But for us who live in London the Westminster Bridge is the true symbol of our city because it’s our beloved meeting spot to meet with friends and the place we always like to go back to once we return to the city after a trip.
Although in recent times it has been the theatre of some tragic events, the bridge remains an icon and a landmark.
But in English they say ‘first things first’ and so I’ll start with some history about this bridge.
In the early 1700s, there really wasn't much choice if you wanted to cross the Thames river: you could opt between crossing it at the London Bridge, or at the Kingston Bridge.
When the Westminster Bridge was proposed to in 1665, the Corporation of London and other people with interests, all opposed to it.
One of their arguments was that if the watermen lost their jobs, there'd be fewer readily available seamen for the navy if England went to war so King Charles II happily accepted a bribe and refused permission to build the bridge.
Permission to build this bridge near Westminster finally received the Royal Approval in 1736, when George II was on the throne.
The new bridge at Westminster wasn't funded in the typical way, that is by private enterprise and tolls, but rather with money was raised via a then-fashionable 'lottery'.
Lotteries at the time were subject to abuse and fraud: some even saw them as being immoral, and a threat to society.
This lottery funding led to the nickname 'The Bridge of Fools'. The name stuck as the bridge's construction dragged on much longer than planned.
The first Westminster Bridge was designed by a young Swiss engineer and was rather beautiful.
It featured semi-octagonal turrets at intervals along the crossing to provide shelter for pedestrians but these cloistered cubby-holes soon became haunts for vagabonds, muggers and prostitutes therefore its design was later changed to avoid this problem.
This new revised version of the Westminster Bridge reopened in 1862, making it the oldest surviving road bridge across the Thames in central London.
Queen Victoria performed the opening ceremony on her birthday and the queen immediately fell in love with the structure. The Westminster Bridge was painted green only in the 70s’ to match the seats in the House of Commons, the part of the Palace of Westminster closest to the bridge while the Lambeth Bridge, further upstream, was painted red to match the colour scheme in the House of Lords.
House of Lords
Not many know that, under the right conditions and at certain times of the year, Westminster Bridge reveals its most unknown secret.
When the sun shines at around 1pm on certain days, the beautiful trefoil cut-outs do a little reverse shadow play: the two lower 'leaves' keep their shape, while the top one stretches out a little into one of the best architectural jokes the city has ever known.
The ornate, octagonal lanterns on the bridge are also quite beautiful.
Grouped in threes, their Gothic design is an architectural style which matches the one of the palace at the end of the bridge, built around the same time.
Our beloved Westminster Bridge was used in a couple of Bond films and in several Doctor Who episodes.
The Bridge is a romantic spot and it’s usually the preferred meeting spot for first dates and for friendly meetings thanks to its central location and for how easy it is to get here from all corners of the city.