landfall is in Tower Hamlets.

The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal tension forces exerted by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The vertical components of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical reactions of the two walkways are carried by the two robust towers. The bascule pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower. Before its restoration in the 2010s, the bridge’s colour scheme dated from 1977, when it was painted red, white and blue for Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. Its colours were subsequently restored to blue and white.

The bridge deck is freely accessible to both vehicles and pedestrians, whereas the bridge’s twin towers, high-level walkways and Victorian engine rooms form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition, for which an admission charge is made. The nearest London Underground tube stations are Tower Hill on the Circle and District lines, London Bridge on the Jubilee and Northern lines and Bermondsey on the Jubilee line, and the nearest Docklands Light Railway station is Tower Gateway. The nearest National Rail stations are at Fenchurch Street and London Bridge.

  • Carries: A100 Tower Bridge Road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: London boroughs:
    – north side: Tower Hamlets
    – south side: Southwark
  • Maintained by: Bridge House Estates
  • Heritage status: Grade I listed structure
  • Preceded by: London Bridge
  • Followed by: Queen Elizabeth II Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design: Bascule bridge / Suspension Bridge
  • Total length:801 ft (244 m)
  • Height: 213 ft (65 m)
  • Longest span: 270 ft (82.3 m)
  • Clearance below:
    • 28 ft (8.6 m) (closed)
    • 139 ft (42.5 m) (open)
    • (mean high water spring tide)

History

  • Opened: 30 June 1894; 123 years ago

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London Bridge


While much more subdued in design compared to its flashier neighbour, London Bridge is arguably just as famous. The first incarnation was built by the Romans, followed later by medieval bridges with houses on top, and a stone bridge commissioned by Henry II which lasted until 1831.

An American firm called McCulloch Oil Company bought the next London Bridge for £1m in 1971 as a tourist attraction for the new Lake Havasu City in Arizona. But the story that Robert P. McCulloch thought that he was paying for the more iconic Tower Bridge is now thought to be an urban legend.

Find out more about the bridge’s history with the London Bridge experience, or explore its status as a film icon with the London Movie Tour.

Throughout history, a number of bridges named London Bridge have spanned the River Thames between the City of London and Southwark, in central London. The current crossing, which opened to traffic in 1973, is a box girder bridge built from concrete and steel. This replaced a 19th-century stone-arched bridge, which in turn superseded a 600-year-old medieval structure. This was preceded by a succession of timber bridges, the first built by the Roman founders of London.

The current bridge stands at the western end of the Pool of London but is positioned 30 metres (98 ft) upstream from previous alignments. The traditional ends of the medieval bridge were marked by St Magnus-the-Martyr on the northern bank and Southwark Cathedral on the southern shore. Until Putney Bridge opened in 1729, London Bridge was the only road-crossing of the Thames downstream of Kingston upon Thames. Its importance has been the subject of popular culture throughout the ages such as in the nursery rhyme “London Bridge Is Falling Down” and its inclusion within art and literature.

The modern bridge is owned and maintained by Bridge House Estates, an independent charity of medieval origin overseen by the City of London Corporation. It carries the A3 road, which is maintained by the Greater London Authority. The crossing also delineates an area along the southern bank of the River Thames, between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, that has been designated as a business improvement district.

  • Coordinates: 51°30′29″N 0°05′16″W
  • Carries: Five lanes of the A3
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: Central London
  • Maintained by:
    • Bridge House Estates,
    • City of London Corporation
  • Preceded by: Cannon Street Railway Bridge
  • Followed by: Tower Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design: Prestressed concrete box girder bridge
  • Total length: 269 m (882.5 ft)
  • Width: 32 m (105.0 ft)
  • Longest span: 104 m (341.2 ft)
  • Clearance below: 8.9 m (29.2 ft)
  • Design life:
    • Modern bridge (1971–present)
    • Victorian stone arch (1832–1968)
    • Medieval stone arch (1176–1832)
    • Various wooden bridges (AD 50–1176)

History

  • Opened: 17 March 1973; 44 years ago

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Millennium Bridge


The Millennium Bridge opened to the public on 10 June 2000, linking St Paul’s Cathedral on the north bank of the Thames with the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe. The footbridge’s famous tremor has now been fixed, but “the wobbly bridge” nickname endures.

