Friday, 17 December 2010

London Thames part 2 Tower Bridge to Westminster

Pulling away from Tower Bridge, we travel downstream to the point where The Monument comes into view. Built by Sir Christopher Wren between 1671 and 1677, The Monument commemorates the Great Fire of 1666, which started in a bakers shop in Pudding Lane and spread so rapidly through the densely packed wooden buildings, that it destroyed the greater part of the city. The position of the Monument is such that if it were laid flat, its tip would be on the exact spot where the fire began, 61m from the base.

There are 311 steps to the top of this Roman Doric pillar, and the view is worth the effort of having to climb every one of them, although it is less grand now than it would have been 300 years ago, when it was the tallest building in the area..

Further on, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre stands once again by the Thames; although the modern reconstruction is about 230m from the site of the original. Based on research, the reconstruction is closely aligned to the design of the Elizabethan Globe, which was destroyed by fire in 1613. This Globe, opened in 1999, with a production of Henry V.

Only slightly more recent is the Wobbly Bridge, so nick-named because, when first opened to celebrate the Millennium, large numbers crossing at any one time, made it wobble. Within two days, it was closed for remedial work to cure the flaw. Two years later, in February 2002, it finally reopened and nowadays, feels quite stable; just a slight vibration which is rather fun :). It has a total length of 325 metres, with a width of 4 metres, supported by two river piers and eight suspension cables, tensioned to pull with a force of 2,000 tons (very appropriate), enough to cope with 5,000 people on the bridge at any one time.

(By the way, that tall chimneyed, power station looking thingy at the end of the Millennium Bridge, is the Tate Modern Gallery.)

Next upstream from the Millennium Bridge is the Blackfriars Railway Bridge. Two bridges have shared this name. The current bridge was originally called St Paul's Railway Bridge and opened in 1886. The pillars that you see are all that is left of the original Blackfriars Railway Bridge, which was removed in 1985, having become too weak to bear the weight of modern trains.  

Just to confuse further, the bridge on the right is also a Blackfriars bridge, but road, rather than rail.

Unmistakable, the London Eye gradually comes into view round the curve of the river. If you haven't been on this (and live anywhere within reach) it's definitely worth a ride. On a clear day, the views from the top are terrific. Take binoculars and a good camera!

And finally, the boat pulls in at Westminster pier, below the unmistakable shape of St Stephen's Tower.

If I've just confused you again, because you were convinced that this was Big Ben, I should explain that the tower is NOT actually named Big Ben. Big Ben is the name of the bell which chimes the hours on the clock. The original bell, which was cast on 6 August 1856 in Stockton-on-Tees by John Warner & Sons,  was named after Sir Benjamin Hall. Unfortunately, it cracked during testing and a replacement had to be made. The bell was recast in the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. It weighed thirteen and a half tons and it took 18 hours to haul the the bell the 200 feet up into position.

Of course, I'm being a bit pedantic, because every Englishman or woman or child-old-enough-to-care, will tell you that the tower is so widely known as Big Ben that that may as well be its name. And they're right!


  1. And next to Blackfriars Bridge is the magnificent Black Friars pub,. If you've never been - go, it is an unforgettable interior. (Just thought I would mention that)

  2. Thank you, H. Had another very enjoyable outing with you and I'm learning so much along the way!

  3. I've really enjoyed the trip from Greenwich to Westminster - thank you for taking me with you:)

  4. You've been around my favourite haunts and I didnt see you

  5. So many of my favorite places. :) Although, all I can think about when I see Blackfriars is when they'll open the tube station. It's been ages. :)