Monday, September 15, 2014

Bridge House Estates

I spotted the symbol above on a trip down the Thames to see the Tall Ships and it took a surprising amount of googling to discover its background.

The key clue was its location, which was on the sides of London Bridge, for this is the mark of the Bridge House Estates, which is the organisation responsible for all the bridges crossing the Thames into the City since 1282.

The City is the heart of London dating back to the Romans, and for most of this history there was just the one bridge, the famous London Bridge.

This not only generated lots of tax revenue from the houses and shops built upon it but also there were many bequests, for giving to "God and the Bridge" was considered an act of piety.

The bridge master could receive "tolls on carts passing over the Bridge, tolls from ships passing under the Bridge and fines for unlawful fishing from the Bridge".

These funds were used to maintain London Bridge, and then many, many years later (but still a hundred years ago) built or purchased the likes of Southwark Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge and Tower Bridge. A very recent acquisition is the Millennium Bridge.

It is thought the logo was designed by 17th Century surveyor, William Leybourn.

Nowadays the income so exceeds the expenditure that its legal framework was changed in 1995 to permit it to fund charitable activities, and a list of recent gifts can be found here.

So if one day you should find that:

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady

Then at least you will know who to call!

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