The Prince and the Pauper – Chapter Twelve – Historical Tidbit

The Historical Tidbit for Chapter 12 of The Prince and the Pauper is one that pretty much everyone is familiar with. Most people hear this term starting at a very young age through the form of a children’s nursery rhyme. Today’s Historical Tidbit is….


Keep reading or watch the video below to explore more about this well-known landmark in London.

In Chapter 12, Miles and Edward are heading to the place where Miles is staying, which happens to be on London Bridge. Mark Twain then gives a lengthy description of the Bridge. Part of his description is featured below:

“Our friends threaded their way slowly through the throngs upon the bridge. This structure, which had stood for six hundred years, and had been a noisy and populous thoroughfare all that time, was a curious affair, for a closely packed rank of stores and shops, with family quarters overhead, stretched along both sides of it, from one bank of the river to the other: The Bridge was a sort of town to itself; it had its inn, its beer-houses, its bakeries, its haberdasheries, its food markets, its manufacturing industries, and even its church. It looked upon the two neighbours which it linked together—London and Southwark—as being well enough as suburbs, but not otherwise particularly important.” (p. 59)

Original Bridge (Roman)

  • Roman crossing in 50 AD
  • Probably destroyed by Boudicca (Queen of British Celtic Iceni tribe)
  • Would have been later rebuilt
  • Roman rule ended in the early 5th century
  • This bridge would have fallen into disrepair

Saxon and Norman Bridge

  • Æthelred the Unready
  • Built bridge late 10th century
  • Viking leader Olaf Haraldsson pulled it down in 1014
  • Saxon bridge went up
  • King William rebuilt in 1066
  • Built at the same time as the Tower of London
  • Destroyed by a tornado and later a fire (rebuilt)

Medieval Bridge (Old London Bridge)

  • “Old” Medieval bridge in 1209 (King John’s reign)
  • Made of stone with 19 narrow arches
  • Included a chapel (dedicated to Thomas Becket)
  • Crumbled in 1281, 1309, 1425, and 1437
  • Overall lasted from 1209 to 1831, with repairs
  • Northern gatehouse would display heads on spikes (later moved to southern end)
  • Had many buildings (some as much as 7 stories)
  • Some remnants still remain

New London Bridge

  • Designed by John Rennie, built by his son
  • Made of stone, with five arches and four piers
  • Opened August 1831
  • It began to sink
  • It was put up for sale
  • Purchased by Robert P.
  • McCulloch and was moved to Lake Havasu City, AZ

London Bridge Today

  • Completed in 1972
  • Still made of stone with arches
  • Used a cantilever method for construction
  • Represented a major post-World War II innovation

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