The Millennium Bridge, officially known as the London Millennium Footbridge, is a steel suspension bridge for pedestrians crossing the River Thames in London, linking Bankside with the City of London. It is located between Southwark Bridge and Blackfriars Railway Bridge. It is owned and maintained by Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. Construction began in 1998, and it initially opened in June 2000.

Londoners nicknamed the bridge the “Wobbly Bridge” after pedestrians felt unexpected swaying motion. The bridge was closed later on opening day, and after two days of limited access, it was closed for almost two years while modifications were made to eliminate the motion. It reopened in 2002.

The southern end of the bridge is near the Globe Theatre, the Bankside Gallery, and Tate Modern, while the northern end of the bridge is next to the City of London School below St Paul’s Cathedral. The bridge alignment is such that a clear view (i.e. a “terminating vista”) of St Paul’s south façade is presented from across the river, framed by the bridge supports.

  • Coordinates: 51.510173°N 0.098438°WCoordinates: 51.510173°N 0.098438°W
  • Carries: Pedestrians
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: London
  • Official name: London Millennium Footbridge
  • Maintained by:
    • Bridge House Estates,
    • City of London Corporation
  • Preceded by: Blackfriars Railway Bridge
  • Followed by: Southwark Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design: Suspension bridge
  • Total length: 325 metres (1,066 ft)
  • Width: 4 metres (13 ft)
  • Longest span: 144 metres (472 ft)

History

  • Engineering design by: Arup
  • Constructed by:
    • Monberg & Thorsen
    • Sir Robert McAlpine
  • Opened: 10 June 2000; 17 years ago

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The bridge seen from St Paul’s Cathedral.

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London Millennium Bridge at night. This image shows the well known and much photographed illusion of St. Paul’s Cathedral being supported by one of the bridge supports.

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Showing the cable suspension system.

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The view east from the Millennium Bridge

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Aerial view of the Millennium Bridge between
St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern in London.

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A telephoto shot compresses London’s Millennium bridge.

Southwark Bridge


Southwark Bridge links the City of London with Southwark on the south bank of the Thames. It’s the closest bridge to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and sees the least traffic of the city’s bridges.

Southwark (Br [ˈsʌðɨk]) Bridge is an arch bridge in London, England, for traffic linking the district of Southwark and the City across the River Thames. It has the lowest traffic utilisation of any bridge in central London.

  • Carries: A300 road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: Southwark, London, England
  • Maintained by:
    • Bridge House Estates,
    • City of London Corporation
  • Heritage status: Grade II listed structure
  • Preceded by: Millennium Bridge
  • Followed by: Cannon Street Railway Bridge

Characteristics

  • Total length: 800 feet (243.8 m)
  • Width: 55 feet (16.8 m)
  • Longest span: 240 feet (73.2 m)

History

  • Opened: 6 June 1921

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Southwark Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral

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Southwark Bridge seen from the south bank of the Thames. Tower 42 and 30 St Mary Axe can be seen above the bridge

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Southwark Bridge at night

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Southwark Bridge over the River Thames in London.
The Cannon Street Rail Bridge and London Bridge are in the background.

Blackfriars Bridge


Built in 1869, Blackfriars Bridge gained notoriety in 1982 when Vatican bank Chairman Robert Calvi was found hanging from it. Calvi was embroiled in a series of financial scandals and a member of the “Propaganda Due” (or P2) Masonic lodge that brought down the Italian government in 1981. Members of P2 referred to themselves as “Frati neri” or Black Friars.

Blackfriars Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge over the River Thames in London, between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Railway Bridge, carrying the A201 road. The north end is near the Inns of Court and Temple Church, along with Blackfriars station. The south end is near the Tate Modern art gallery and the Oxo Tower.

