Friday, April 28, 2017

RonnieAdventure #0253 - London Bridge (Arizona) and England

Many people do not realize that if you want to see the "Rennie London Bridge," you do not have to travel to England - you just have to go to Arizona in the United States.

Over the years, there have been numerous "London Bridges" that spanned the River Thames, but the bridges were typically made of wood and were often destroyed by war, fire, or just fell down. Then in 1176, King Henry II commissioned a new stone bridge to be constructed. Little did he know that it would take 33 years to complete just the bridge. During this time period, it was typical for houses, shops, and other buildings to be constructed on the bridge; so when completed the bridge was more like a city street. The structures on the bridge were often made of wood, and burned on several occasions. After 600 years of use and abuse, the bridge needed to be replaced.

1682 Drawing of London Bridge - Artist Unknown
The "New Rennie London Bridge" was constructed between 1824 and 1831. When completed, the five-arch Haytor Granite bridge was 938 feet long (283 meters) and 49 feet wide (15 meters).

By 1896, the bridge was very congested with 8,000 pedestrian and 900 vehicle crossings every hour, so the bridge was widened by 13 feet (4 meters). However, subsequent surveys showed that the bridge was sinking into the river at a rate of 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) every eight years.

In 1967, one of the members of the Common Council of the City of London suggested that the "Rennie" bridge be sold and a new bridge constructed in its place. Everyone thought the councilman was a little crazy because who would want to purchase an old outdated bridge that was sinking into the river. In any event, the bridge was placed on the market to see it there were any potential buyers.

Then, to the surprise of many people, in 1969 the bridge was sold to Robert P. McCulloch, of McCulloch Oil, for $2,460,000.

The bridge was meticulously taken apart and each part numbered, then the parts were shipped through the Panama Canal to California and trucked to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Sundt Constructions was hired to reassembled the bridge across the Bridgewater Channel of the Colorado River and the bridge was re-dedicated on October 10, 1971.

McCulloch also purchased a beautiful ornate gate that had been part of the Witley Court in Worchester and the gate was used as the main entrance to his English Village. Over the years, the village has changed, but basically there is a visitor center, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and other retail stores. The World's Largest Candle Shoppe is located in the Village, along with a red phone booth in case your cell phone quits working.

From the Village, there are steps leading to the top of the bridge, from which from the roadway appears to be similar to any other bridge, except for the bridge lamps that were made from melted-down cannons of Napoleon Bonaparte's army.  

Some people claim that McCulloch thought he was purchasing the more impressive Tower Bridge, but those claims have never been proven. We visited some friends in England a few years ago and we can verify that Tower Bridge is still in London. While in England, we also had the opportunity to visit a number of other wonderful sights. We especially loved the many historic buildings, parks and gardens.

Our friends treated us like royalty and  drove us around the country for several days, including trips to various cathedrals, castles, Bath and Stonehenge.

Since we did not want to try driving on the left side of the road, we decided to rely on tour buses/boats and taxi cabs while traveling around London.

We had a great time in England and I even found some of my relatives that were buried at Westminster Abby!