|Heritage status||Grade II* listed structure|
|Preceded by||Lambeth Bridge|
|Followed by||Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges|
|Total length||820 feet (250 m)|
|Width||85 feet (26 m)|
|No. of spans||7|
|Opened||(first bridge) 18 November 1750
(second bridge) 24 May 1862
The bridge is painted predominantly green, the same colour as the leather seats in the House of Commons which is on the side of the Palace of Westminster nearest to the bridge. This is in contrast to Lambeth Bridge, which is red, the same colour as the seats in the House of Lords and is on the opposite side of the Houses of Parliament.
In 2005–2007, it underwent a complete refurbishment, including replacing the iron fascias and repainting the whole bridge. It links the Palace of Westminster on the west side of the river with County Hall and the London Eye on the east and was the finishing point during the early years of the London Marathon.
For over 600 years, the nearest bridge to London Bridge was at Kingston. A bridge at Westminster was proposed in 1664, but opposed by the Corporation of London and the watermen. Despite further opposition in 1722, and after a new timber bridge was built at Putney in 1729, the scheme received parliamentary approval in 1736. Financed by private capital, lotteries and grants, Westminster Bridge was built between 1739–1750, under the supervision of the Swiss engineer Charles Labelye. The bridge opened on 18 November 1750.
The City of London responded to Westminster Bridge by removing the buildings on London Bridge and widening it in 1760–63. The City also commenced work on the Blackfriars Bridge, which opened in 1769. Other bridges from that time include Kew Bridge (1759), Battersea Bridge (1773), and Richmond Bridge (1777).
The bridge was required for traffic from the expanding West End to the developing South London as well as to south coast ports. Without the bridge, traffic from the West End would have to negotiate the congested routes to London Bridge such as the Strand and New Oxford Street. Roads south of the river were also improved, including the junction at the Elephant & Castle in Southwark.
By the mid–19th century the bridge was subsiding badly and expensive to maintain. The current bridge was designed by Thomas Page and opened on 24 May 1862. With a length of 820 feet (250 m) and a width of 85 feet (26 m), it is a seven-arch, cast-iron bridge with Gothic detailing by Charles Barry (the architect of the Palace of Westminster). It is the oldest road bridge across the Thames in central London.
On 22 March 2017, a terrorist attack started on the bridge and continued into Bridge Street and Old Palace Yard. Five people - three pedestrians, one police officer, and the attacker - died as a result of the incident. A colleague of the officer (who was stationed nearby) was armed and shot the attacker. More than 50 people were injured. An investigation is ongoing by the Metropolitan Police.
The first Westminster Bridge as painted by Canaletto, 1747
The coat of arms of Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston on the bridge. Palmerston was Prime Minister when the current bridge was opened
In popular culture
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Westminster Bridge is the start and finish point for the Bridges Handicap Race, a traditional London running race.
William Wordsworth wrote the sonnet Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802.
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- Walker, R. J. B. (1979). Old Westminster Bridge: The Bridge of Fools. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 978-0715378373.
- Cookson, Brian (October 2010). "Westminster Bridge" (PDF). London Historians. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
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- "London attack: What we know so far". BBC News. BBC. 27 March 2017. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
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