  • Coordinates: 51.5097°N 0.1044°WCoordinates: 51.5097°N 0.1044°W
  • OS grid reference: TQ315807
  • Carries: A201 road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: London, England
  • Maintained by:
    • Bridge House Estates,
    • City of London Corporation
  • Heritage status: Grade II listed structure
  • Preceded by: Waterloo Bridge
  • Followed by: Blackfriars Railway Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design: Arch Bridge
  • Total length: 923 feet (281 m)
  • Width: 105 feet (32 m)
  • No. of spans: 5

History

  • Designer: Joseph Cubitt
  • Constructed by: P. A. Thom & Co.
  • Opened
    • 1769 (first bridge)
    • 6 October 1869 (current bridge)

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Blackfriars Bridge seen from Waterloo Bridge

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Blackfriars Bridge with St Paul’s Cathedral behind

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Blackfriars Bridge viewed from upstream, looking south

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Blackfriars Bridge at night

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Blackfriars Rail Bridge over the River Thames in London
photographed from Blackfriars Bridge.

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Temperance, a statue atop a drinking water fountain at the north end of Blackfriars Bridge.

Waterloo Bridge


Opened in 1945, the current Waterloo Bridge earned the nickname the “Ladies Bridge” as it was built mainly by women during World War II (while many men were away fighting). The first bridge built here in 1817 was made up of nine granite arches and commemorated the victory of the British, the Dutch and the Prussians at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Waterloo Bridge (/ˌwɔːtərˈluː/) is a road and foot traffic bridge crossing the River Thames in London, between Blackfriars Bridge and Hungerford Bridge. Its name commemorates the victory of the British, the Dutch and the Prussians at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Thanks to its location at a strategic bend in the river, the views from the bridge (of Westminster, the South Bank and the London Eye to the west, and of the City of London and Canary Wharf to the east) are widely held to be the finest from any spot in London at ground level.

  • Carries: A301 road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: London
  • Named for: Battle of Waterloo
  • Heritage status: Grade II* listed structure
  • Preceded by: Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges
  • Followed by: Blackfriars Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design: Box girder bridge
  • Total length: 1,230 feet (370 m)
  • Width: 80 feet (24 m)
  • Longest span: 233 feet (71 m)

History

  • Opened
    • (first bridge) 18 June 1817
    • (second bridge) 11 March 1942; 75 years ago

1280px-River_Thames_and_Waterloo_Bridge,_London-17Aug2009

River Thames and Waterloo Bridge
(as seen from the London Eye)

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Crowds attend the opening of the first Waterloo Bridge on 18 June 1817

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View of the Old Waterloo Bridge from Whitehall Stairs, John Constable, 18 June 1817

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Waterloo Bridge, about 1925

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The design called for supporting beams only at the outside edges, to bring “light and sweetness” to the underside–Giles Gilbert Scott, quoted in Hopkins (1970)

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Waterloo Bridge by Charles Deane, 1821

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Ships pass under Waterloo Bridge on London’s River Thames.

Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges


Opened in 2002, the two footbridges either side of the Hungerford Bridge were named in celebration of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Now a rail bridge, the Hungerford Bridge was also initially designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel as a footbridge. Walk straight down to the river from Trafalgar Square and you can cross the Golden Jubilee Bridges to the Southbank Centre and the London Eye.

The Hungerford Bridge crosses the River Thames in London, and lies between Waterloo Bridge and Westminster Bridge. It is a steel truss railway bridge – sometimes known as the Charing Cross Bridge – flanked by two more recent, cable-stayed, pedestrian bridges that share the railway bridge’s foundation piers, and which are named the Golden Jubilee Bridges.

The north end of the bridge is Charing Cross railway station, and is near Embankment Pier and the Victoria Embankment. The south end is near Waterloo station, County Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, and the London Eye. Each pedestrian bridge has steps and lift access.

  • Carries: Railway
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: London
  • Preceded by: Westminster Bridge
  • Followed by: Waterloo Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design Steel truss

History

  • Opened:
    • 1864 (Hungerford Bridge)
    • 2002 (Golden Jubilee Bridges)

Hungerford_Bridge,_River_Thames,_London,_England

Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges, seen from the north

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The Hungerford and Golden Jubilee bridges as seen from the London Eye, with Waterloo Bridge in the background

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Hungerford Bridges—one railway, two pedestrian walkways—and
Charring Cross Station viewed from the London Eye.

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Hungerford Bridges view from the River Thames in London.

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Hungerford Bridges over the River Thames in London.

Westminster Bridge


Cross the Thames at Westminster Bridge if you want to get an iconic picture of Big Ben on the north bank, or the Coca-Cola London Eye to the south. It’s the oldest road bridge across the Thames in Central London, and was designed by the same architect as the Palace of Westminster, Charles Barry.

