Feast Your Eyes On The Old London Bridge

There’s been many bridges that have spanned the river towards the East of The City. But none can ever quite live up to the Medieval Wonder of the World; Old London Bridge.

Built between 1176 and 1209, it was the first to be built in stone and masterminded by Peter of Colechurch.

Detail from Claes Von Visscher of London Bridge c.1616 (Wikimedia Creative Commons)

To say it must’ve been astonishing to London onlookers is something of an understatement. It had 19 huge arches, leap-frogging across the churning river and by the 1400s there were 200 houses built along it.

Thankfully, you don’t just have to imagine it. You can actually feast your eyes on the Old London Bridge inside a City of London church; St Magnus the Martyr.

St Magnus the Martyr

The church on this site was built 1128-33 to cater for the ever increasing population and bustle around the old wooden bridge in the 12th century.

Old London Bridge

The present church however, only dates from the mid 17th century, rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London.

But, as ever, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Inside the church you’ll find an exquisite model of the Old London Bridge as it would’ve looked in the 15th century.

The model was completed by David T. Aggett in 1987. Post surgery he took up the epic project – with the help of tens of cardboard boxes –  to aid his recovery. An ex policeman (more on that later) and member of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers, the church has long been associated with that company. So when the Museum of London turned their nose up at the model, St Magnus stepped in to house it!

Get the latest London secrets to your email
See the city from a new angle, discovering little things you miss everyday and get the latest news about upcoming tours.
Once a week. No spam, just inspiration.
Your details will never be shared with any 3rd parties

A Closer Look

Old London Bridge

What makes the model so exciting is the addition of over 900 figures along the bridge, vividly recreating the bustle of Londoners going about their daily lives.

Old London Bridge

All of human life could’ve been found on the bridge;  wealthy merchants and noblemen rubbing shoulders with street sellers and ne’er do wells.

There’s even a King! King Henry V is shown on horseback riding along the bridge…

Old London Bridge

The eagle-eyed among you will be able to spot one thing amiss though, a contemporary policeman relaxing amidst his 15th century city dwellers. This is intact David making a cameo – after all that effort you would include yourself wouldn’t you?!

Old London Bridge
Unusual City Churches

Old London Bridge Features

As well as the Londoners, architectural features of the Old London Bridge can also be appreciated. For instance there was a chapel dedicated to St Thomas Becket (handily en route for those taking a pilgrimage to Canterbury).

Old London Bridge

There was also a threatening gatehouse with a drawbridge. This acted to allow tall ships through, but also as a defence.

Old London Bridge

It’s also bedecked with the traditional London welcome; heads of criminals and traitors on spikes!

Old London Bridge

Interestingly the bridge is so much wider than our current London Bridge (opened in the 1970s) so the toll gate here would’ve been roughly where the South side of London Bridge ends today.

The other difference of course is that the current London bridge is around 100 feet upstream of the Old London Bridge.

But for those that want to experience the traditional route, walking under the porch of St Magnus would’ve been the pedestrian entrance to the Old London Bridge from when the church was rebuilt until 1831 when the bridge was demolished.

Old London Bridge

London Bridge with The Monument and St Magnus the Martyr by JMW Turner c.1794-5 Image from Tate.

Old London Bridge

And there’s a final bit of London history that shouldn’t be missed. The section of Roman wharf, dating from around 75AD that was found at nearby Fish Hill Street in 1931.

Old London Bridge

It just serves as evidence of the many layers of history under our feet!

More London Inspiration

  • M&S Oxford Street | Pantheon History Look Up London

    M&S Oxford Street | The Former Pantheon

    Oxford Street has a bad rep from Londoners, but there’s a surprising among of fabulous history if you know where to look. From a hidden little oasis to the more gruesome reminders at Tottenham Court Road and Marble Arch, often you have to look up......

  • bull and mouth coaching inn

    The Bull and Mouth: A Lost London Coaching Inn

    By the Museum of London you can see an amazing little clue to uncover the history of the Bull and Mouth Coaching Inn...

  • Inside Crosby Moran Hall | Look Up London

    Inside Crosby Moran Hall

    I’m constantly surprised by the wonderful doors that have opened since starting this blog back in 2015. A case in point was that a few weeks ago I wrote about the extraordinary history of Crosby Hall; the Medieval Mansion that was moved 5 miles across......

  • Putney Bridge WWII Pillbox | Look Up London

    A WWII Relic at Putney Bridge Station

    If you look up along Ranelagh Gardens, atop the railway viaduct for Putney Bridge Tube Station, you can spy a curious WWII Relic; a Pillbox. This concrete pillbox was erected in 1940 across Britain, a final line of defence should Germany invade during WWII. They......

  • Lavers and Barraud Stained Glass Works | Look Up London

    Lavers and Barraud Stained Glass Works

    Look up at 22 Endell Street in Covent Garden, and you’ll see the striking facade of a former stained glass studio. Built in 1859 and designed by Robert Jewell Withers, between the multi-coloured decorative brickwork you can make out the proclamation in stone; Lavers and......

  • Museum of London Smithfield Site

    Behind The Scenes at the new Museum of London Smithfield Site

    The London Museum – formerly Museum of London – is scheduled to open for a mini festival in 2025 then fully as a museum in 2026. So you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to get a special look around the building site......

Old London Bridge


  • Kim J


    I just wanted to thank you for this article and all the others. I’ve been reading your blogs for almost a year now and it has truly enhanced my visit to London. I saw things I never would have noticed before by looking up. Thank you.

    September 19, 2018 at 4:53 pm
  • Peter Colchurch


    Are you sure it was much wider? I really don’t think that can be right.

    October 24, 2018 at 1:00 pm
    • PC – Possibly etymological confusion between ‘wider [and narrower]’ vis a vis’ longer [and shorter]’ . . . the old bridge was much ‘narrower’ than later rebuilds.
      An earlier Act Of Parliament decreed the houses be removed and the bridge widened to cope with the stirrings of the Industrial Revolutions, this was accomplished by 1760, Progress on the works was reported to the House of Commons,by an Overseer of the Bridge House Estate – my namesake!. He was later to be selected as City of London Rembrancer, a life time position.
      For more on about Old London Bridge, input ‘London Bridge Peter Roberts’,

      February 3, 2019 at 2:16 am
  • Bill Rowe


    When is the church of St Magnus the martyr open?
    I would like to see the Old London Bridge model.

    July 28, 2020 at 7:46 pm
  • Merl Stuart


    This is fascinating, thank you so much for the very interesting and informative article, I only realised recently that there were
    houses on the bridge and just love the model. The Museum of London was definitely the loser in this deal!

    August 19, 2020 at 4:27 pm

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.