Sunday, 5 August 2012

Why London Bridge is England’s worst tourist attraction

Why London Bridge is England’s worst tourist attraction: by Jason Li 2012 ©

DID YOU KNOW THE FIRST LONDON BRIDGE was erected around AD80 in the Southwark area?

And London Bridge is the MOST FAMOUS bridge in the world.

It was possibly made by the invading Romans, before the Saxons took over.

The bridge used to be made out of wood, not concrete like today.

Today it just looks plain, boring, and in a way it needs to be rescued... here’s why.

History of the greatest bridge in the world: London Bridge

In 1014, the Great Danes invaded Britain. They hurled spears and pulled the Bridge down, hence “London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down.”

The next bridge was made of stone and had a road 20 feet wide with town houses on to pay the rent, 20 arches, plus a drawbridge. The bridge lasted 600 years and would possibly be the best looking bridge in the world at that point. In fact, it would still be the best looking bridge in the world today: a major tourist attraction, a world wonder.

Picture of old London Bridge - taken from this excellent blog:

But again greed destroyed it as Queen Eleanor would not put all the money collected from tolls on the bridge into the upkeep and it fell into disrepair, leading to five arches of the bridge falling into the Thames again.

There was a Stone Gate House on one end where heads of traitors were put on poles, including the great Oliver Cromwell in the 17th Century.

A new London Bridge was built in 1831 when the old bridge suffered from the great freeze. It was now built out of granite. However, measurements found the bridge had sunk 12 inches so a new bridge had to be made.

On the 17th of March 1973 Queen Elizabeth 2nd opened the new concrete bridge which still exists today.

Information summarised from this great resource:

Why did I try to stop someone seeing London Bridge?

I was walking down Tooley Street, just at More London when a girl says: “Sorry, I’m looking for London Bridge?” in a European accent.

So I told her it was in the opposite direction. But, I advised she could see Tower Bridge if she walked along the gap alongside Ernst and Young as it was just two minutes away.

However she refused. She insisted on seeing London Bridge. She said she had come to London to see London Bridge.

Now, my knowledge of history when I was at Nursery school only extended to ‘London Bridge is falling down,’ I admit I did not know of Tower Bridge as a child. But I wanted to help a tourist see something spectacular like Tower Bridge so she could go home and say England is a great place to visit. But no, she did not want to see Tower Bridge - she did not know what Tower Bridge was - she knew of London Bridge.

What could I do? I tried to tell her to start at Tower Bridge and take the Thames path to London Bridge; it’s just two minutes away and I even pointed out how London Bridge is just a plain bridge. She was not having it. SHE CAME TO ENGLAND TO SEE LONDON BRIDGE.

And so I pointed her the way to London Bridge, and said at least from there you can see Tower Bridge and walk back.

What do you see at London Bridge today?

When you get on the bridge, you see... a concrete bridge and a tarmac road, just like any bridge anywhere in the world. The bridge itself is just so plain, so not fascinating that it really is just a functional bridge. Any bridge that crosses a stream in the woods has more character.

If there were no famous landmarks around and I did not know it was London Bridge, I would not even look twice at it. It really is that plain.

To save London Bridge from total disappointment when you get there, the good thing is that you can see other landmarks that are fascinating.

Even its younger sister Tower Bridge is a beauty to look at: while you are standing on London Bridge.

You’ll find the government always decorates Tower Bridge (see the Olympic 2012 rings), and it is the bridge that cameras always focus on by television broadcasters – as they ignore plain old London Bridge.

 Tower Bridge gets the official Olympic spotlight.

London Bridge just gets the GB colours like every other public place on the Thames.

 In fact, I once took a river boat ride and the tour guide said a few things about London Bridge as we passed under and people took pictures. But you could see the disappointment as they realised they were taking pictures of just a bridge. Then when the boat passed under London Bridge and you could see Tower Bridge, people got really excited and all the cameras were going crazy. Moreover, the boat stopped momentarily just in front of Tower Bridge for tourists to take plenty of gratuitous shots.

I do feel sorry for London Bridge, as big brother is the most famous bridge in the world. So how can the government turn London Bridge into a world wonder, the de facto tourist spot for engineers and photographers to visit?

The London Bridge Legacy

Why not have a historical timeline on the wall for tourists to look at while they walk across London Bridge, with pictures and illustrations.

On the outside of the bridge, why not decorate London Bridge so that it looks like it did when there were shops and the Stone Gate House so you can get a nostalgic feel of what it was like way back when. On the other outside wall, it could look like when it was built at another time period, say when it was just a wooden bridge 2000 years ago.

How about putting a few replica town houses on the Bridge for tourists to look out of? They don’t have to be the full version because the pavement is only so wide. In fact, there must be a way to extend out the bridge to create more walking space and the replica town houses.

I understand there will be security, health and safety, stepping on planners toes politics issues to consider, but hey, people say British are great innovators so the government should be able to find a solution to this.

Do you think London Bridge could be a better tourist attraction?

If you agree, why not share this article.

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