Westminster Bridge is a road-and-foot-traffic bridge over the River Thames in London, linking Westminster on the west side and Lambeth on the east side.

The bridge is painted 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 to 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.

In 2005–2007, it underwent a complete refurbishment, including replacing the iron fascias and repainting the whole bridge. 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 the Hungerford footbridge and upstream is Lambeth Bridge. Westminster Bridge was designated a Grade II* listed structure in 1981.

  • Carries: A302 road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: London
  • Heritage status: Grade II* listed structure
  • Preceded by: Lambeth Bridge
  • Followed by: Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges

Characteristics

  • Design: Arch bridge
  • Total length: 820 feet (250 m)
  • Width: 85 feet (26 m)
  • No. of spans: 7

History

  • Designer: Thomas Page
  • Opened
    • (first bridge) 18 November 1750
    • (second bridge) 24 May 1862

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Westminster Bridge

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Westminster Bridge by Joseph Farrington, 1789 (the original bridge)

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The first Westminster Bridge as painted by Canaletto, 1747

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Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge over the River Thames in London.

Lambeth Bridge


Charles Dickens may have considered the 1862 Lambeth Bridge “on the whole, the ugliest ever built,” but it does provide great views of the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye.

Lambeth Bridge is a road traffic and footbridge crossing the River Thames in an east-west direction in central London. The river flows north at the crossing point. Downstream, the next bridge is Westminster Bridge; upstream, the next bridge is Vauxhall Bridge.

The most conspicuous colour in the bridge’s paint scheme is red, the same colour as the leather benches in the House of Lords, which is at the southern end of the Palace of Westminster nearest the bridge. This is in contrast to Westminster Bridge, which is predominantly green, the same colour as the benches in the House of Commons at the northern end of the Houses of Parliament.

On the east side, in Lambeth, are Lambeth Palace, the Albert Embankment, St. Thomas’ Hospital, and the International Maritime Organization. On the west side, in Westminster, are Thames House (the headquarters of MI5), behind which is Horseferry House (the National Probation Service headquarters), and Clelland House and Abell House (the headquarters of HM Prison Service), and the Millbank Tower and Tate Britain. The Palace of Westminster is a short walk downstream to the north through the Victoria Tower Garden.

  • Coordinates: 51°29′40″N 0°07′23″WCoordinates: 51°29′40″N 0°07′23″W
  • Carries: Lambeth Road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: London, England
  • Preceded by: Vauxhall Bridge
  • Followed by: Westminster Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design: Arch Bridge

History

  • Opened
    • (first bridge) 10 November 1862
    • (second bridge) 19 July 1932

1280px-River_Thames_and_Lambeth_Bridge-7July2007

River Thames; Lambeth Bridge with Vauxhall Bridge in the distance (as seen from London Eye)

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Detail from upstream with DUKW, Victoria Tower in centre

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Lambeth Bridge from Millbank, facing east towards Lambeth

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The bridge nearest the camera is Westminster Bridge, the next bridge is Lambeth Bridge, and the bridge just visible in the distance is Vauxhall Bridge (as seen from the London Eye observation wheel)

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Lambeth Bridge seen from Albert Embankment, looking north, downstream. Thames House is on the far left.

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Lambeth Bridge 1

Lambeth Bridge 2

Vauxhall Bridge


A Russian delegation which visited the new Vauxhall railway station in the 1840s was so impressed that the word “voksal” entered the Russian language as the word for railway station.

Vauxhall Bridge is a Grade II* listed steel and granite deck arch bridge in central London. It crosses the River Thames in a south–east north–west direction between Vauxhall on the south bank and Pimlico on the north bank. Opened in 1906, it replaced an earlier bridge, originally known as Regent Bridge but later renamed Vauxhall Bridge, built between 1809 and 1816 as part of a scheme for redeveloping the south bank of the Thames. The original bridge was built on the site of a former ferry.

The building of both bridges was problematic, with both the first and second bridges requiring several redesigns from multiple architects. The original bridge, the first iron bridge over the Thames, was built by a private company and operated as a toll bridge before being taken into public ownership in 1879. The second bridge, which took eight years to build, was the first in London to carry trams and later one of the first two roads in London to have a bus lane.

