Watching the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant I was intrigued by the nursery rhyme London Bridge. In researching it, I've found it relates to difficulties experienced in bridging the River Thames.
London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down,
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair Lady.
London Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks in London. Before 1750, London Bridge was the city's only crossing over the Thames. The current London Bridge is located between the City of London and Southwark. A bridge has existed at or near the present site for almost 2000 years.
The first London Bridge, built by the Romans sometime around AD 46, was made of wood and clay as in the nursery rhyme (build it up with wood and clay) and was re-built over the years with the various materials mentioned in the song as numerous disasters struck the bridge.
It is commonly thought that the rhyme originated when London Bridge was burned down in 1013 by King Ethelred to split apart the invading Viking forces. The reconstructed London Bridge was destroyed twice again - first by a storm in 1091 (wood and clay will wash away) and then by fire in 1136. Building materials changed due to the many fires that broke out on the bridge. The first stone bridge construction (build it up with bricks and mortar) started in the reign of Henry II in 1176.
By the 1300's the bridge contained 140 shops, some of which were more than three stories high. The reference to build it up with silver and gold, refers to the trading which was conducted on the bridge. The shops and houses on London Bridge put pressure on its arches and also created a fire hazard.
In 1212 fire broke out on both ends of the bridge killing 3,000 people (silver and gold will be stolen away). In 1633 another blaze destroyed more of the bridge. London Bridge survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 but its arches and foundations were weakened.
In 1799, an engineer proposed a bridge with a single iron arch, (build it up with iron and steel) however, this design was never used. In the 1820s a new London Bridge was built on another site and the old bridge was demolished. However, the new bridge was sinking an inch every eight years and by 1924, the eastern side of the bridge was already three to four inches lower than the western side.
The present-day London Bridge was built during the period 1967 to 1972.
The fair lady in the nursery rhyme could be Matilda of Scotland who was responsible for the building of a series of London bridges. However, the most popular view is it is Queen Eleanor who was given custody of the bridge income in 1269 by Henry III . She was the "fair lady" who didn't use the money on actually maintaining the construction.
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Politically correct nursery rhymes
At Musical Minis, we sing various songs and have fun with music to help your child develop. We aren't a stuffy music lesson but a chance for your children to enjoy themselves with music. Hope to see you there! Watch the video on the right for a good idea for how a session unfolds.
Photo by Flickr Wallyg