Bridging London

London is famously difficult to navigate: its winding streets; its vast, sprawling size; its strange little pockets of life and the sizeable river Thames dividing North and South are what make it so charming. Without its many bridges, navigating the city the city would be nigh-on impossible.

Magic Lantern Slide - London Bridge with Monument in the background
Magic Lantern Slide – London Bridge with Monument in the background

A new exhibition at Museum of London Docklands celebrate the capital’s now-numerous bridges, tracing the history of bridges in the city right back to its first timber bridge, built by the Romans in around 80 AD.

Lucinda Grange - Inside London Bridge - 2014

Source: c Lucinda Grange

Lucinda Grange – Inside London Bridge – 2014

It takes the theme right up to the present day, with last year’s announcement of Thomas Heatherwick’s plans to build a Garden Bridge linking Temple and the Southbank.

Crispin Hughes - Hungerford Bridge, from the series Unquiet Thames, 2006

Source: c Crispin Hughes/Museum of London

Crispin Hughes – Hungerford Bridge, from the series Unquiet Thames, 2006

‘To cross the river is to see London’, says the museum’s senior curator, Francis Marshall. ‘Most of the time we are in a maze of streets and the city reveals itself in fragments. However, on a bridge the full iconic panorama is laid out’.

Christina Broom - Tower Bridge negative c.1910

Source: c Christina Broom/Museum of London

Christina Broom – Tower Bridge negative c.1910

The exhibition will show photography, film, maquettes and artworks relating to London’s bridges, including an image of Hungerford Bridge by photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot, dating from 1845.

William Henry Fox Talbot - Old Hungerford Bridge c1845

Source: c William Henry Fox Talbot/Museum of London

William Henry Fox Talbot – Old Hungerford Bridge c1845

The salt print photograph  is the oldest in the museum’s collection, and will only be shown for one month in a special dark room to preserve it and minimise light damage. It has never been shown in the public before.

Barry Lewis - Rush Hour from the South Side of London Bridge 1978.

Source: c Barry Lewis/Museum of London

Barry Lewis – Rush Hour from the South Side of London Bridge 1978.

Other exhibits will include Ewan Gibbs’ 2007 London linocut and a photograph by Barry Lewis, Rush Hour from the South Side of London Bridge 1978 – which shows that the commuter madness London sees on its bridges every day is certainly not a modern-day phenomena.

Ewan Gibbs - London - 2007

Source: c Ewan Gibbs/Museum of London

Ewan Gibbs – London – 2007

Museum of London director Sharon Ament says, ‘London’s bridges are multifaceted in their form and function. They are among the city’s most compelling iconic designs.’

Roger Mayne - Waterloo Bridge during the morning rush hour
Roger Mayne – Waterloo Bridge during the morning rush hour

The show will also feature a sound art commission by Scanner – Bridging the World – which encourages people to share the sound of themselves saying the names of bridges, or discussing them. It’s hoped that the numerous voices and languages will form a ‘river of sound’, he says.

Marion Davies - The City from Tower Bridge

Source: c Marion Davies

Marion Davies – The City from Tower Bridge

These will be played out through hanging speakers in the museum when it is unveiled in September, creating an immersive installation that aims to ‘encourage visitors to think about the city around them even one they have left the building’, says the museum.

William Raban - Beating the Bridges film still

Source: c William Raban

William Raban – Beating the Bridges film still

Bridge runs from 27 June  – 2 November at Museum of London Dockland, West India Quay, Canary Wharf, London E14 4AL

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