How To Sit On The Old London Bridge While Being On The New London Bridge

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 7 months ago
How To Sit On The Old London Bridge While Being On The New London Bridge

This is the London Bridge Chair. It resides at Fishmongers' Hall, on the northern end of London Bridge. But that's not why it's called the London Bridge Chair.

Take a closer look, and you see four bridges carved into the back. Two of these spans represent the old London Bridge — the medieval bridge dating back to the 12th century — and the 'new' London Bridge, John Rennie's design which opened in 1831. (The other two bridges depicted are Waterloo and Southwark.)

These bridge motifs are repeated in the supports of the seat and arms too, while the square bases on the end of the chair legs also represent the foundation stone of Old London Bridge. It's an altogether Londony, bridgey chair.

But that's still not the reason this is called the London Bridge Chair. This chair is actually made from the medieval London Bridge, as a plaque on the back of it testifies:

This chair was made by J Ovenston, 72 Great Titchfield St, London, From a Design given by The Rev. W. Joliffe, Curate of Colmar in Hampshire and made entirely from the Wood and Stone taken up from the Foundation of OLD LONDON BRIDGE In July 1832 having remained there 656 years being put down in June 1176 by the Builder PETER a Priest who was Vicar of Colechurch and 'tis rather curious that a priest should begin the Bridge and after so long a period that a Parson should clear it entirely away.

So it's not just the timber from the old bridge they've used, but the foundation stone (an inscription on the conte itself begins "I am part of the first Stone that was put down for the foundation of Old London Bridge in June 1176...") We reckon it's a tad cold to sit on, and could do with a cushion (preferably made from some old curtains from the first London Bridge).

Note the merfolk-festooned arms of the Fishmongers' Company. This was originally the City arms, but after the chair was damaged during the second world war and the top bar was restored like this

Why is the chair here in the first place? As Fishmongers' Hall tells us, "It was presented to the Company in 1848 as a gift by William John Hall Esq., a tenant of Custom House and Wool Quays, to commemorate the return of Baron Rothschild, a Freeman of the Company, as the first Jew to take a seat in the House of Commons."

And there you have it: it's possible to sit on the old London Bridge while being on the new London Bridge. If, of course, you can persuade the folks at Fishmongers' Hall to let you. Which you probably can't.

To discover more about the fascinating history of Fishmongers' Hall, book onto a tour.

Photos reproduced with the kind permission of the Fishmongers' Company.

Last Updated 07 April 2017