On this day in history : 1st August 1831 – King William IV opens the New London Bridge…. In 1968 it was sold, dismantled and then rebuilt in Arizona, USA….

London Bridge at Lake Havasu, Arizona – Image credit : LongLiveRock CC BY-SA 2.0

The Americans purchased the bridge for £1.78m…. Popular belief at the time was that the Americans thought they were buying the iconic Tower Bridge – though this has always been ardently denied by all those involved….

In 1799 a competition was held to design a replacement for the old medieval London Bridge…. Entrants included Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford, who proposed a single iron arch span…. However, a more conventional design, of five stone arches, by another Scottish civil engineer, John Rennie, was chosen instead….

The new bridge was built 100ft upstream of the old one, by Jolliffe and Banks, of Mertsham, Surrey…. The foundation stone was laid on the 15th of June 1825…. The old bridge was demolished after the opening of New London Bridge in 1831 by King William IV and Queen Adelaide – which involved a banquet laid on in a pavilion especially erected on the bridge…. The bridge, at 928ft (282m) long and 49ft (15m) wide had been constructed from Haytor granite….

Demolition of the Old London Bridge – Image credit : Stephencdickson – own work CC BY-SA 4.0

By 1896 it was the busiest point in London, with some 8,000 pedestrians and 900 vehicles per hour…. By the 1960s it was beginning to become deserved of the nursery rhyme that its predecessor had inspired : ‘London Bridge is falling down, falling down….London Bridge is falling down, my fair Lady’…. because it too was becoming very dilapidated….

Circa 1900 – Public domain

In 1967 the Council of the City of London decided it was time to replace the bridge…. Ordinarily such a project would involve simply demolishing the defunct structure once a replacement was in situ…. However, the Council happened to have a particularly resourceful PR man in their midst – in the form of Ivan Luckin…. He suggested the bridge could be sold to America as a tourist attraction…. The idea was pooh-poohed at first – but eventually the Council agreed to put the bridge on the open market….

Luckin flew to New York to promote the idea and on the 18th of April 1968 Robert P. McCulloch, an entrepreneurial oil company owner, formally bought the bridge for $2,460,000 at London’s Guildhall….

At a cost of $7m the bridge was transported to the United States – each granite block numbered so it could be rebuilt at a resort that McCulloch owned on the shore of Lake Havasu in Arizona…. It is now the biggest tourist attraction in Arizona after the Grand Canyon….and McCulloch soon more than made his money back…. He knew exactly what he was doing….

London Bridge in 1973 – Image credit : Uli Elch CC BY-SA 4.0

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