By SI SPENCER, OCT 2017
A trivial tour of the road and foot crossings over the Thames
HUNGERFORD BRIDGE is a strange and disturbing hybrid, not always for the faint-hearted. If you had the words ‘don’t play near railway lines’ drummed into you as a child, it can be a serious trauma. Don’t do it. Strictly speaking Hungerford only refers to the railway bridge – the two footbridges either side being the Golden Jubilee Bridges revamped in 2002 to replace what had become a dilapidated foot crossing.
WATERLOO BRIDGE is to me the most beautiful and historic of all the bridges on the Thames. The current bridge was started in 1942 using largely women labourers and was the only bridge damaged during World War II. The structure it replaced was broken down and various chunks of its granite despatched around the Commonwealth to form various monuments. Probably the sweetest of these in Wellington, New Zealand where a bronze statue and drinking fountains and bowls for dogs commemorate Paddy the Wanderer, an Airedale Terrier who wandered the wharves of Wellington and was adopted by the seamen and dockers of the port.
BLACKFRIARS BRIDGE was the scene of a murder straight out of the pages of Dan Brown (only y’know… well written and original). On the 18th June 1982, Italian banker Roberto Calvi was found hanging from the bridge with five bricks in one pocket and $15,000 dollars in three different currencies in the other. Calvi was banker for the Vatican, the Sicilian Mafia and the illegal Masonic group P2, known as the Black Friars. While the death was initially ruled a suicide, it soon became clear that it was murder. To date no-one has been convicted. On the north side of the river, close to the bridge, stands one of London’s most elegant and historic pubs, The Blackfriar. Built on the site of a Dominican monastery, the pub boasts original art nouveau architecture and design features as well as a great menu of ales and gins.
THE MILLENNIUM BRIDGE is not wobbly any more but will probably be forever known that way due to its closure just two days after its official opening. The lateral suspension design and the sheer volume of tourists turning out to cross the first brand new bridge on the Thames in a century caused the bridge to veer disturbingly from side to side. That problem has now mercifully been fixed and while the view of St Paul’s from south of the river is breathtaking, few people notice a much smaller artistic endeavour on the bridge itself. Artist Ben Wilson (AKA: The Chewing Gum Man) has created over 400 tiny works of art drawn directly onto the gum discarded by pedestrians.