Demolition of the old Bow Bridge - gateway to London. The Romans were thought to have crossed the Lea at Old Ford. This fording place was dangerous but remained in use until the 12th Century when Maud, queen of Henry I, built Bow and Channelsea Bridges, linked by a causeway (about a mile down river from the ford). This bridge was one of the earliest medieval stone bridges in England - its name being taken from its arched construction. The bridge remained the lowest crossing of the Lea until the 19th century. It was almost literally the gateway to London - the Royalists set up a turnpike there in the Civil War and in 1681 the Quarter Sessions set up a turnpike in Stratford High Street to prevent the escape of criminals from London. Both Barking Abbey and Stratford Langthorne Abbey had been responsible for the upkeep of bridges until the Dissolution. Responsibility passed variously to owners of the former abbey lands, the Middlesex and Essex Turnpike Trust, West Ham Local Board and West Ham County Borough Council jointly with the Lee Conservancy Board and London Council Council. The present bridge and flyover date from 1967, when the (then) Greater London Council constructed both the flyover over the Lea and the new approach road to Blackwall Tunnel. Over the centuries there had numerous complaints and enquiries into the dilapidation of the bridge and it has been rebuilt several times -sometimes to widen it because of growing traffic. This drawing is of the bridge in progress of demolition in 1835, before the single-arch bridge was built in 1839.
Newham Heritage & Archives Ref 8/1/10 -31a