The London Bridge
History of the London Bridge
How did the world-famous London Bridge come to make its unusual home in Arizona and become a top destination among Arizona attractions? The tale of how the bridge came to Lake Havasu City began over 5,400 miles away in London, England.
The bridge’s storied past includes previous structures that spanned the same section of the Thames River before the current bridge was built. The old London Bridge of nursery-rhyme fame was built by Peter of Colechurch between 1176 and 1209, replacing an earlier timber bridge. Due to uneven construction, the bridge required frequent repair. The bridge survived more than 600 years.
One of the more grisly periods of the bridge’s history was at the southern gateway between 1305 and 1660, when it was customary to display the severed heads of traitors, impaled on pikes and dipped in tar to preserve them against the elements.
The head of William Wallace was the first to appear on the gate. Other famous heads on pikes included those of Jack Cade in 1450, Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher in 1535, and Thomas Cromwell in 1540. A German visitor to London in 1598 counted over 30 heads on the bridge. The practice was finally stopped in 1660, following the Restoration of King Charles II.
By the end of the 18th century, it was apparent that the old London Bridge needed to be replaced. It was narrow and decrepit, and blocked river traffic. Designed in 1799 by Scottish engineer John Rennie, the new London Bridge was completed in 1831.
As time passed, the new bridge began sinking at the rate of an inch (3 cm) every eight years. By 1924, the east side of the bridge was some three to four inches (9-12 cm) lower than the west side. The bridge had not been designed to withstand 20th century automotive traffic.
The London Bridge - Lake Havasu City’s Claim to Fame
In 1967, the Common Council of the City of London began to look for potential buyers for the London Bridge. Lake Havasu City founder and entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch placed the winning bid of $2,460,000 on April 18, 1968.
McCulloch came by this figure by doubling the estimated cost of dismantling the structure, which was $1.2 million, bringing the price to $2.4 million. He then added on $60,000 – a thousand dollars for each year of his age at the time he estimated the bridge would be reconstructed in Arizona.
Each block was meticulously numbered before the bridge was disassembled. The blocks were then shipped overseas through the Panama Canal to California and trucked from Long Beach to Arizona. Following reconstruction of the London Bridge, Lake Havasu City rededicated it in a ceremony on October 10, 1971. Since then, it has consistently remained a favorite among Arizona attractions, drawing in visitors from around the globe.
Have you ever wondered what's inside the London Bridge? Our friends over at River Scene Magazine were wondering, too, and had the opportunity to tour the inside of the bridge. For an inside look (no pun intended), click over to read all about it!
In addition to its popularity as an Arizona attraction, it's also a popular stroll for people on romantic getaways in Arizona.
The Lake Havasu City Visitor Center conducts a 90-minute walking tour of the London Bridge. Arizona tourists can see the strafing scars from WWII that mar the bridge’s granite surface and stroll over sparkling Bridgewater Channel. The bridge is also a popular hangout for the Arizona boating crowd. You’ll see all kinds of boats anchored in the shadow of this piece of history and icon among Arizona attractions.
Call the Visitors Center to schedule your tour at 928-855-5655. The tour is just $10 for adults and free for children 12 and under. Even if you've explored many other Arizona attractions in the past, you'll soon discover that the London Bridge has a fascinating story unlike any other!