Whether you know the nursery rhyme or the real history of the structure, the London Bridge is an almost ubiquitous term, known but Brits and Americans alike. But if you’ve come to the UK to visit the London Bridge, I’m afraid to say you can’t find it on this side of the Atlantic. Since 1967, the London Bridge has been in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and not across the River Thames.
The Bridge Itself
The London Bridge, originally built in 1831, is often confused with its more prominent counterpart, the Tower Bridge. Unlike the Tower Bridge’s intricate stonework and landmark status, the London Bridge was designed to offer a way to cross the river, nevermind the pomp and circumstance.
In 1962, a man named Robert McCulloch purchased the bridge from the City of London. McCulloch had just founded Lake Havasu, and was hoping the bridge would serve as a tourist attraction for the town. The bridge was disassembled, brick by brick, and shipped to the United States, where the rebuilding process began in 1968. The Lord Mayor of London at the time, Sir Gilbert Inglefield, came to Lake Havasu to lay the foundation stone himself.
Legend has it that McCulloch thought he was buying what is actually the Tower Bridge, making the same mistake many American tourists have made over the last hundred years, and did not learn of his mistake until after the bridge arrived – sans towers – in Arizona. Both McCulloch and Ivan Luckin, the man in charge of the sale, vehemently deny that this was the case, but we’ll let you be the judge. One thing is for certain though: while it may not be due to the presence of London Bridge, McCulloch certainly achieved his goal of making Lake Havasu a true destination site.
The Nursery Rhyme
“London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.”
In truth, by the time McCulloch purchased the bridge, it was not in the best shape. Although not necessarily falling down, it was not structurally sound enough to support the ever increasing traffic of twentieth century London.
However, the London Bridge referenced in the nursery rhyme is not the same one you might visit today. There are historical references to this rhyme dating from as far back as 1744, nearly a century before the current London Bridge was built.