May 24, 1862
The second and current version of Westminster Bridge in London was opened. This structure, spanning the River Thames, replaced the original bridge that had made its debut in the mid-18th century and was closed in 1846 (and subsequently demolished) due to deterioration.
The opening of the new road-and-foot-traffic bridge took place on the 43rd birthday of Queen Victoria. As part of the early-morning dedication, a total of 25 guns were fired simultaneously to correspond with the number of years in which Victoria had reigned to date as England’s monarch. (Victoria, however, did not attend this ceremony; she was in deep mourning at the time for her husband Prince Albert, who died that previous December.)
The second Westminster Bridge was designed by renowned civil engineer Thomas Page. The London-based Morning Post stated a couple of days after the opening of the structure, “This is the fourth bridge which that engineer had constructed over the River Thames, and the work is one which reflects the highest credit upon his good taste as an artist and his practical experience as an engineer.”
Westminster Bridge, which measures 820 feet (250 meters) in length and 85 feet (26 meters) in width, is now the oldest road bridge across the Thames in central London. This seven-arch, cast-iron bridge has achieved a few other distinctions as well. It is the start and finish point for London’s Bridges Handicap Race, a longtime running competition. The bridge has also made several film appearances, including a prominent role in at least one sketch on Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
For more information on the present-day Westminster Bridge, please check out https://structurae.net/structures/westminster-bridge-1862.