Waterloo Bridge


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
Waterloo Bridge, Lancaster Place and Waterloo Road, London


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Waterloo Bridge, Lancaster Place and Waterloo Road, London
Greater London Authority
City of Westminster (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
Greater London Authority
Lambeth (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Road bridge over the River Thames, 1939-1945 to designs by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, with engineers Rendel, Palmer and Tritton, and contractors Peter Lind and Company.

Reasons for Designation

Waterloo Bridge, 1939-1945, to designs by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: a sleek, robust and elegant design by a leading C20 architect; * Historic interest: some of the bridge construction took place during WWII, with part of the project involving a female workforce; * Engineering innovation: a welded system of reinforcement together with modern methods of concreting permitted a reduction in the size of members and provided a particularly tough and weather-resistant structure; * Group value: a prominent, integral element of the Victoria Embankment and the South Bank, standing amongst numerous highly graded listed buildings including the Royal Festival Hall (Grade I) and the Royal National Theatre (Grade II*).


The original Waterloo Bridge, initially known as the Strand Bridge, was built to the designs of John Rennie between 1811 and 1817. In the early C20, possibly due to the increased volume of traffic crossing the bridge, one of the piers settled into the riverbed creating a visible dip at the Strand end. In 1925 a temporary steel framework was built upon the bridge then lowered into the Thames alongside it.

The construction of a modern new bridge was proposed by the Labour-led London County Council, and demolition of the old bridge was begun in 1934 with Council leader Herbert Morrison delivering the first blow. Despite Parliament’s initial refusal to fund a new bridge, lobbied by a pro-Rennie conservation faction, the Ministry of Transport relented in 1936 and agreed to funding, making popular suggestions for naming the new bridge ‘The People’s Bridge’ redundant. A design for the new bridge by Giles Gilbert Scott was commissioned, together with plans by engineers Rendell, Palmer and Tritton. The project went out to tender early in 1937 and Peter Lind and Company won the main contract with work beginning in October the same year. The foundation stone, cut out of a stone from the first bridge, was laid on 4 May 1939.

By the time war was declared in 1939 a substantial amount of work had been completed, however, the 500 men that were known to have been working on the bridge had been reduced to 50 by 1941 and heavy bombing between 1940 and 1941 further slowed progress. Despite these setbacks the bridge opened to two lanes of traffic in 1942, and following its completion an official opening ceremony was conducted on 10 December 1945. Morrison, no longer the Council leader, made the rousing speech: “the men who built Waterloo Bridge are fortunate men. They know that, although their names may be forgotten, their work will be a pride and use to London for many generations to come. To the hundreds of workers in stone, in steel, in timber, in concrete the new bridge is a monument to their skill and craftsmanship.”

The bridge has long been referred to colloquially as ‘the ladies’ bridge’, and there are a number of possible reasons for this, including the rumour that women worked on its construction during the war. Research has been undertaken by Dr Christine Wall, who has identified evidence (photographic) that confirms their involvement in the project in dismantling the temporary bridge alongside the new in 1944. Wall reports that Peter Lind’s daughter recalls visiting her father at the bridge during its construction, and being unsurprised at the presence of women undertaking the labour, due to the wartime pulling-together.

The involvement of a female workforce on the project, undertaking both skilled and unskilled labour, is significant, and Morrison’s omission of praise for them in his opening speech may be reflective of the general zeitgeist of the building trades at the time, reticent to admit women into their ranks and protective of their occupations and status.


Road bridge over the River Thames, 1939-1945 to designs by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, with engineers Rendel, Palmer and Tritton, and contractors Peter Lind and Company.

STRUCTURE AND MATERIALS: it is a closed-spandrel multiple-arch bridge. Four hollow piers rest on 2m-thick concrete slabs 10.5m below the river bed, and support five shallow spans with two parallel reinforced concrete arches supporting a reinforced concrete beamed deck. The piers are faced in granite from the old bridge, and the arch springers, spandrel walls and parapet are clad in Portland stone.

EXTERIOR: the bridge is 24m wide with three spans of 75m between two of 72m; the piers are 35m long and 5m wide. Each of the segmental-arched spans rests on boat-shaped cutwaters with faceted, broached buttresses at the arch springs. The Portland stone facing is minimally detailed: the arches have a chamfer and the parapet has a ribbed band in high relief, and steel guard rails. The projecting quadrant abutments incorporate dog-leg stone stairs down to the Embankment.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: a section of the balustrade and two of the Doric columns of Rennie’s old bridge are preserved in the southern abutment, and there is the base to a pier beneath the northern arch, surmounted by a commemorative plaque.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 10/08/2020


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Phillips, G, Thames Crossings, (1981)
Pudney, John, Crossing London’s River, (1972)
Wall, CClarke, L, 'Skilled versus Qualified Labour: the exclusion of women from the construction industry' in Davies, M, Class and Gender in British Labour History , (2011)
Best, Alfred, 'The Battle of Waterloo Bridge' in The Geographical Magazine, (1/3 March 1943), 534-547
Wall, C, Clarke, L, 'A woman’s place is where she wants to work: barriers to the retention of women in the building industry after the Second World War' in Scottish Labour History, , Vol. 44, (2009), 16-39
'Waterloo Bridge', in Survey of London: Volume 23, Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall, ed. Howard Roberts and Walter H Godfrey (London, 1951), pp. 23-24 , accessed 29 May 2015 from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol23/pp23-24
Dr Christine Wall, summary of research for Blue Plaque application, May 2015
London Metropolitan Archives, Progress photos of the construction of Waterloo Bridge June 1938 – August 1939 ref LCC/CE/RB/04/02/1-126
London Metropolitan Archives, Waterloo Bridge, LCC/CL/HIG/2/60


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 16 Sep 2001
Reference: IOE01/04280/01
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr David Burns. Source Historic England Archive
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