Tuesday, 3 March 2009
Crossings of the River Thames number 21: Westminster Bridge
Vlog on the Bridge!
So far on this journey through London, I have crossed the Thames at the following places, by foot:
Hampton Court Bridge
Barnes Railway Bridge
Fulham Railway Bridge
And still to come are the following crossings:
Canary Wharf-Rotherhithe Ferry
Greenwich Foot Tunnel
Woolwich Foot Tunnel
But today comes number 21 Westminster Bridge. And before we get to the bridge itself, here are the money shots:
And one more...
Up until the 18th Century there were two crossing points over the Thames in the area we know as Greater London. The grand London Bridge and the not so grand and rickety Kingston Bridge. Then in 1726, Putney Bridge was constructed and the River Thames started gaining crossings like a cabbage patch in spring. Westminster Bridge came a few years later and the River Thames became less of a barrier to North Londoners wanting to escape 'down south'. Interestingly enough, Westminster Bridge also marks the beginning of the road to Brighton. Head down south from this bridge and eventually you will end up at the seaside!
The history not only of this bridge is impressive, but also the history of its surroundings is what catches the eye. After all, this is the seat of filth, I'm sorry, power, as well as being an ecclesiastical setting and why not add in the politics of the locals to spice things up. Oh yes, if you want to see the history of Britain, then it can be pretty much summed up in this bridge. Let us start with the Queen herself...
Yes, it was this lady who chased out the Romans, burnt the original Londinium and then herself got captured by those legions who butchered her. Charming, but she is immortalised on this bridge due to her deeds! Well, she was the original Essex Girl...
And then we head onto a little bit of poetry...
Now, out of all the bridges I have crossed, this is the only one with a poem enameled onto the railings. One may hope that before suicide, one may gain some inspiration...
Before finally taking in one of the pinnacles of London's health service...
Maybe it is the cynic in me, but when the hospital closures of the 90's were taking place, the MP's kept the hospital open that they were nearest too...
On a logistical scale, Westminster is a grand, wide boulevard, a couple of bus lanes, cycle lanes and pavements that house characters from a Dickensian tale. Food vendors, card sharks and mime artists. All with one eye on the police and the other on the pickpockets that roam freely across the river at this point. It was also recently refurbished, giving itself a little facelift and keeping itself green in order to distinguish it from its red cousin further west as well as showing the common touch.
This is of course no ordinary bridge, hence why this blog post is a hell of a lot longer than the normal ramblings of the crossings over the river. This is high architecture surrounded by even higher history. Intrigues and strife are what surrounds this well touristed attraction. As a Londoner, I sometimes do not appreciate London enough, but coming here to this crossing, to actually see it through the eyes of a tourist...yes, it can see like a theme park, but it is a damn pretty one.
With seven arches spaning the Thames, no other bridge conflicts with the river as much as Westminster. Life is abound in the river at this point and while upstream from here, the Thames only belonged to the barges, from here on in, there is a lot more traffic on the waters below as well as on the tarmac above...
I drive far too often over this bridge, and usually do not appreciate it for what it is worth. However, Westminster marks one of the few times that I have actually witnessed a dawn in London. At one point in my short life, I lived round the corner in Lambeth. And one day, I just felt like seeing the dawn. So my flatmate and I hiked up to Westminster Bridge and we sat down on the railings and watched the sun rise up before turning home and getting some sleep. There are moments which cannot be bought, spontaneous that may seem crazy at the time, but will stick in the mind far longer than the hip young things that I (and continue to) do. If there is a bridge that I have a fondness for, it is this one. And all for that one memory.
Getting there and Away: Nearest Tube is Westminster, or alternatively, the railhead at Waterloo is a short walk away.
Numerous buses either cross the bridge or drive up on either side including 24 hour routes 12, 24, 53, 88, 148 & 453; Day routes 3, 11, 77, 87, 159, 211, 381, 507, & C10 and Night routes N2, N3, N11, N44, N52, N87, N136, N155, N159 & N381
Ha, and although I have not included them so far, there are a lot of boats around the river at this point...
Come on, this is still London!