Cross River Traffic
A History of London's Bridges
by Chris Roberts
Category: History / General
Publisher: Granta Books
Publication date: 4 September 2006
Number of pages: 240
London has seventeen points where the Thames can be strolled over ranging from the fantastically fruity Tower Bridge to the grim functionalism of Wandsworth. "Cross River Traffic" tells the history of the current crossings (and their predecessors) - why and how they were built as well as incidents that have occurred on them, from ghost stories to terrorist plots, sexual antics to suicides. The book explores the reasons why the crossings are situated where they are and the effect on the communities they link as well as on London as a whole. The bridges stitch the north and south of the river together, and were crucial in making it the unified metropolis of the Victorian era. They are also aiding the refashioning of London's waterfront in the 21st century. The book answers such crucial questions as why do London's bikers meet on Chelsea Bridge, who was assassinated on Waterloo and how did a hairdresser save Hammersmith Bridge and a poet the Albert Bridge. "Cross River Traffic" is a delightfully digressive and informative history.
What the papers say:
- 'Years of research and years of wearing out his shoes walking across the city's bridges has paid off... The book is packed full of great tales' South London Press
- 'Fascinating new book... a good read for anyone interested in the metropolis' What's on in London
- 'Roberts lives at Elephant and Castle in South London- roughly equidistant from every bridge from Tower Bridge to Vauxhall- which must make him particularly well- qualified to write this entertaining book' Canal Boat & Inland Waterways
- 'Roberts is a lucid and funny writer - his ability to provide a historical overview as he focuses on bygone detail makes fascinating reading' Sainsbury's Magazine This delightful little book sketches biographies of each of London's bridges, from Hammersmith in the west to Tower Bridge in the east, that span what the author, in Conradian style, calls the "haunted, uncivilised force" of the Thames. Roberts, who has also written an ebullient study of nursery rhymes, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown, wears his research lightly with a witty, conversational tone (Hammersmith Bridge is "enjoyably nuts", and has survived "even the terrifying ordeal of the scathing words of art critic Brian Sewell"). -- Guardian. Roberts's tone is pleasantly relaxed. Adopting a chatty style, he's never slow to qualify an architectural detail with an anecdote, still managing to hold back enough information for sections on "Brief Bridge Facts", which detail the vital statistics, and some notes on the engineers and architects. Hammersmith bridge is fairly useless ("In the space of thirty years (it) was closed, repaired, opened, bombed, closed, re-repaired, bombed again and eventually re-opened"); Waterloo is "the crossing of romantics and suicides", and the Millennium bridge offers diversions such as the Budgie Man, a street entertainer whose show is "Part Blue Peter, largely avian and completely bonkers". There are very few books that inspire readers to go and physically exert themselves, but this one should have people criss-crossing the Thames until their shoes wear out. -- Independent.
Chris Roberts lives in South London not far from the river. He winters in libraries and spends the summer months conducting tours along the banks of the Thames and over the bridges.
He is the author of Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme, also published by Granta. (www.fandmpublications.co.uk)
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