As we crossed the Thames River in London, England I had the “London Bridge” ditty stuck in my head. Agonizing little tune. One of the guys heard me and asked, “Is this the London Bridge, and why did they always talk about it falling down?”
We investigated: 600 years ago, the bridge was strong, with 19 arches secured by strong foundations set into the river bed. That would have probably been good enough to hold the thing up if some enterprising merchants hadn’t decided to make a mall and fast-food court out of it. By 1358, London Bridge had 138 shops, and a new-fangled multi-seated public overhanging lavatory, handily dumping ‘dumpage’ into the Thames River. (Yuk) Nobody thought it would cause any problem until The Great Stink, of 1858, when the heat of summer aged the poop and voila! The Great Sink!
Fires and wars and floods came along, and they built it back. But regardless what they did, nothing seemed to hold. The old song finishes like this:
“Build it up with wood and clay, Wood and clay, wood and clay. . . . Wood and clay will wash away, My fair lady.
Build it up with bricks and mortar, Bricks and mortar, bricks and mortar. . . .Bricks and mortar will not stay, My fair lady.
Build it up with iron and steel, Iron and steel, iron and steel . . . .Iron and steel will bend and bow, My fair lady.”
Traveling made history come alive for us as a family. London has so much to offer in the area of ‘strange but true’. You think the London Bridge is Falling Down nursery rhyme has strange roots, check out: “Ring Around the Rosy”. It’ll rot your socks!