Category Archives: thames

The Wobbly Bridge

Since September I’ve been doing the ITG Course for London Blue Badge Guides; two years’ worth of lectures, visits, written exams and practical tests to allow me to take visitors around London. It’s a lot of work, and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve been neglecting the blog.

We’ve now moved onto a phase where we’re doing a number of presentations – five minute talks on particular spots in the city, or on the contents of the museums and galleries – so I thought I’d adapt these into short blog posts.

The first is on the Millennium Bridge:

wobbly bridgeSpanning the river from St Paul’s Cathedral to the Tate Modern, London’s gallery of modern and contemporary art housed in the former Bankside power station , is the Millennium Bridge – known to Londoners as the ‘wobbly bridge’, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment.

Designed by the sculptor Sir Anthony Caro in association with Foster and Partners architects and Arup engineers, the Millennium Bridge is a 330 metre long steel suspension footbridge with aluminium decking. It was conceived as a ‘blade of light’ across the river and used an innovative new technique which gave it a much lower profile than traditional suspension bridges.

It cost £18 million and opened in June 2000 – a couple of months late, but no big deal – but then the problems started. It swayed when people walked on it. And once it started swaying a bit, everyone on it started walking in step to the sway, which made it sway even more. So two days after opening, it closed.

The architects blamed the engineers and the engineers blamed the architects, and it took nearly two years and another £5 million to sort out the problem. But even though it doesn’t sway any more, it’s still known as the ‘wobbly bridge’. And probably will be for ever.

The bridge is now owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates Trust, who took it over in 2002. The Trust can trace its origins back to at least the 13th Century when the City of London took over responsibility for old London Bridge. They are now own Tower Bridge, Blackfriars and Southwark, as well as the Millennium Bridge. Continue reading