New” London Bridge (1831–1967)
New London Bridge in the late 19th century.
In 1799, a competition was opened to design a replacement for the medieval bridge. Entrants included Thomas Telford; he proposed a single iron arch span of 600 feet (180 m), with 65 feet (20 m) centre clearance beneath it for masted river traffic. His design was accepted as safe and practicable, following expert testimony. Preliminary surveys and works were begun, but Telford’s design required exceptionally wide approaches and the extensive use of multiple, steeply inclined planes, which would have required the purchase and demolition of valuable adjacent properties. A more conventional design of five stone arches, by John Rennie, was chosen instead. It was built 100 feet (30 m) west (upstream) of the original site by Jolliffe and Banks of Merstham, Surrey, under the supervision of Rennie’s son. Work began in 1824 and the foundation stone was laid, in the southern coffer dam, on 15 June 1825.
Spare corbels for London bridge left behind at Swelltor Quarry on Dartmoor, Devon. They lie beside the former narrow gauge Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway.
The old bridge continued in use while the new bridge was being built, and was demolished after the latter opened in 1831. New approach roads had to be built, which cost three times as much as the bridge itself. The total costs, around £2.5 million (£223 million in 2018), were shared by the British Government and the Corporation of London.
Rennie’s bridge was 928 feet (283 m) long and 49 feet (15 m) wide, constructed from Haytor granite. The official opening took place on 1 August 1831; King William IV and Queen Adelaide attended a banquet in a pavilion erected on the bridge.