When people think of London Bridge, many confuse it with the picturesque Tower Bridge a bit downstream on the Thames. This is understandable, since the Tower Bridge has become so emblematic of the city. It seems every travel poster and Visit London website has the Tower Bridge plastered all over it, and why not? The bridge is imposing, intricate, and has an unreal Victorian quality about it, much like London itself. The towers look like something out of a King Arthur fantasy, and the iron work is Victorian-industrial. When you see Tower Bridge, you have to admire the foresight of the planners who built it.
But as with so many finished products, the bridge didn’t start out that way. It changed along the way. The original design, by city engineer Sir Horace Jones called for a much plainer, utilitarian structure with towers of plain brick. There was little ornamentation and little of the Victorian flourishes so beloved today. Had the bridge been built as the designer envisioned, it would have been just another boring urban bridge, a way to get to the other side and nothing more.
But fate intervened.
Jones died before construction got under way, and the project was taken over by an engineer named George Stevenson. One of the first things Stevenson did was to change the design to the far more fanciful and interesting one we see today. Bad luck on Sir Horace, but good luck for everyone else.
For a more detailed account, see http://secretsbehindthestructures.wordpress.com/bridges/