In 1963 it was proposed to replace the bridge with a modern development containing seven floors of shops, office space, hotel rooms and leisure facilities supported above the river, but the plans were abandoned because of costs. With the exception of alterations to the road layout and the balustrade, the design and appearance of the current bridge has remained almost unchanged since 1907. The bridge today is an important part of London’s road system and carries the A202 road across the Thames.

  • Coordinates: 51°29′15″N 0°07′37″WCoordinates: 51°29′15″N 0°07′37″W
  • Carries: A202 road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: London, England
  • Heritage status: Grade II* listed
  • Preceded by: Grosvenor Railway Bridge
  • Followed by: Lambeth Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design: Arch bridge
  • Material: Steel and granite
  • Total length: 809 feet (247 m)
  • Width: 80 feet (24 m)
  • No. of spans: 5
  • Piers in water: 4
  • Clearance below: 39 feet 9 inches (12.1 m) at lowest astronomical tide

History

  • Designer:
    • Sir Alexander Binnie,
    • Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice
  • Opened: 26 May 1906
  • Replaces: Regent Bridge (Old Vauxhall Bridge) 1816–98

Statistics

  • Daily traffic: 50,533 vehicles (2004)

Vauxhall Bridge 1

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Pomeroy’s Pottery

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Pomeroy’s Agriculture

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2009 view of Vauxhall Bridge, from upstream on the south bank

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The SIS Building now dominates the southern end of the bridge

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A slipway on the south bank is used by amphibious buses

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Chelsea Bridge


In 1851, during the construction of Chelsea Bridge, which was originally referred to as Victoria Bridge, workmen found Roman and Celtic weapons, as well as human skulls and it was thought that this might have been where Julius Caesar and his army crossed the Thames.

Chelsea Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames in west London, connecting Chelsea on the north bank to Battersea on the south bank. There have been two Chelsea Bridges, on the site of what was an ancient ford.

The first Chelsea Bridge was proposed in the 1840s as part of a major development of marshlands on the south bank of the Thames into the new Battersea Park. It was a suspension bridge intended to provide convenient access from the densely populated north bank to the new park. Although built and operated by the government, tolls were charged initially in an effort to recoup the cost of the bridge. Work on the nearby Chelsea Embankment delayed construction and so the bridge, initially called Victoria Bridge, did not open until 1858. Although well-received architecturally, as a toll bridge it was unpopular with the public, and Parliament felt obliged to make it toll-free on Sundays. The bridge was less of a commercial success than had been anticipated, partly because of competition from the newly built Albert Bridge nearby. It was acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1877, and the tolls were abolished in 1879.

The bridge was narrow and structurally unsound, leading the authorities to rename it Chelsea Bridge to avoid the Royal Family’s association with a potential collapse. In 1926 it was proposed that the old bridge be rebuilt or replaced, due to the increased volume of users from population growth, and the introduction of the automobile. It was demolished during 1934–1937, and replaced by the current structure, which opened in 1937.

The new bridge was the first self-anchored suspension bridge in Britain, and was built entirely with materials sourced from within the British Empire. During the early 1950s it became popular with motorcyclists, who staged regular races across the bridge. One such meeting in 1970 erupted into violence, resulting in the death of one man and the imprisonment of 20 others. Chelsea Bridge is floodlit from below during the hours of darkness, when the towers and cables are illuminated by 936 feet (285 m) of light-emitting diodes. In 2008 it achieved Grade II listed status. In 2004 a smaller bridge, Battersea Footbridge, was opened beneath the southern span, carrying the Thames Path beneath the main bridge.

  • Coordinates: 51°29′5″N 0°9′0″WCoordinates: 51°29′5″N 0°9′0″W
  • Carries: A3216 road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: Battersea and Chelsea, London
  • Heritage status: Grade II listed structure
  • Preceded by: Albert Bridge
  • Followed by: Grosvenor Railway Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design: Self-anchored suspension bridge
  • Material: Steel
  • Total length: 698 feet (213 m)
  • Width: 64 feet (20 m)
  • Height: 69 feet 2 inches (21.08 m)
  • Longest span: 332 feet (101 m)
  • No. of spans: 3
  • Piers in water: 2
  • Clearance below: 42 feet 9 inches (13.03 m) at lowest astronomical tide

History

  • Designer: G. Topham Forrest and E. P. Wheeler
  • Opened: 6 May 1937
  • Replaces: Victoria Bridge (1858–1935), also known as Old Chelsea Bridge

Statistics

  • Daily traffic: 29,375 vehicles (2004)

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With four lanes of traffic, the new bridge’s roadway is much wider than that of its predecessor.

