Sunday, December 1, 2013

How I Own a Piece of the London Bridge

The history of the London Bridge, which spans the Thames River, is an interesting one. There were a number of versions, starting with a wooden bridge built by the Romans. A medieval London Bridge resembled the Ponte Vecchio, in that it had shops attached. For a thorough accounting, you can read the fascinating history of the London Bridge here.

click to enlarge   |  photo circa 1870-1890   |   Cornell University
This version of the London Bridge was opened in 1831, and it is estimated that in the 19th century, 8,000 people crossed it per hour! Click on the image and you won't doubt that figure. Perhaps all that traffic was one factor in its sinkage. By the late 20th century, the bridge was sinking about an inch per year.

Amazingly, in 1968, the 1831 London Bridge was sold to American Robert P. McChulloc for $2,460,000, who in turn had it carefully deconstructed and reassembled at Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

London Bridge in Arizona   |
When the London Bridge was reconstructed in Arizona, it came under modern building requirements that called for steel reinforcing not found in the original. And so when that was accomplished, there was a lot of leftover granite.

Of course this historic 1831 granite didn't go to waste. It was cut into pieces about the size that this appears on your screen, and was sold as souvenirs. I was delighted to be gifted with a piece one birthday!



  1. Lucky you Mark!
    I was gifted a piece of the East German Wall. I broke it into 2 pieces and gave one to my German History Professor. He was an older Gentleman and was very touched by the gift.
    Arizona is just down the road from our house. Why not let your block of granite visit its origin. .

    1. Dear Gina,

      I can imagine how emotional it must have been for your professor to receive a piece of the Berlin Wall. I well remember seeing in magazines like "Life" the picture spread that showed the daring escapes that some people made, and how some of those escapes didn't end well. Those fragments are charged with much residual energy, I'm sure.

      I like your idea of bringing my piece to see the original. My piece is so gray, and yet the Arizona photograph makes the bridge look brown!

  2. Dear Mark - I recall you mentioning that you had a piece of London Bridge. It fits in well with your eclectic collection.
    Thanks for showing the photos and history surrounding the bridge. I remember it being sold, but had forgotten why.
    It does sit very well at Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

    1. Dear Rosemary,

      Given the London Bridge's former history, I'm sure Mr. McChulloc made special precautions for it not to sink in Arizona (but time will tell!). I'm guessing that it must seem a little strange for you to see the bridge surrounded by palm trees.

  3. That's pretty cool, Mark!! What a great way to start a conversation: wanna see my piece of the London Bridge? Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    1. Hi, Loi - It's just one more item in the Ruffnerian Museum of Miscellany & Oddments! I had a laid back Thanksgiving with good friends, shrimp, turkey and homemade pecan pie. I hope your holiday was tasty and enjoyable!

  4. Dear Mark,
    Well aren't you lucky! I love things like that. My only claim is that I have a piece of the roof tile from Worcester Cathedral. I like the fact that old London Bridge has a new lease of life in far off Arizona.
    Bye for now
    It may be apocryphal but I read once that when Mr. McCulloch bought London Bridge, he thought he was getting Tower Bridge.
    I had my first ever taste of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day. I thought it would taste horrible but it actually tasted really nice!

    1. Dear Kirk,

      If you are like I am, you possibly believe that certain places like homes and churches and schools have a residual energy that stems from all that has taken place within their walls. To have a piece of the Worcester Cathedral would therefore be quite exciting to me!

      I like the story of Mr. McChulloc thinking that he was the owner of the Tower Bridge! It does have a ring of truth.

      And I'm glad that you experienced pumpkin pie and enjoyed it! It's hugely popular over here on our Thanksgiving (though I still prefer mince meat).

  5. Hi Mark, My first comment doesn't seem to have gone through, so just let me say how much I envy you this gift. This is one paperweight that would stay out and in use!

    No wonder London Bridge was falling down if people kept harvesting souvenirs from its foundation!

    1. Hi, Jim,

      One of the great challenges here at the Ruffnerian Museum of Miscellany and Oddments is to reduce paperwork, so I don't actually use paperweights. Instead I do my best to act upon, file or dispose of incoming paper right away. The London Bridge piece therefore lives on a book shelf as a curio.

  6. Hello hello Mark!
    What a wonderful gift-- the giver surely knew that this amazing thing was going to a good home! I think one of these days, in your spare time (!) you should create a virtual tour of your fascinating collection.... I'd be first in line...
    Warm regards,

    1. Hello, Erika!

      Little by little, my blogging friends are getting a tour, and you'll be seeing more of my house in the coming year, I promise!

      Best wishes,