Westminster Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge over the River Thames between Westminster on the north side and Lambeth on the south side. It links the Palace of Westminster on the west side of the river with County Hall and the London Eye on the east and was the finishing point during the early years of the London Marathon.
The bridge often appears in the popular British science fiction TV series “Doctor Who” and in some Monty Python’s sketches. It also featured in “28 Days Later” and “102 Dalmatians”.
The bridge is painted predominantly green, the same colour as the leather seats in the House of Commons which is on the side of the Palace of Westminster nearest the bridge. This is in contrast to Lambeth Bridge which is red, the same colour as the seats in the House of Lords and is on the opposite side of the Houses of Parliament.
With an overall length of 252 metres and a width of 26 metres, it is a seven-arch wrought iron bridge with Gothic detailing by Charles Barry, the architect of the Palace of Westminster. It is the second oldest bridge in central London, after London Bridge.
For over 600 years, the nearest bridge to London Bridge was at Kingston. A bridge at Westminster was proposed in 1664, but opposed by the Corporation of London and the watermen. After parliamentary struggles, the construction finally started in the first half of the 17th century. It was later rebuilt because of its bad condition.
Despite further opposition in 1722 and after a new timber bridge was built at Putney seven years later, the scheme received parliamentary approval in 1736. Financed by private capital, lotteries and grants, Westminster Bridge, designed by Swiss architect Charles Labelye, was built between 1739 and 1750.
The City of London responded to Westminster Bridge by removing the buildings on London Bridge and widening it in 1760-63. Roads south of the river were also improved, including the junction at the Elephant & Castle in Southwark. The City also commenced work on the Blackfriars Bridge, which opened in 1769. Other bridges from that time include Kew Bridge (1759), Battersea Bridge (1773), and Richmond Bridge (1777).
The bridge was required for traffic from the expanding West End to the developing South London as well as to south coast ports. Without the bridge, traffic from the West End would have to negotiate the congested routes to London Bridge such as the Strand and New Oxford Street.
By the mid 19th century the bridge was subsiding badly and expensive to maintain. The current bridge was designed by Thomas Page and opened on May 24, 1862.
It was designated a Grade II listed structure on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest in 1981. In 2005-2007 it underwent a complete refurbishment, including replacing the iron fascias and repainting the whole bridge.