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Being self-anchored, the bridge uniquely in London has no anchoring abutments.

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As a self-anchored bridge, the suspension cables attach directly to the deck and do not extend to the ground.

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Coat of arms of the Metropolitan Borough of Battersea on a Chelsea Bridge lamp post

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Chelsea Bridge’s illuminations

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Rainy day on Chelsea Bridge, London

Albert Bridge


Albert Bridge is a road bridge crossing the Thames in West London, connecting Chelsea on the north bank to Battersea on the south. It is one of only two road bridges in London to never have been replaced, despite calls for its demolition during the 20th century when it became clear the bridge was struggling to support an increasing number of motor vehicles. With its unique design and unusual colour scheme, the bridge is now an English Heritage Grade II listed building.

The Albert Bridge is a road bridge over the River Thames in West London, connecting Chelsea on the north bank to Battersea on the south bank. Designed and built by Rowland Mason Ordish in 1873 as an Ordish–Lefeuvre system modified cable-stayed bridge, it proved to be structurally unsound, so between 1884 and 1887 Sir Joseph Bazalgette incorporated some of the design elements of a suspension bridge. In 1973 the Greater London Council added two concrete piers, which transformed the central span into a simple beam bridge. As a result, today the bridge is an unusual hybrid of three different design styles. It is an English Heritage Grade II* listed building.

Built as a toll bridge, it was commercially unsuccessful. Six years after its opening it was taken into public ownership and the tolls were lifted. The tollbooths remained in place and are the only surviving examples of bridge tollbooths in London. Nicknamed “The Trembling Lady” because of its tendency to vibrate when large numbers of people walked over it, the bridge has signs at its entrances that warned troops to break step whilst crossing the bridge.

Incorporating a roadway only 27 feet (8.2 m) wide, and with serious structural weaknesses, the bridge was ill-equipped to cope with the advent of the motor vehicle during the 20th century. Despite the many calls for its demolition or pedestrianisation, the Albert Bridge has remained open to vehicles throughout its existence, other than for brief spells during repairs, and is one of only two Thames road bridges in central London never to have been replaced. The strengthening work carried out by Bazalgette and the Greater London Council did not prevent further deterioration of the bridge’s structure. A series of increasingly strict traffic control measures have been introduced to limit its use and thus prolong its life, making it the least busy Thames road bridge in London, except for the little-used Southwark Bridge. The bridge’s condition is continuing to degrade as the result of traffic load and severe rotting of the timber deck structure caused by the urine of the many dogs using it as a route to nearby Battersea Park.

In 1992, the Albert Bridge was rewired and painted in an unusual colour scheme designed to make it more conspicuous in poor visibility, and avoid being damaged by ships. At night it is illuminated by 4,000 bulbs, making it one of west London’s most striking landmarks. In 2010–2011, these were replaced with LEDs.

  • Coordinates: 51.4823°N 0.1667°WCoordinates: 51.4823°N 0.1667°W
  • Carries: A3031 road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: Battersea and Chelsea, London
  • Heritage status: Grade II* listed structure
  • Preceded by: Battersea Bridge
  • Followed by: Chelsea Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design: Ordish–Lefeuvre system, subsequently modified to an Ordish–Lefeuvre system / suspension bridge / beam bridge hybrid design
  • Total length: 710 feet (220 m)
  • Width: 41 feet (12 m)
  • Height: 66 feet (20 m)
  • Longest span: 
    • 384 feet 9 inches (117.27 m) (before 1973)
    • 185 feet (56 m) (after 1973)
  • No. of spans: 4 (3 before 1973)
  • Piers in water: 6 (4 before 1973)
  • Clearance below: 37 feet 9 inches (11.5 m) at lowest astronomical tide

History

  • Designer: Rowland Mason Ordish, Joseph Bazalgette
  • Opened: 23 August 1873

Statistics

  • Daily traffic: 19,821 vehicles (2004)

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Albert Bridge

Battersea Bridge


Built in 1890, Battersea Bridge is the narrowest road bridge over the Thames. Before the current bridge was built, the river could be crossed at this point by the very last wooden bridge on the Thames.

