Of all the bridges which span London’s infamous River Thames, my favourite, without a shadow of a doubt, is Waterloo Bridge.
Over the years, there have been two of these beauties.
The first was masterminded by John Rennie; a Scotsman and genius architect, famed for his work on docks and river crossings.
The original Waterloo Bridge was opened on the 18th June 1817, the ceremony being preformed by the Prince Regent; son of King George III.
King George was a monarch who suffered from serious bouts of mental illness- a tragic affliction which his son took great advantage of.
Whilst his father was ill, the Prince Regent perused his own form of madness, gambling away his dad’s cash on high-stake card games and grandiose construction schemes… crazy stuff, although his delusional building ambitions did eventually result in the creation of Regent’s Street, Regent’s Park and the Brighton Pavillion!
In 1899, the celebrated French Impressionist artist, Claude Monet came to London. Setting up camp in the luxury Savoy Hotel, Monet painted a number of London scenes including several of the nearby Waterloo Bridge:
By 1923, the piers which supported the old bridge were beginning to sink and, in 1936, the crossing had to be demolished (albeit to much protest).
The current Waterloo Bridge was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and, being built during the early 1940s, when World War Two was raging and most of the male workforce were conscripted into the armed forces, construction was primarily carried out by female labour gangs… hence the crossing being nicknamed “The Ladies’ Bridge” (and a truly superb job they did too).
In my humble opinion, the view from Waterloo Bridge is the best in London, and I always get a tingle when I drive across it.
Being situated over a bend in the River Thames, the panorama allows a broad, sweeping view of both the financial City and Royal Westminster.
The historical elegance of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament are gorgeously presented from Waterloo Bridge, as are the more recent additions of the London Eye and soaring skyscrapers.
Whenever I drive over Waterloo Bridge (and not a working-day goes by when I don’t), I frequently think of the 1967 song, ‘Waterloo Sunset’ by ‘The Kinks’; a beautiful (although melancholy) tune, which perfectly sums up the allure of this breathtaking Thames crossing (and, of course, contains the wonderful line; “taxi lights shine so bright”….)