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London Bridge and its Symbolic Identity in the Regency Metropolis: the dialectic of civic and national pride

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This essay positions the rebuilding of London Bridge within the framework of the emerging early nineteenth-century metropolis. Improvements in planning, the definition of the city’s perimeters and entrance points and the erection of monuments to nation and state were all part of the creation of an urban identity in which London Bridge played a significant and distinctive role. The balance of power between a national government interested in urban development and an established authority within the City of London creates a dialectic around the issues of civic and national pride. The discrete identity of London Bridge as the entranceway into the City was appropriated and revised to help to create an image of a modern metropolis which encompassed not just the City but also the City of Westminster and the Borough of Southwark. As such, London Bridge became part of the infrastructure which attempted to give coherence to the fractured streetplan of the capital but its dis-location from the Metropolitan Improvements also expressed its local significance. A consideration of London Bridge in these contexts establishes its symbolic identity in Regency London. But it also raises interesting questions about the relationship between the symbolic and functional roles of buildings. A bridge can be a monument, a signifier of social or political preeminence, a national symbol or just a stretch of road that happens to pass over water. In this way London Bridge can be viewed as a matrix through which fundamental aspects of urban identity can be explored.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: University of Southampton

Publication date: 1999-11-01

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