Battersea Bridge is a five-span arch bridge with cast-iron girders and granite piers crossing the River Thames in London, England. It is situated on a sharp bend in the river, and links Battersea south of the river with Chelsea to the north. The bridge replaced a ferry service that had operated near the site since at least the middle of the 16th century.

The first Battersea Bridge was a toll bridge commissioned by John, Earl Spencer, who had recently acquired the rights to operate the ferry. Although a stone bridge was planned, difficulties in raising investment meant that a cheaper wooden bridge was built instead. Designed by Henry Holland, it was initially opened to pedestrians in November 1771, and to vehicle traffic in 1772. The bridge was inadequately designed and dangerous both to its users and to passing shipping, and boats often collided with it. To reduce the dangers to shipping, two piers were removed and the sections of the bridge above them were strengthened with iron girders.

Although dangerous and unpopular, the bridge was the last surviving wooden bridge on the Thames in London, and was the subject of paintings by many significant artists such as J. M. W. Turner, John Sell Cotman and James McNeill Whistler, including Whistler’s Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Old Battersea Bridge, and his controversial Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket.

In 1879 the bridge was taken into public ownership, and in 1885 demolished and replaced with the existing bridge, designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and built by John Mowlem & Co. The narrowest surviving road bridge over the Thames in London, it is one of London’s least busy Thames bridges. The location on a bend in the river makes the bridge a hazard to shipping, and it has been closed many times due to collisions.

  • Coordinates: 51°28′52″N 0°10′21″WCoordinates: 51°28′52″N 0°10′21″W
  • Carries: A3220 road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: London, England
  • Heritage status: Grade II listed structure
  • Preceded by: Battersea Railway Bridge
  • Followed by: Albert Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design: Arch bridge
  • Material: Cast iron and granite
  • Total length: 725 feet 6 inches (221.13 m)
  • Width: 40 feet (12 m)
  • Longest span: 163 feet (50 m)
  • No. of spans: 5
  • Piers in water: 4
  • Clearance below: 38 feet 9 inches (11.8 m) at lowest astronomical tide

History

  • Designer Joseph Bazalgette
  • Opened 21 July 1890
  • Replaces Old Battersea Bridge (1771–1885) a.k.a. Chelsea Bridge

Statistics

  • Daily traffic 26,041 vehicles (2004)

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Wandsworth Bridge


The current Wandsworth Bridge was opened in 1940, and painted in dull shades of blue to as camouflage against air raids. While the bridge is one of the busiest in London, carrying more than 50,000 vehicles a day, it has been described as “probably the least noteworthy” bridge in the city.

Wandsworth Bridge crosses the River Thames in west London. It carries the A217 road between the area of Battersea, near Wandsworth Town Station, in the London Borough of Wandsworth on the south of the river, and the areas of Sands End and Parsons Green, in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, on the north side.

The first bridge on the site was a toll bridge built by Julian Tolmé in 1873, in the expectation that the western terminus of the Hammersmith and City Railway would shortly be built on the north bank, leading to a sharp increase in the number of people wanting to cross the river at this point. The railway terminus was not built, and problems with drainage on the approach road made access to the bridge difficult for vehicles. Wandsworth Bridge was commercially unsuccessful, and in 1880 it was taken into public ownership and made toll-free. Tolmé’s bridge was narrow and too weak to carry buses, and in 1926 a Royal Commission recommended its replacement.

In 1937 Tolmé’s bridge was demolished. The present bridge, an unadorned steel cantilever bridge designed by Sir Thomas Peirson Frank, was opened in 1940. At the time of its opening it was painted in dull shades of blue as camouflage against air raids, a colour scheme it retains. Although Wandsworth Bridge is one of the busiest bridges in London, carrying over 50,000 vehicles daily, it has been described as “probably the least noteworthy bridge in London”.

