Waterloo Bridge is noted for its superb views over London.
To the west is the Embankment, leading along the river towards the Houses of Parliament. To east is the dome of St Pauls, surrounded by the spires and high-rise buildings of the City. On the South Bank, There are also good views towards the South Bank, where Waterloo Bridge separates the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall.
Designed by John Rennie, this was the first of three bridges he built on the Thames in London. Constructed between 1811 – 16, the new bridge was 27ft wide and 2,346 ft long. The bridge was supported by nine arches faced and decorated by a pair of Doric columns on each pier.
Originally known as the Strand Bridge, in 1816 it was renamed Waterloo Bridge and officially opened by the Prince Regent on 18 June 1817, the second anniversary of the Duke of Wellington’s famous victory.
Waterloo Bridge was purchased by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1878 and freed of tolls, in an ceremony performed by the Prince and Princess of Wales.
However, the new owners discovered that the foundations were in serious need of repair, the removal of the old London Bridge had increased the tidal scour of the Thames and the foundations of Waterloo Bridge had been undermined. Each pier was subsequently reinforced between 1882 – 84.
By 1923 serious settlement was found in the three central piers and attempts were made to pump concrete under the sinking piers but the bridge was closed as unsafe. Although conservationists wanted the bridge restored, the London County Council considered that the bridge should be replaced and commissioned the architect Sir Gilbert Scot to replace the disused bridge and temporary structure with a new bridge.
Work began in 1937 but the official foundation stone, cut out of a stone from the old bridge, was not laid until 1939. With its completion was delayed by World War II, and few men available, most of the work was carried out by female labour. Waterloo Bridge was the first to be made with reinforced concrete beams. During its construction the bridge was damaged by enemy action on several occasions – the only Thames crossing to suffer in this way.
In 1942 the ‘Ladies Bridge’ was opened to pedestrians and two lanes of traffic. The completed bridge was finally opened in 1945. At 80 ft wide and 1,250 ft long and 80 ft wide, Waterloo Bridge is the longest bridge in London.