33: Old London Bridge at Wandsworth Common

33: Old London Bridge at Wandsworth Common

One of the best places to see some of the, and I think original, stones of the Old London Bridge, is on the north-west corner of Wandsworth Common. Though to be honest it’s not that exciting! [1] [2]

There’s a row of large Edwardian houses, built in c.1908, that have their front garden walls constructed of Kentish Ragstone blocks known to have come from Old London Bridge. And one house has some stone incorporated into their front of the house.

[Photo taken with permission of resident]

As Hidden London notes, sadly some properties have demolished their walls and I suspect simply skipped the stones, without any care of their historical value. “The wall stretches the length of several properties, although one ignorant householder has demolished his section and replaced it with new brickwork. Wandsworth council should hang its head in shame for having allowed such desecration.” [3]

The local council, London Borough of Wandsworth has not seen fit to protect these stone in any way which seems criminal. [4]

Some of you may have noted something already though. If the Old London Bridge was knocked down in 1830-2, how do these stones appear in 80 years later in a set of front garden walls?

Turns out that there was a house built on the site, in the 1830s, that was built of the stones, shortly after the bridge was demolished and presumably mainly of those stones, that came to be known as the Stone House, but this was demolished for the building of the present terrace. Sadly there appears to be no pictures or photos of this building but I’m sure it’s the one on the map of 1905 below.

NLS London – London X.69 Revised: 1893,  Published: 1895. Re-use: CC-BY (NLS). https://maps.nls.uk/view/101202108

Travis Elborough in his “London Bridge in America The Tall Story of a Transatlantic Crossing” from  2013 states “On the fringes of Wandsworth Common in South London, then within living memory a haunt of highwaymen, a residence, unimaginatively known as ‘the Stone House’, was created from the bridges mediaeval Kentish ragstone. When this was knocked down in 1909, the stone was recycled again for new properties on the site, most extensively in 49 Heathfield Road.” [5]

This could be a common Victorian ragstone wall so is fascinated that it was actually quarried and used in London nearly 800 years previously!

It’s an interesting conundrum that once a building has been demolished, and the stones taken out of their original context, unless they are carved or marked, do they just become random, worthless stone?

Just a random piece of Kentish Ragstone or a memorial of one of London’s oldest and most important constructions?

I’m not sure it can be proved that the stones do actually go back to the original 12th/13thC building of the bridge but we know that the original construction used masses of Kentish Ragstone, see previous post –https://buildinglondon.blog/2022/02/15/30-old-london-bridge-part-1/  – so why not?

I wonder where the rest of ‘Stone House’ ended up? I hope a few back gardens have some interesting rockeries!

and indeed here being used for a flower bed. Is that a relaxing retirement or do they miss the rush and bustle of the Thames! [Photo taken with resident permission]

If you do go, check out the Wandsworth Prison Gatehouse lower down Heathfield Road and the nearby Royal Victoria Patriotic Building, saved from the bulldozers after being in virtual ruins in the 1970s. [6] [7]

All photos copyright CC BY-NC-ND

References
[1] https://londonist.com/2016/08/whatever-happened-to-old-london-bridge
[2] https://www.onlondon.co.uk/vic-keegans-lost-london-100-where-to-look-for-london-bridge/
[3] https://hidden-london.com/the-guide/old-london-bridge/
[4]  https://maps.wandsworth.gov.uk/map/Aurora.svc/run?script=%5CAurora%5Cpublic_HeritageLocallyListed.AuroraScript%24
[5] https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/London_Bridge_in_America/n96uDvKN3ioC
[ 6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Victoria_Patriotic_Building
[ 7 ] https://www.chrisvanhaydentours.uk/blog/royalvictoriapatrioticbuilding

Getting There

The walls are at the top end of Heathfield Road, a 15 minute walk from Wandworth Town or 20 minutes from Clapham Junction

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