  • Coordinates: 51.46500°N 0.18806°WCoordinates: 51.46500°N 0.18806°W
  • Carries: A217 road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: London, England
  • Preceded by: Fulham Railway Bridge
  • Followed by: Battersea Railway Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design: Cantilever bridge
  • Material: Steel
  • Total length: 650 feet (200 m)
  • Width: 60 feet (18 m)
  • No. of spans: 3
  • Clearance below: 39 feet (11.9 m) at lowest astronomical tide

History

  • Designer: Thomas Peirson Frank
  • Opened:
    • 26 September 1873 (first bridge)
    • 25 September 1940 (second bridge)

Statistics

  • Daily traffic: 53,299 vehicles (2004)

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Putney Bridge


Putney Bridge crosses the Thames between Putney and Fulham, and has been the starting point for the annual Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race since it began in 1845. 

Putney Bridge is a bridge crossing of the River Thames in west London, linking Putney on the south side with Fulham to the north. The bridge has medieval parish churches at each end: St. Mary’s Church, Putney is located on the south and All Saints Church, Fulham on the north bank. Putney Bridge is the only bridge in Britain to have a church at both ends.

The current format is three lanes southbound (including one bus lane) and one lane (including cycle lane/bus stop) northbound. Putney High Street, a main approach, is the main axis of a very commercial district centre.

  • Carries: A219 road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: London, England
  • Heritage status: Grade II listed structure
  • Preceded by: Hammersmith Bridge
  • Followed by: Fulham Railway Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design: Arch bridge
  • Total length: 700 feet (210 m)
  • Width: 43 feet (13 m)

History

  • Opened:
    • 29 November 1729 (first bridge)
    • 29 May 1886 (second bridge)

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Hammersmith Bridge


The first boat race between Putney and Mortlake took place in 1845, and Hammersmith Bridge became a popular vantage point. Mayhem ensued, with up to 12,000 people crowding on, causing concern about the strain this was causing to the bridge. Since 1882, the bridge has been closed on race day, but normally takes you between Hammersmith on the north bank across the river to Barnes.

Hammersmith Bridge is a suspension bridge that crosses the River Thames in west London. It allows road traffic and pedestrians to cross from the southern part of Hammersmith in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, on the north side of the river, to Barnes in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, on the south side of the river. The current bridge, which is Grade II* listed and was designed by the noted civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette, is the second permanent bridge on the site.

  • Carries: A306 road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: London, England
  • Heritage status: Grade II* listed structure[1]
  • Preceded by: Barnes Railway Bridge
  • Followed by: Putney Bridge

Characteristics

  • Design: Suspension bridge
  • Total length: 700 ft (210 m)
  • Width: 43 ft (13 m)

History

  • Opened:
    • 6 October 1827 (first bridge)
    • 11 June 1887 (current bridge)

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Chiswick Bridge


It was the first of three London bridges opened on the same day. On 3 July 1933, Chiswick Bridge opened at 4.30pm, Twickenham at 5pm and Hampton Court at 5.30pm. Before Chiswick Bridge was built, people would cross the river by ferry.

Chiswick Bridge is a reinforced concrete deck arch bridge over the River Thames in west London. One of three bridges opened in 1933 as part of an ambitious scheme to relieve traffic congestion west of London, it carries the A316 road between Chiswick on the north bank of the Thames and Mortlake on the south bank.

Built on the site of a former ferry, the bridge is 606 feet (185 m) long and faced with 3,400 tons of Portland stone. At the time of its opening its 150-foot (46 m) central span was the longest concrete span over the Thames. The bridge is possibly best known today for its proximity to the end of The Championship Course, the stretch of the Thames used for the Boat Race and other rowing races.

  • Coordinates: 51°28′23″N 0°16′11″WCoordinates: 51°28′23″N 0°16′11″W
  • Carries: A316 road
  • Crosses: River Thames
  • Locale: Mortlake and Chiswick

Characteristics

  • Design: Deck arch bridge
  • Material: Reinforced concrete, Portland stone
  • Total length: 606 feet (185 m)
  • Width: 70 feet (21 m)
  • Longest span: 150 feet (46 m)
  • No. of spans: 5
  • Piers in water: 2
  • Clearance below: 39 feet (12 m) at lowest astronomical tide

History

  • Designer: Sir Herbert Baker and Alfred Dryland
  • Constructed by: Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company
  • Opened: 3 July 1933

Statistics

  • Daily traffic: 39,710 vehicles (2004)

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