One of the things I love about London is how small and large pieces of history litter the city wherever you look. Sometimes a simple street corner will reveal layers - peel after peel of interesting stories - if you only care to look and listen. Sometimes history will manifest itself in a grand architectural monolith that persists - oblivious of change all around it, resistant to destruction, defying centuries full of instances of human madness. Of several such examples around London, the Hammersmith Bridge is one.
The first time I saw this bridge, about two years back, I was startled by its very greenness. My very first reaction to it was somewhere along the lines of "Oh God, what a monstrosity", but there's something about this bridge that grows on you. (Grows, greenness - ha ha! Alright, never mind.)
However, it's not all been smooth sailing for the bridge (river, boat race, sailing...haha! OK, no more!). Over time it has had several structural enhancements as it grew older and as traffic increased. It now has a 7.5 ton limit on traffic and has a barricaded entrance for buses which ensures that at no point does the load on the bridge become dangerous.
And then there were the bombings. The IRA (Irish Republican Army) and its offspring seem to have a particular grouse against this bridge. (At this point I am resisting a very strong urge to crack yet another pertaining to the colour green and the Irish...).
In 1939, the IRA planted a bomb in a suitcase, which was discovered and calmly chucked over the rails into the river by passerby Maurice Childs, a hairdresser from nearby Chiswick. The resulting explosion sent up a 60 feet high column of water and Mr Childs recieved an MBE. A second bomb however, did explode, causing damages but repairs were soon made. The next attempt came in 1996, again, by the Provisional IRA, which was foiled. In June 2000, however, a bomb planted by the Real IRA exploded causing extensive damage that led to the bridge being closed for two years.
It was in this phase of repairs that lighting was installed along the bridge, and it looks pretty dramatic at night, all lit up. I'm afraid I don't have a shot of it at night, but I'll endeavour to update this post with one soon. (Time to have a late eveing pint at one of the riverside pubs next to the bridge).
What I do have for you instead, is a shot of rowers practicing for the boat race, who passed underneath just as I was in the middle of the bridge. Talk about serendipity. The 2009 race starts on March 29th.
"I have poured the corn, the oil and the wine, emblems of wealth, plenty and comfort, so may the bridge tend to communicate prosperity and wealth"
Colourful history and resilience of the bridge aside, I still cannot make up my mind about it. I don't hate it, but I certainly do not love it either - I'm not sure the swirly green and gold trimmings are to my taste. What do you think?